TODAY’S READING: EZRA 1-6
The decree from Cyrus; the returning Jewish families are listed; the altar and temple are rebuilt; the adversaries come against the work.
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
Ezra breaks down into two sections based upon the leader and the time period. Chapters 1-6 are under the leadership of Zerubbabel. Chapters 7-10 are under the leadership of Ezra and take place approximately 60 years after chapter 6.
The children of Israel have been in captivity for seventy years when the book of Ezra begins. God works in the spirit of Cyrus to issue a decree for the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. This fulfills the prophecy in Jeremiah 29:10 and Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1. Because of the wording of the decree and its emphasis upon God as “THE God,” many have speculated that Daniel had an influence upon the king’s decision, or even wrote the decree for the king. Whatever the case, it happened because God said it would!
The captivity was not the same kind of slavery the Jews had endured in Egypt. They actually did quite well as a people group in captivity. That’s why not all Jews returned to the land. The ones returning make it to the land and begin the restoration process.
The restoration is led by Zerubbabel, from the king’s line, and Jeshua, from the priest’s line. They lead the people to establish an altar as the starting point. They begin rebuilding the temple, starting with the foundation, in the second year. It was both a joyous moment and sad moment as the foundation was completed. Joyous because many had only dreamed of such a time when they could be a part of fulfilling God’s plan. Sad for those who remembered the former temple and its glory, as they realized this would not be to the same scale.
It’s at this time that opposition to God’s work comes. First, the adversaries offer their services to join the Jews in the building of the temple. However, when Zerubbabel and Jeshua refuse their offer, their real motives surface. The adversaries begin to trouble the people, and even hire counselors to “frustrate their purpose” (4:5). They also appeal to the new king to make these people stop citing the past as the reason. The new king agrees with the adversaries and the work stops.
However, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, along with the prophets, are able to encourage the people and lead them to begin the work again, even without permission. When they are questioned about it, they make request to the king and their request is granted.
What a beautiful picture of restoration for our lives. Maybe we need to make sure we are being led by a king and a priest. A king that we submit to as Lord and do His will; a priest that not only can cleanse us from all sin, but can also be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. There are times we need to get back to the altar of God, where it is just us and God, and our fellowship with Him can continue. The good news is, we don’t have to lay the foundation again. I Corinthians 3:11 says Christ is our foundation and our concern is how we build our temple upon that foundation (I Cor. 3:10-15). However, there will be adversaries. The first battle is compromise. If that doesn’t work, the adversary will trouble you, and try to “frustrate your purpose”. Many well intentioned-Christians have been knocked out of the battle because their purpose was frustrated. When those times come, and they will, we need to persevere in the work to which God has called us, and appe!
al to our King to intervene on our behalf. We don’t always know how God’s plan will work out. Our responsibility is to be faithful to our purpose and persevere in the work of the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).
CHRIST IS REVEALED:
Through the GREAT STONES used in building the Temple of God – Ezra 5:8. Christ is the Stone which the builders rejected and He has become the Cornerstone of our faith (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42).