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Ezra 4

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Working with Confidence in God

 

Ezra 4:4-5

4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

·       The people who were already in the land worked to discourage God's people from building the temple.

o     These were non-Jews who lived in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

o     They included Samaritans, and other nationalities who had survived the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions of previous centuries.

o     They also consisted of foreigners whom the Assyrians had settled in the region.

·       These people claimed to worship Yahweh, but saw no need to build a temple to worship him in Jerusalem.

o     19 The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.  20 "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

§       The disagreement between the Samaritans and the Jews continued even into the day of Jesus.

§       The woman at the well brought up this theological controversy to try to get Jesus sidetracked.

o      21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  22 "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

§       Not all religions are equal.

§       Jesus clearly teaches that the Jewish religion is superior to that of the Samaritans.

§       There is a misuse of religious tolerance occurring today.

·       Religious tolerance used to refer to tolerating those who have religious beliefs with which one disagreed.

·       Now days, religious tolerance means accepting all religions as being equal.

·       Anyone who claims that their God or religious system is superior to another is labeled as bigoted or intolerant.

·       [Woman at the New Age Fair]

·       The enemies of the Jews first tried deception to stop the temple, and when that did not work they used bribery.

o     Their bribery succeeded very well.

o     The work stoppage lasted for many years.

·       Opposition to God's work is still with us today. 

o     In many Islamic countries today it is illegal to openly worship the God of the Bible.

o     But, Satan has more subtle ways of hindering God's work.

§       Sometimes opposition is expressed in the form of vandalism.

·       [Many Churches Have Been Burned]

§       Other times opposition takes the form of personal discrimination.

·       [Herb Stoneman]

§       Still other churches face opposition in the form of zoning permits.

·       [Baptist Church in Utah]

·       But whatever form the opposition may take, God expects us to remain faithful.

o     [Comment made at Ridgecrest]

Ezra 4:24-5:5

24 Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

·       The tactics of their enemies had succeeded in stopping the work on the temple for 14 years.

o     The people of Israel had a negative defeatist attitude.

o     The people had lost hope.

1 When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them, 2 then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them.

·       Then in 520 B.C. God sent his prophets to deliver a clear message from God.

o     The prophets were named Haggai and Zechariah.

o     Their message to the people of Israel is found in the book of Haggai and Zechariah.

·       In the name of the God of Israel,

o     These words emphasize the relationship of the people of Israel with God.

o     The Lord has not forgotten his covenant that he made with their forefathers.

·       The people responded to the guidance given through God's prophets and resumed the building of the temple.

o     God always fulfills his promises.

o     [Promise of a Future Home in Heaven.]

·       Zerubbabel was the governor that the Persian Empire had appointed over the returning exiles.

o     He was a descendent of the last king of Judah.

o     The Bible does not tell us what happened to him after this.

·       Jeshua was the high priest.

o     He was responsible for the sacrifices and other activities in the temple.

·       The people were successful in accomplishing their goal because they were united.

o     [Unity Occurs When God's People Follow the Will of God.]

3 At that time Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues came to them and spoke to them thus, “Who issued you a decree to rebuild this temple and to finish this structure?”  4 Then we told them accordingly what the names of the men were who were reconstructing this building.   5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until a report could come to Darius, and then a written reply be returned concerning it.

·       The government bureaucrats came checking to make sure that the Jews had the proper building permits.

o     Things have not really changed that much in 2500 years.

·       But God was watching over his people.

o     There is a theological doctrine that is referred to as divine providence.

o     Divine Providence refers to the ability of God to use ordinary events and secular governments to accomplish his will.

o     Notice how even the decisions of a pagan government were subject to God's will.

o     [God Still Watches over His People.]

 

 

Ezra 6:8, 13-16

8 “Moreover, I issue a decree concerning what you are to do for these elders of Judah in the rebuilding of this house of God: the full cost is to be paid to these people from the royal treasury out of the taxes of the provinces beyond the River, and that without delay.

·       The original decree to rebuild the Temple not only gave the Jews permission to rebuild, but also decreed that the Persian government would pay for the construction.

o     When the enemies of Israel accused them of not having the proper permits or permission to rebuild the Temple it caused the local officials to contact their supervisors in the capital for advice on how to handle the situation.

o     This resulted in the original decree of Cyrus being found.

o     The government officials not only discovered that the Jews had permission to rebuild the Temple, but that the construction of the temple was to be paid by the Persian Empire.

o     [See How God Used the Actions of His Enemies to Accomplish His Will.]

 

13 Then Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues carried out the decree with all diligence, just as King Darius had sent. 14 And the elders of the Jews were successful in building through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 15 This temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. 16 And the sons of Israel, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.

·       We should be neither surprised nor discouraged when we encounter frustrations in carrying out God's work.

o     When the people trusted in the Lord the project was completed.

o     Let us not become discouraged, but let us trust in the Lord.

·       We are told, that the Israelites, priests and Levites celebrated the construction of the temple.

o     In their celebration they acknowledged that the credit belongs to God.

o     God's people are always joyful when his will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Biblical Truths from This Lesson:

 

·       Regardless of the circumstances, the Lord expects us to obey him and to persevere in the work to which he has called us.

·       Since the Lord is able to work through any person or process, we should persevere with confidence that he will fulfill his purpose is for us.

o     [God Has Promised Us a Home in Heaven.]

 

 

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