Over the past few weeks I’ve been diving into the world of Ezra and can’t get out of it. To be honest with you I haven’t even made it past chapter 3. Wow!
A few days ago we sat down for dinner with dear friends of ours and as we were talking suddently the husband said “Whenever you’re asking what God’s will is for your life, look to see where God’s favor is on your life.” That was a word from God!
So earlier today, I once again opened the bible to Ezra; it came alive in a bigger way than before. So let me start this journey with scripture:
“ In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:
2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”
5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved —prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.[a] 8 Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.
9 This was the inventory:
|10 gold bowls||30|
|matching silver bowls||410|
11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Nebuchadnezzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:1-11(NIV84)
How in the world would a Persian king have the idea to send all of his Jewish subjects back to their homeland, tell their Persian neighbors to give them gold, silver, livestock and food for their journey as well as give them back all that was plundered by Nebuchadnezzar from the temple years back?
In their rebellion to God they had been conquered and brought into exile. Now after years of living away from home, the Israelites in Persia pack up their belongings; receive the gifts from their neighbors and off they go on their journey back to the land that was promised to them a long time ago for one purpose: to rebuild the temple of God where heathens have taken residence.
“ In early autumn,[a] when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. 2 Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak[b] 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,[c] 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.” – Ezra 3:1-6 (NLT)
Once the Israelites arrive in Jerusalem and take a few months to settle in they start rebuilding the altar, not the temple, the altar. It wasn’t just a couple of men that gathered to built the altar, no, ALL the people assembled, unified for one purpose to worship the God Most High! These people had their priorities straight. Yes, they were on a mission to rebuild the temple of God and were definitely focused on that, BUT they knew that without God their task was impossible and meaningless, so the first thing they did was dedicated their work to God. That’s powerful!!!
8 “Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak,[b] and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the Lord. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah,[c] arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites.” – Ezra 3:8-9
Almost TWO years after the Israelites move to Jerusalem they finally start rebuilding the temple. I don’t know about you but I’d have a hard time waiting for two years before I could start the work I was called to do. I’m the kind of person that often gets herself in trouble because I jump into things head over heels and figure out how it’s supposed to go along the way. I can learn so much from these guys. They packed up, moved to Jerusalem, the first seven to eight months they spent settling in the city or neighboring towns in Judah, then they got together, built the altar for God. Finally, after almost two years of living in the land of their forefathers they start building the foundation of the temple, the purpose they moved there for.
“10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood[d] in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord” – Ezra 3:10-11
Once the foundation is laid, they stop and dedicate it to God. First they sanctified the ground by building an altar and worshipping God, then they build the foundation and proclaim through praises to God that it is His. Everything that is touched and built is for God, His kingdom.
“For He is good,
For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.”[e]
Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.
12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.” – Ezra 3:10-12
When I read verses 12 and 13 I first was quite puzzled; why would the older people weep??? I did some research and came upon Haggai 2:
“Then on October 17 of that same year,[a] the Lord sent another message through the prophet Haggai. 2 “Say this to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua[b] son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of God’s people there in the land: 3 ‘Does anyone remember this house—this Temple—in its former splendor? How, in comparison, does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all! 4 But now the Lord says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 5 My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’ – Haggai 2:1-5
We are so success driven, in a worldly sense, that when it doesn’t look pretty or it isn’t the way we are used to we write it off with a big ‘failure’ stamp on it. We enjoy being comfortable, for circumstances to be predictable and prefer to live by sight instead of by faith. By doing so we often lose perspective; the God perspective, His vision and purpose for our lives, circumstance or relationship.
All God wanted is for the Israelites to be faithful and build His house, so that he could fill it with His Spirit and do something new. But instead of everyone rejoicing over the accomplishment there were some who wept because the foundation didn’t look like the old one did. They completely lost sight of the big picture, of God’s hand in the middle of the process.
God’s plan was:
6 “For this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. 7 I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 9 The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” – Haggai 2:6-9
He brought His people back to the land of their forefathers to build one building and the consequence of their loyalty and obedience was revival and restoration across the nations!
The favor of God and the people was on the called ones, God’s people. At the beginning of the Israelites stepping into God’s will for their lives it wasn’t them initiating the move, it was the favor of God and people around them.
“Whenever you’re asking what God’s will is for your life, look to see where God’s favor is on your life.”