Ezra 5:1-2

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 9, 2003

Introduction

The people had just been through a horrible time of judgment.  As a result of their continual turning away from the Lord, God had allowed the Jews to experience a time of judgment, being in captivity in Babylon for a period of seventy years.  Now, miraculously, God opened a door for the people to return from Babylon and begin the process of rebuilding their nation.  A king named Cyrus issued a decree in 538 BC, allowing the captives to return.  At one time the Jews had an army of a million men under King David, and now there were less than 50,000 people, including women and children, who returned from Babylon to rebuild.  By 535 BC, the group has returned to Jerusalem and the people have laid the foundation of the Temple.

As soon as they people begin the process of rebuilding, they meet opposition.  The Jews had adversaries who did not want them to succeed.  As a result of the opposition, the people become discouraged and for a period of fifteen years, the construction project lays dormant.  The time is now August, 520 BC.

Ezra 5

:1  Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews …

HaggaiChaggay – “festive”; he is the first prophet to prophecy after the Babylonian captivity. He prophesied from August to December 520 BC

Zechariah[email protected] – “Yahweh remembers”. Zechariah prophesied for two years beginning in November 520 BC. He is a priest, son of Berechiah and grandson of Iddo. This is a very popular name in the Old Testament – there are 29 Zechariahs.

:2 Then rose up Zerubbabel …and Jeshua …to build the house

Zerubbabel is the leader of the civilian government, a descendant of King David.  Jeshua (also known as Joshua) is the high priest.

As we’re going to see – God used the messages of the prophets to get things moving and get the Temple finished.

The messages

Lesson

Deal with self-centeredness

(Hag 1:1-6 KJV)  In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, {2} Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built. {3} Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, {4} Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled (paneled) houses, and this house lie waste?
The people were spending all their time at Home Depot buying stuff for their own houses while the work on the Temple had stopped.
{5} Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. {6} Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
The people were in an economic recession.  Things were tough.  God is hinting that things were tough because they were putting their own priorities ahead of God’s priorities.
God’s house is not built when I put my own desires, agenda, goals, wants, in front of God’s.
Illustration
Monkey Treats
Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts (monkey treats) and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree.  Each has a hole just large enough for the unwary monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist.  And he doesn't have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive.
In our lives, we can get too focused on the things that we want to reach out and grab hold of.  Yet those can be the very things that keep trapped and keep us from finishing what God wants us to do.

Lesson

The Danger of Comparing

The work stops when I compare my work to others. Some people thought that the work wasn’t that special.
(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?
We saw this last week when the people had first finished laying the foundation of the Temple.  Some of the old men who had remembered Solomon’s wept because the new Temple didn’t seem as wonderful as the old Temple.
They had gone down this road fifteen years earlier and it seems that it was one of the things that had stopped the work.
{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: {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.
He’s the same God who brought them out of Egypt and promised to take care of them.
{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;
These Jews know what it’s like to have been shook up.  And God isn’t through shaking things up.
{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 nations” is 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.
Around 50 BC Zerubbabel’s little Temple would get a face lift by King Herod.  But it was still the second Temple, the same Temple that Jesus would be presented in as a baby.
It was twelve years later at this same Temple that a young man was entering into great discussions with the doctors, calling this place “His Father’s House”.
It was in this same Temple that Jesus would come and teach the multitudes as they were blown away by the His teaching and His miracles …

(Mat 7:29 KJV)  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

We can look back with the advantage of history and know that in the most important aspect, Zerubbabel’s little Temple was far greater than Solomon’s glorious Temple because of the One who would spend time in it.
We ought to be careful about comparing ourselves and the things we do with other people.
What’s most important is that we’re doing the things that God wants us to do.
Illustration
Mr. Genor
Ray Comfort has an amazing story called “I Got Off At George Street”.  We listened to the story back in July, last year.  If you recall, the story started with a man in London sharing his testimony about how he was met by a little white haired man on George Street in Sydney, Australia who said, “Are you saved? If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?”  The little man then handed this fellow a tract.  The man was troubled by those comments, took the tract that was offered to him, and ended up later coming to Jesus.
The pastor who heard this testimony was in Australia the next week holding meetings in Adelaide, Australia.  He heard a lady share her testimony about how she was shopping in Sydney on George Street, when she too was met by this little white haired man who said those same words, also handing her a tract.
The amazing story goes on with the pastor running into all sorts of people all over the world (including pastors, chaplains, and missionaries) who all had shared the same story, having met this little man on George Street.
Finally, the pastor himself was in Sydney and decided he’d try and find this amazing little man, Mr. Genor. When he finally tracked down the man, the pastor shared with the man all the dozens of stories of people he had run into who had come to Christ through this man’s ministry.  This man was shocked.  He shared his own testimony how he had come to the Lord and that the Lord had changed his life so much, that he had decided that he’d share his faith with ten people every day.  He did this for forty years and had never heard of anyone coming to Christ through his ministry.  Yet he kept at it.  His ministry influenced thousands without him ever knowing about it. Click here to download and listen to the story

It doesn’t take much. Just faithfulness. Commitment. Being obedient.

Lesson

The need of cleansing

The people had another problem.  It was a problem similar to getting a cold or flu virus.  They were sick and everything they touched was getting sick.
(Hag 2:10-14 KJV)  In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, {11} Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, {12} If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy?

When a sacrifice was made to the Lord, that piece of meat or bread became “holy”.  But that “holiness” isn’t contagious.  Things that touch the holy thing don’t become holy.

And the priests answered and said, No. {13} Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.

The thing that becomes “contagious” is sin and impurity.  Our sin contaminates things around us.  The people handled their sinful behavior like a person who has a cold and goes around and coughs and sneezes on everyone else.

{14} Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.

Just as with their selfishness, God would use their difficult times to try and get their attention to turn around.

God wanted the people to turn from their sins.  He wanted to bless them.

As we turn from our sins, we experience God’s cleansing.
(1 John 1:9 KJV)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We see this cleansing in the high priest.
(Zec 3:1-5 KJV)  And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. {2} And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? {3} Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. {4} And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. {5} And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.

God did a work in Joshua’s life of taking away his sin and putting clean garments on him.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that when we sin, we are forever useless to God.  We want to quit the work.

If we think that God only uses perfect people, we are fooling ourselves.  God isn’t looking for perfect people, He’s looking for people who will turn from their sin and let Him cleanse them.

We talked on Wednesday about some of the other messages in Zechariah – how God reassured the people that He was on their side (Zech. 2:5,8) and how it was the Spirit’s job to bring success to the project (Zech 4:6).

As Zechariah ends his book, he jumps off into the future and speaks of some amazing things:

He speaks about Alexander the Great (9:1-8), the victories of the Maccabees (9:11-17), the conquests of Rome (11:1-9), of the antichrist (11:15-17), of Israel during the time of the Great Tribulation (12:1-9), and of Armageddon (14:1-3).

But mostly, he speaks of Jesus.

Some of the more famous passages:
(Zec 9:9 KJV)  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

This speaks of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

(Zec 11:12-13 KJV)  And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. {13} And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

After Jesus was betrayed by Judas for thirty pieces of silver, the money was taken and thrown into the Temple and used to buy a potter’s field.

(Zec 12:10 KJV)  And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

This looks forward to Jesus’ Second Coming and Zechariah uses some interesting language; an “only” son, the Spirit of grace, looking on one whom they have pierced.

Lesson

Look to Jesus

This was part of the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah that kept the builders building. They pointed to Jesus.
There are times when we too get tired and want to quit.
(Heb 12:1-3 KJV)  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, {2} Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
We need to put our eyes back on Jesus.
Illustration

In the old days before satellites, GPS, and radar, the Norwegian sea captains had a method for navigating the fjords at night.  They had a series of light houses built at strategic points throughout the maze of waterways.  They knew that they needed to keep their ships pointed toward the light.  As they would come around a corner, they would see the next lighthouse and turn the ship towards it.

We too need to keep our lives pointed towards Jesus.  Life may throw us some curves, but we need to keep turning towards Him.

6:15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

Haggai and Zechariah’s ministries were from the 2nd year to the 4th year of Darius.  The Temple was completed by the 6th year, on March 12, 515 B.C. It was their ministry that got things going and kept them going.

Lesson

God wants to finish what was started

(Zec 4:6-7 KJV)  Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. {7} Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
The idea is that Zerubbabel had laid the foundation, and he would also put the final stone in place.  All the problems that had seen like mountains would be leveled before him through the work of the Holy Spirit.
God has a part of finishing what is started:
(Phil 1:6 KJV)  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
We too have our part. We are not to quit but to finish:
(Col 4:17 KJV)  And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.