The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are the stories of the restoration of God’s temple in Jerusalem and the city itself. It’s c. 538 BC, the Babylonians who captured the Jews and brought them to Babylon were gone. The Medes and Persians ruled by King Cyrus are in power. It’s time for God’s promise to the Jews of renewal and reconstruction to be fulfilled. Let’s dig in…
Ezra 1 – Cyrus Allows the Exiles to Return
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:
2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:
“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! 4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
5 Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. 6 And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.
7 King Cyrus himself brought out the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods. 8 Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah. 9 This is a list of the items that were returned:
|silver incense burners||29|
|10 gold bowls||30|
11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and silver. Sheshbazzar brought all of these along when the exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem.Ezra 1 NLT
Ezra 2 – Exiles Who Returned with Zerubbabel
Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived. 2 Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
58 …In all, the Temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants numbered 392.
59 Another group returned at this time from the towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Kerub, Addan, and Immer. However, they could not prove that they or their families were descendants of Israel. 60 This group included the families of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda—a total of 652 people.
61 Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name.) 62 They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. 63 The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots.
64 So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, 65 in addition to 7,337 servants and 200 singers, both men and women. 66 They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.
68 When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders made voluntary offerings toward the rebuilding of God’s Temple on its original site, 69 and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests.
70 So the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled in villages near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.Ezra 2 NLT
Ezra 3 – The Altar Is Rebuilt
In early autumn, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. 2 Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. 3 Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar at its old site. Then they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the Lord each morning and evening.
4 They celebrated the Festival of Shelters as prescribed in the Law, sacrificing the number of burnt offerings specified for each day of the festival. 5 They also offered the regular burnt offerings and the offerings required for the new moon celebrations and the annual festivals as prescribed by the Lord. The people also gave voluntary offerings to the Lord. 6 Fifteen days before the Festival of Shelters began, the priests had begun to sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord. This was even before they had started to lay the foundation of the Lord’s Temple.
The People Begin to Rebuild the Temple
7 Then the people hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this.
8 The construction of the Temple of God began in midspring, during the second year after they arrived in Jerusalem. The work force was made up of everyone who had returned from exile, including Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jehozadak and his fellow priests, and all the Levites. The Levites who were twenty years old or older were put in charge of rebuilding the Lord’s Temple. 9 The workers at the Temple of God were supervised by Jeshua with his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons, all descendants of Hodaviah. They were helped in this task by the Levites of the family of Henadad.
10 When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed. 11 With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:
“He is so good!
His faithful love for Israel endures forever!”
Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.
12 But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. 13 The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.Ezra 3 NLT
The Value of a Firm, Solid Foundation
This story brings back memories of the Surfside, Florida Condo Collapse that happened on June 24, 2021. The 40-year-old high-rise, oceanfront, building collapsed after years of neglect and corrosion by the storms and surf. The lives of 98 people were wiped out in seconds with no notice.
Just like the Jews, when rebuilding the temple, had to start with the foundation, our lives need a solid foundation in studying God’s Word AND obeying it. There’s no use in studying the Bible if you’re not going to do what it says or learn from it!
In Jerusalem, the returned exiles tried, but they would be nowhere near the majesty of Solomon’s Temple — whose story is in 1 Kings 4, 5 and 6. There were elders who remembered the first temple. They wept. They knew that they could never rebuild it like it once was.
Pastor Sandy Adams comments…
There were old men in the crowd – 80-90 years old. They’d seen Solomon’s Temple with their own eyes, and knew this rebuilt temple paled in comparison…
For one, it was smaller. It lacked the lavishness, ornamentation, craftsmanship of the first Temple. It was also lacking spiritually. According to the Babylonian Talmud there were 5 items missing from second temple which were present in the first…
First, the Ark of the Covenant. Second, the holy fire on the bronze altar. Third, the Shekinnah glory in the Holy of Holies. Fourth, the Spirit of prophecy, or Holy Spirit. Fifth, the Urim and Thummin – tools the priest used to discern God’s will.
This lack caused the old men to weep. They realized afresh the consequences of their sin. Compared to Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s was a shanty-shack. Whereas the young men shouted for joy! Their eyes were on the future. This was a significant step toward the reconstruction of their temple and their nation. We’re told the weeping and rejoicing blended together to form a single sound.
Here’s a picture of our praise – it should be a blend of weeping and rejoicing. Real praise is a mixture of a broken heart over the past and a blessed hope for the future – repentance and rejoicing. Sorrow over sin and joy in Jesus!Sandy Adams
- God uses unlikely people to fulfill His promises.
- In Jeremiah 44 and 45, God predicted Cyrus’ rise to power 100 years before he was born! Daniel knew this and told Cyrus.
- God is faithful in keeping His promises. That’s why studying Bible Prophecy is so important.
- Over a million Jews lived in Babylon, yet only around 43,000 chose to return. This shows that many were attached to material things. They didn’t want to trade in their secure, prosperous lives for an unknown one of hard work and uncertainty. They didn’t trust God. The pagan influence watered down their faith.
- Nevertheless, the Jews that stayed did contribute to the rebuilding.
- Zerubbabel, who’s name means “begotten in Babylon (Babel)”, is a descendant of David, as well as an ancestor of Jesus. Thus, he fulfilled God’s promise that there will always be a leader in the line of David.
- The most crucial phase of construction is the laying of the foundation. Without a solid foundation, a building will not endure the storms that are sure to attack it. The same is true for the Christian.
Jesus told us…
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.Matthew 7:24-29 NLT
Christians in Name Only
Yesterday, I did an article on the Eastern Orthodox Church and what they believe and their religious practices. Just like the Roman Catholics, church leaders have strayed so far from the true word of God, from the Gospel truth, that they are lost and far from God.
That’s what religion does. It started way back when Constantine introduced pagan practices into the Christian church so that the Roman pagans would attend. I believe that gave Satan a foothold in the church. Like a cancer or a little bit of rust or water seeping into a seemingly solid foundation, it corrodes from within.
Do You Call Yourself a Christian?
If you do, are you born again?
16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
“I will live in them2 Corinthians 6:16 NLT
and walk among them.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a personal relationship with YOU! He died and rose again. HE LIVES! He is the living God. He doesn’t live in statues or icons. He lives in the hearts of every born-again believer.
If you truly want to get closer to God but are not sure, try this prayer…
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
It’s YOUR Choice — Heaven of hell! Furthermore, it’s a choice you need to make NOW, while you’re alive and coherent. Once you’re dead, it’s too late. No one can pray you or buy your way into Heaven. There is no such thing as purgatory and hell is for real!
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.