Ezra – Learning from our Mistakes

Text: the book of Ezra

 

   --

 

DIVINE ORCHESTRATION

     King Cyrus of Persia decrees that the Temple in Jerusalem should

            be rebuilt

          He frees all the captive Israelites to return and rebuild the temple

          He suggests that everyone should give offerings to the Israelites for
               this task

         King Cyrus returns all the articles formerly taken from the house of the Lord

    King Artaxerxes I stops the work on the temple

           King Artaxerxes is swayed by Samaritans who slandered the Israelites as a
               rebellious people.

           King Artaxerxes endorses Ezra to restore worship in Judea and have the     
               local people provide for their worship

    King Darius restores the decree of King Cyrus to rebuild the temple

           King Darius examined the ancient decrees and finds the decree of King     
               Cyrus

           He rejects the slanderous report from the Samaritans and Canaanites

           He further requires that the cost of rebuilding be paid by the Samaritans
               and Canaanites

 

Footnotes:

 

Cyrus1:2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  1:4 Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’” 1:7-8  Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put in the house of his gods; 8 and Cyrus, kingof Persia, had them brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and he counted them out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah

Artaxerxes:  4:4, 7,11-13  Then the people of the land [a]discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building,  7 And in the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his colleagues wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the [d]text of the letter was written in Aramaic and translated from Aramaic.   Now 11 this is the copy of the letter which they sent to him: “To King Artaxerxes: Your servants, the men in the region beyond the River, and now 12 let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem; they are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city and are
finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now let it be known to the king, that if that city is rebuilt and the walls are finished, they will not pay tribute, custom or toll, and it will damage the revenue of the kings.  7:11-26 (21) “I, even I, King Artaxerxes, issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the provinces beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, may require of you, it shall be done diligently,

Darius 5:17 “Now if it pleases the king, let a search be conducted in the king’s treasure house, which is there in Babylon, if it be that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem; and let the king send to us his decision concerning this matter.” 6:1-12 (8-9) “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.
 9 Whatever is needed, both young bulls, rams, and lambs for a burnt offering
to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and anointing oil, as the priests in Jerusalem request, it is to be given to them daily without fail,”

 

EZRA LEADS THE RETURN

 

     Ezra sought Levitical Priests to travel with him to be the new     
         ministers in the temple
     Ezra proclaimed a fast before their departure to seek God’s favor for

         safe travel 
         Refused to ask the King for protection because they had said “God
           cares for those who seek Him.”

         God listened to their prayer, and answered

     God delivers the travelers from their enemies along the way

 

Footnotes:

 

8:15-17 “Now I assembled them at the river that runs to Ahava, where we camped for three days; and when I observed the people and the priests, I did not find any Levites there.  I sent them to Iddo the [eading man at the place Casiphia; and I told them what to say to Iddo and his brothers, the temple servants at the place Casiphia, that is, to bring ministers to us for the house of our God.”  8:21-23  “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” 23 So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. 8:31 Then we journeyed from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way.”

 

 

A FESH START

 

A report of Israel’s unfaithfulness given to Ezra

They had not separated themselves from the other people around them
    (intermarriage)

Ezra mourns, prays, and makes confession on behalf of the people

The people confess that they have been unfaithful to God.

They make an oath to do whatever Ezra tells them to do

Ezra calls an assembly

Whoever refuses to come forfeits their possessions and is excluded from

    the assembly of the exiles

Ezra decrees what is to be done to avoid God’s wrath

“Confess to the Lord and do His will; separate yourself from the people of
     the lands.”

The assembly agreed saying, “As you have said, so it is our duty to do.”

 

Footnotes:

9:1-2 Now when these things had been completed, the princes approached me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and he Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness.”  9:3 When I heard about this matter, I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard, and sat down appalled. 10:1-2  Now while Ezra was
praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly. 2 Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra,  “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.  10:5 Then Ezra rose and made the leading priests, the Levites and all Israel, take oath that they would do according to this proposal; so they took the oath.  10:7-8 They made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the exiles, that they should assemble at Jerusalem, 8 and that whoever would
not come within three days, according to the counsel of the leaders and the elders, all his possessions should be forfeited and he himself excluded from the assembly of the exiles. 10:11 Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and  separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 10:12 Then all the assembly replied with a loud voice, “That’s right! As you have said, so it is our duty to do.” 

 

                             “RETURN TO ME”

Our sinful behavior may have lasting negative consequences:
     BUT GOD OFTEN DELIVERS US FROM SOME, OR ALL, OF THE 
           CONSEQUENCES

     GOD MAY USE ANYONE TO SHOW HIS RENEWED FAVOR TOWARD   
           US.
     GOD IS IN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE

Returning to God must be done on God’s terms

     TRUST GOD TO HANDLE ANY THREATS OR OPPOSITION TO YOUR 

          RETURN

     CONFESSION OF SIN MUST BE UNITED WITH THE FORSAKING OF
          SIN TO TRULY RETURN TO GOD.

 

Footnotes:

The Consequences:

The rebuilt temple was celebrated by those who had no remembrance of
      the 
former temple 

The rebuilt temple was a cause for grief for those who recognized what

      was lost from the days of the former temple.

Having fallen away from God, some consequences are never fully erased,
      and 
some opportunities are forever lost.

 

3:10-12Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, 

the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to the directions of King David of Israel. 11 They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lordwas laid. 12 Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy,
 

Opposition:

There will always be those who are threatened by your return to faithfulness, and

those who seek to discourage your faithfulness 4:1-4 Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we, like you,

 seek your God; and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.” 3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.” 4 Then the people of the and [a]discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building

 

The Return:

10:11  Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land.  James 4:4  "do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

 

RETURN

Isaiah 44:22 “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

Jeremiah 24:7 "I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart."

Joel 2:12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning;"

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