Ezra 3 & 4

Ezra 3

There is an unspecified period of time between chapters 2 and 3. During which time the people built temporary shelters for themselves. They built three things: an altar, a temple, and a wall.

The first thing they did corporately was to build an altar.

v. 1—“They gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.” Note the phrase “as one man.”

Compare Acts:

1. Pentecost—“one accord”, “one place”. Acts 2:44.

2. All that believed were together, they continued steadfastly.

3. When they prayed together the place was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 4:31.

4. Moody’s experience. Acts 4:32-33.

5. Acts 5:42—“And daily together in the temple and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

Note also Psalm 133—“There the Lord commanded the blessing.”

Psalm 126—“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Striving together for the faith of the Gospel.

What I like about the whole movement is that they gave God His place. They put Him first, and He blessed them.

Matthew 6:33 is as true today as the day it was spoken.

So then, they were a united people and the first thing that this returning remnant did was to build an altar and re-establish the God-given ceremonies, ordinances, feasts and truths written in the holy Law of God.

I like the idea that they never thought of substituting human expediency for what God had spoken to Moses in the past. They did not ask for ideas or suggestions. They simply searched the Scriptures and when they “found it written” they practiced it. The Bible was their authority.

The seventh month was a great religious month for Israel.

1. In this month they built the altar.

2. They re-established the worship of God.

3. They re-discovered and practiced the old truths.

Subsequent events proved that this was the basis of their blessing.

There never was a day in the history of the Church when we need to build an altar more than today. “That I might win Christ.”

1. We need to return to Christ. Christ alone, Who is our “altar”—Hebrews 13.

2. We need to be established in the fundamental truths relative to the Person and work of Christ. Describe some.

True revival and blessing can never come to an individual or local church if Christ is not the soul’s object.

Christ—Center; God—Circumference; Spirit—Controlled.

v. 4—The first feast which they kept was the Feast of Tabernacles. This is very suggestive! This feast was memorial and prophetic. It looked back to deliverance and forward to ultimate blessing. This would remind us of the Lord’s Supper. We look back to Calvary and look forward to our Savior’s coming.

Verses 8-10 describe for us the laying of the foundation of the Temple. This was a great day for this godly remnant.

The laying of the foundation was entrusted to carefully chosen men. See verses 8-9. Twenty years upward, “not a novice.”

The laying of the foundation was important work. It was entrusted to separated, approved, devoted, and holy men. See Hebrews 12:14. God will only entrust His work to holy men.

Filled with the Holy Spirit

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is a further step than being “indwelt” or “sealed”. Every believer should seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are filled when we yield unreservedly to His control. We are not filled from the outside, but from the inside. Transfiguration.

As we allow the Spirit to have undisputed control of every department of our life:

1. We become unworldly in our thoughts.

2. We become self-sacrificing in our lives.

3. We become devoted in our efforts to bring others to Christ.

4. We possess a new power in prayer

5. Christ fills our vision.

6. Our eyes are filled with His glory.

7. Our lips are filled with His praise.

8. Our hearts are filled with His love.

9. Christ is paramount in our affliction.

10. He is prominent in our life.

First, we should desire above all else to be filled with the Spirit. Secondly, we should pay earnestly that many believers would become Christ-possessed and Holy-Spirit dominated in the days of coldness and declension.

Description of the way God’s altar was to be built—see Exodus 20.

The altar was to be built of earth. The awesome, majestic, glorious God was to be approached and met at an altar of earth. The God who revealed Himself at Sinai. The heathen gods were gods of silver and gold. If the altar was made of stone, these stones were natural. No human tool was to be used to shape or build it. If this happened the altar was polluted. There had to be no steps, that man might be displayed.

Even the altar of the Tabernacle was plain, especially in contrast to the items of furniture inside the tent. Man was not allowed to beautify it by his skill.

God desires to do His work in this way.

Paul says that “the household of God” is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:20.

When men were needed in the early church to serve and aid in its expansion.

They were chosen with clearly defined qualifications.

1. Good testimony within and without the church.

2. Full of the Holy Spirit.

3. Full of wisdom.

4. Full of faith.

Is God any less demanding today? O for a return to these pristine days. Days of revival, blessing, and power.

The church was holy, God’s servants were holy, and the Holy Spirit was in control. But where are the men with such qualifications?

Just a passing reference to a very significant word.

    v. 1—themselves “together.”

    v. 9—the sons of Judah “together.”

    v. 11—they sang “together.”

    4:3—they built “together.”

This reminds us that we are “laborers together.”

v. 10-13—In these verses we see how the people were stirred as the foundation was laid. The “younger folks” “shouted for joy.” This was a wonderful day for them. The “old men” who had seen the first house in all its glory “wept with a loud voice.”

It is a fortunate assembly where there is the blend of maturity and enthusiasm. Older people need to be exposed to and inspired by youthful exuberance. Younger people need the experience and wisdom of godly older men.

Ezra 4

Opposition by their adversaries causes suspension of the work. V. 1-6.

This is the first discordant note in this vast spiritual movement.

The song of chapter 3 is silenced. The opposition came from without. In the early life of the church the devil opposed from without.

The various persecutions only served to drive the saints together. Illustrate by flock of sheep.

What Satan failed to do from without, he attempted to do from within. The first sin was hypocrisy, the second was grumbling.

“Let us build with you; for we seek your God, and sacrifice unto Him”—v. 2.

While outwardly pretending to be friendly and cooperative, in reality they were adversaries.

These adversaries were largely of the same character as thousands today. These make a profession of Christianity but do not own Christ as Lord. They know nothing of the saving blood of Christ. They too, like the enemies of Israel, fear God but serve their own gods.

Christendom is full of such people. To fellowship with and seek their assistance in spiritual matters would be a grave mistake.

It was the mixed multitude who caused most of the hindrances and heartaches in Israel’s wilderness journey.

v. 3—the men of God dealt firmly with these people. Because of their relationship with God they saw the inevitable, Israel being led back into sin and idolatry. To compromise with the world is spiritual disaster.

“The man of God sees more on his knees that the worldling sees on his tiptoes.”

Peter compromised and it led to spiritual disaster. Peter never ever forgot this tragic experience.

Thank God for spiritual men today:

1. Whose eyes are anointed.

2. Whose spiritual perception is sharpened through communion with God.

3. Who have the care and welfare of God’s people at heart.

4. Who will stand forth courageously in this day of compromise and say “Come out from among them.”

Elders should do this.

In that discourse Paul asks, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”

In this portion we are also told not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.”

This includes such things as marriage, business partnerships, and lodges and secret societies.

The proposition made by their adversaries was in some ways very attractive. The remnant was small and weak. To have received them would have made them numerically stronger, but spiritually much weaker. We should always remember, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord.”

After the open rebuff, the real character of the adversaries came to the surface. They opposed the work in various ways. See verses 4-5.

v. 4—They weakened the hands of the builders. By discouragement they hindered the work. They caused them endless trouble. They hired counselors against them.

Their persistence was unreal. Ephesians 6:12. Their opposition continued through the reign of three kings. Verses 5-6.

Then finally they sent a letter to the king. When all else had failed.

The contents of the letter is written. V. 11-16.

They accused the Jews of “building the rebellious and bad city.” V. 12.

They claimed that they had built upon the walls. Which was a lie. V. 12.

The letter was clever, but false, nevertheless it brought forth the desired results.

The king’s answer is found in v. 17-22.

In essence it was, the work must cease.

The chapter ends with a depressing view of the cessation of the work. V. 24.

They were forced to stop building the temple.

The books of Haggai and Zechariah cover the events of this time. From these books we find that the Jews enthusiasm for the work had waned.

Also, there is no evidence that they carried the matter further, either by prayer to God or petition to the king.

We are forced to the conclusion that they capitulated too easily.

Their first love had waned. Apathy had taken over.

For a good while the work had been progressing at a slow pace due to opposition.

Finally the work ceased, and no voice of protest was raised.

Brethren and sisters your first love is very important to you and God.

When first love wanes the work of God suffers. Spirituality plummets.

They still had love but their first love was gone.

Do all in your power to preserve your first love. Remember from where you have fallen. Repent, return to your first love, or I will remove the lampstand.

Assembly appeared to be functioning normally. The work ceased for about 18 months.

During this time the people’s energies were turned to their own comfort and that of their families.

They built their own ceiled houses, they stored up goods and attended their own interests.

Haggai informs us of this. There is no record of any opposition from their enemies as long as they were attending to their own interests.

Opposition comes when God’s work is being attended to, and is prospering. Acts 13:6-13—Satan’s opposition to God’s work.

The devil is always busy too, either from without or within, to disrupt or stop any movement of the Spirit.