Ezra 3:8-13

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 2, 2003

A Time to Rebuild

There had been plenty of warnings. The nation of Israel had strayed far from the Lord and the time of judgment had come. The beginning of the end of the kingdom of Israel started in 605 BC as the first wave of captives were hauled off to Babylon by king Nebuchadnezzar. Another group was taken in 597 BC. Finally, in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar wiped out the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple of Solomon, and hauled off the last batch of captives to Babylon.

In 538 BC, the Persian army, led by Cyrus the Great captured Babylon. One of the first things that Cyrus did when he absorbed the Babylonian empire was to declare freedom to all the captives. He ordered all those who had been displaced by Nebuchadnezzar to return to their homelands and rebuild their cities and temples. The Jews were no exception. Cyrus even ordered that all the treasures that had been taken from all the world’s temples be returned.

The first group of Jews to return numbered less than 50,000. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they built an altar and began to once again offer sacrifices to God.

It’s a time of rebuilding. It’s a time of taking the ruins of life and building a Temple.

:8-13 Temple foundation laid

:8 Now in the second year of their coming …in the second month,

It is now the spring of 535 BC, and it is time to begin to rebuilt the Temple. It has been 70 years since the first captives were taken off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC.

second monthwas also the same month (May-June) when Solomon began building his Temple (1Ki. 6:1).

:8 began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak

These are going to be the two main men behind the building of the Temple.

Zerubbabel[email protected] – “sown in Babylon”; the grandson of king Jehoiachin and a descendant of King David. He is the civil ruler.

JeshuaYeshuwa– “he is saved”; He is called “Joshua” in the books of Haggai and Zechariah. He is the high priest, a descendant of Aaron, and the grandson of Seraiah, the priest who was killed by Nebuchadnezzar (2Ki. 26:18, 21; 1Chr. 6:14; Hag. 1:1).

:10 the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD

Zerubbabel laid the foundation of the Temple. There is another Temple that we ought to be concerned about.

Lesson

Be a builder

What’s your place in the church? God wants you to be a builder. He wants you to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
The Corinthian church was filled with divisions. There were all sorts of cliques in the church. Each group thought they were better than the other groups. As Paul deals with this sense of division, one of the metaphors he uses is that of building.
(1 Cor 3:9-17 KJV) For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
“ye” is plural. Paul is talking to the church as a whole, not to individuals.
{10} According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
Sometimes we look at this passage as how we build our own individual lives as believers. Yet in context, Paul is talking about the church. He’s talking about how the church is being built up. Paul founded the church and other men were working in the church to build it.
A person needs to be careful about what their contribution is to the building up of the church.
Illustration

The Builder

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career. When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.” What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

{11} For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Zerubbabel and Joshua have laid the foundation of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Paul is saying that the foundation of the church as a Temple is Jesus Christ.

The gospel. Perhaps you need a new foundation in your life.

{12} Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
precioustimios – as of great price, precious; held in honour, esteemed, especially dear

I have usually thought of these as being things like rubies and emeralds, but I wonder if that’s not correct. It may simply refer to the huge types of stones that were cut out for the building of the Temple. When Solomon built his Temple

(1 Ki 5:17 KJV) And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house.

They were “costly” because they took a lot of time and effort to cut them and haul them to the Temple site.

There’s lots of ways to build a church. There are good ways and bad ways.
Illustration

Think of the story of the three little pigs. Are you helping to build the church out of hay so the wolf can huff and puff and blow the house down?

The Three Lil' Pigs

One day a young boy was sitting in his first grade class as the teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs. She came to the part of the story where the first pig was trying to acquire building materials for his home. She said “...And so the pig went up to the man with a wheelbarrow full of straw and said ‘Parden me sir, but might I have some of that straw to build my house with?’” Then the teacher asked the class “And what do you think that man said?” and the little boy raised his hand and said “I know! I know! He said ‘Holy smoke! A talking pig!’”

Sometimes we get too distracted by fleshly-whiz-bang things like “talking pigs” to notice that we aren’t building with the right materials.

How do we build things out of gold, silver, and precious stones?

One way is to be sure to do everything with God’s kind of love.

(1 Cor 13:1-3 KJV) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. {2} And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. {3} And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Back to 1Cor. 3 -
{13} Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
We call this the “judgment seat of Christ” or the “bema” seat of Christ. This will be a time when each of us as believers will be judged by Jesus. This isn’t a question of whether we’ll be saved or not. The issue is what kind of rewards we’ll receive for the things we’ve done in this life.
Some people have a problem with the idea of “rewards” because in a sense, none of us deserves anything. But Jesus is still fair Master. The person who is serious about following the Lord will find that they haven’t done it for nothing. They will be rewarded in heaven.
{14} If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. {15} If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
The judgment will be something like a blast furnace. If your work survives the fire, you receive a reward. If your work is burnt up in the fire, you will still be saved, but you’ll probably have whisps of smoke curling up off your head …
{16} Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? {17} If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Some folks use this verse to say that if you commit suicide, God will destroy you. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not in favor of anyone taking their life, but the context here is talking about the church as a temple (plural “ye”), not the individual’s body. The individual as a temple is covered in 1Cor. 6:19.
The point here is that if you mess with God’s church, you’re going to be in big trouble.

:10 … to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David

They are following the same formula of worship that David established when he brought the Ark into Jerusalem (1Chr. 16).  It involved the priests, the instruments, and songs that included the phrase:

(1 Chr 16:34 KJV) O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

(1 Chr 16:41 KJV) And with them Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest that were chosen, who were expressed by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever;

This is the same formula that Solomon followed when he had the Ark put in the first Temple (2Chr. 5:12-14)

:11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel.

by course anah – to answer, respond, testify, speak, shout; to sing, utter tunefully; perhaps antiphonally.

(Ezra 3:11 NKJV) And they sang responsively…

mercy checed – goodness, kindness, faithfulness. It means loyal, steadfast, or faithful love and stresses the idea of a belonging together of those involved in the love relationship. It has the idea of God’s faithful love for His unfaithful people.

endureth for ever owlam – long duration, antiquity, futurity, for ever, ever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, world

This is a HUGE theme in the Old Testament (which might be surprising for some of you who think the Old Testament is only about a cruel God who judges people.

This was part of the song that David had composed to be sung before the Ark (1Chr. 16) as well as what the singers sang when the Ark was brought into Solomon’s Temple (2Chr. 5).

This is what Jehoshaphat had sung when they sent the singers out in front of the army

2Ch 20:21 … that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy [endureth] for ever.

It’s a phrase that pops up in the Psalms 43 times in many different ways

Ps 89:1 I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
Ps 103:17 But the mercy of the LORD [is] from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;

It’s the basis for the “Great Hallel” is found in Psalm 136 –

(Psa 136:1-4 KJV) O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. {2} O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. {3} O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. {4} To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Every line ends with the phrase “his mercy endureth for ever

It is God’s invitation for us to draw near to Him:

Jer 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, [saying], Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Lesson

God’s mercy is forever

God has an amazing love for us that is based upon His faithfulness and is not ruined by our own unfaithfulness.
You may be thinking that God could never love someone like you. You are wrong.
How can I be so sure that God loves me? We have proof of God’s love in the New Testament.
(Rom 5:8 NASB) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We can know beyond all doubt that God loves us because Jesus died on a cross in our place.

For some of you, you may be at the point where you need to turn to Him for the first time and give your heart to Him.

For some of you, you need to go back to the cross and remember how much He loves you.

(Rom 8:31-32 KJV) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? {32} He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

God is not against us. He is for us.

Lesson

God’s mercy allows us to rebuild

I think it is significant that they sing this as they begin the rebuilding of the Temple. It has come home to them that God hasn’t forsaken them. His mercy endureth forever.
The example of Israel.
The nation has been through a process of judgment. They have been through a time of sifting where all the yucky stuff gets sorted out of their lives.

Before their exile in Babylon, the nation was easily attracted to idolatry. They worshipped Yahweh, but they also worshipped many other gods. By the end of seventy years in Babylon they had learned their lesson. They would not return again to look to other gods.

They had been refined.

That’s not to say that they would have no more problems. When Jesus came to the nation of Israel, they rejected Him. Forty years after their rejection of their own Messiah, God would once again judge the nation and once again the city and the Temple would be destroyed.
And yet in 1948, God has once again shown His great mercy towards His people.
In our lives, there may be times when we too experience difficulties because God is trying to get our attention and have us turn our lives around. When you finally hit bottom and realize that you have been wrong and you need help, you will find that God’s mercy is forever. It will be time to rebuild.

:12-13 But many …who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice

ancient men – perhaps seventy years or older. Even though the period of captivity began in 605 BC, the Temple of Solomon wasn’t destroyed until 586 BC. It is now 535 BC, fifty-one years later. Some men were still alive who had seen Solomon’s Temple before it was destroyed.

To these men, the small foundation that has been built is nothing compared to the glory of Solomon’s Temple.

Lesson

Don’t miss out on God’s work in the small things

For Zerubbabel, one of the issues involved is that this group of old men were looking back to the “good old days”, and this new Temple just didn’t seem to make the grade.
There would be a period of sixteen years where the building of the Temple will be suspended. When the rebuilding starts again, the prophet Haggai would address this problem.

(Hag 2:1-9 KJV) In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, {2} Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, {3} Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? {4} Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:

The encouragement here is for Zerubbabel and Joshua to keep working. They are not to stop the building of this Temple, even though some would say that it wasn’t very special.

{5} According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. {6} For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; {7} And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

The “desire of all nations” refers to Jesus.

{8} The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. {9} The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

This building that Zerubbabel was starting would eventually be remodeled by Herod the Great, but it would be the same Temple that a young twelve year old boy would call “His Father’s House”. When that boy became a young carpenter from Nazareth, He would be teaching the multitudes in that same Temple.

I think we need to be careful with our attitude about the things that God has called us to do.
I think there will be times in our lives when we might be tempted to think that we are wasting our time on things that don’t seem too important.

Perhaps you are a single parent and you regret that you can’t do all the kinds of things you’d like to do because you have to stay home with your kids.

Perhaps you might be leading a small Bible Study and you wonder if you should quit because you don’t have people tripping over themselves to come to your study.

Perhaps you are in a troubled relationship or difficult job situation and you wonder why you waste your time with such hopeless people.

When God asked Peter to reach out to the Gentiles, He said,

(Acts 10:15 KJV) What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

If you are doing something that God has led you to do, it is not insignificant and unimportant.