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EZRA
GOD COMMANDS OBEDIENCE
January 4, 2015
First Baptist Church
Jackson, Mississippi
USA
Memory Verse:
Romans 10:9 NKJV
9...
https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.607998341086249524&pid=1.7
458 BC
http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/References/OT/His...
http://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/the-exile-of-the-israelites.jpg
458 BC
http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:...
The theme of the book of Ezra is the return to Zion following the close of the
Babylonian captivity.
• It is divided into ...
Chapters 1–6
1) Decree of Cyrus, who, inspired by God, returns the Temple vessels to
Sheshbazzar, "prince of Judah", and d...
Chapters 7–10
7) Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra - King Artaxerxes is moved by God to
commission Ezra "to inquire about Judah...
http://yeshua.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/mistele_clip_image002.gif
http://biblepicturegallery.com/samples/ca/teaching/...
Why 70 years in exile?
Jeremiah 25:4-5, 11
2 Chronicles 36:19-21
Leviticus 26:31-35
2 Chronicles 36:19-21 NKJV
19 Then the...
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-IrrI199VXVA/VB8ltMzflQI/AAAAAAAAA30/U15RHUKN-l8/s1600/jon%2Bcahn.jpg
The Jubilee
God’s ultimate ...
Our word, jubilee, comes from the Hebrew word, yobel, which means “trumpet
blast”.
The Jubilee was heralded with a soundin...
The Scripture has foretold for centuries that in the end times, God would gather
the Jewish people from the ends of the ea...
General Allenby also commanded T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") who
assisted in the capture of Ottoman Empire territo...
Now, in the first days of the Six Day War, Israel appealed to Jordan to stay out of
the fighting.
But based on erroneous i...
By counting sevens from then, we see that the next Shemitah year will be the
year 5775 after Creation, which runs from Sep...
The next Feast of Trumpets will be this Fall on September 13.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-18rpa73Sdys/TcF_Sja0cQI/AAAAAAAAAH...
Israel's return to Jerusalem from Babylon involved about fifty thousand Jews---
much, much fewer than the more recent retu...
Now look at 2 Chronicles 36:22 -
2 Chronicles 36:22 NKJV
The Proclamation of Cyrus
22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king ...
The work of the king is to build or, in this case, to rebuild and the work of the
priest is to cleanse.
Both are essential...
John 5:6 NKJV
6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that
condition a long time, He said t...
Therefore, an altar almost invariably involves sacrifice, worship, and praise---the
sacrifice of recognizing the truth, "Y...
12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men
who had seen the first temple, wept with ...
These Samaritans, worshiping the same God said, "Let us help you. We would
like to join with you in this enterprise. You a...
The philosophy with which the world would defend its actions and its attitudes is
quite contrary to the work of the Spirit...
The minute the people began to turn back to God, He also turned the hearts of
the kings, Darius and Artaxerxes, and they i...
We may be Bible students, but are we Bible doers?
James 1:22-25 NKJV
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, de...
At last, as they had carried on this idolatrous practice, God had delivered them
into the hands of their captors.
Now, aft...
Our relationship with God comes first.
It doesn't mean that a man is to put away his wife today.
This is a symbolic teachi...
The Plan of Hope & Salvation
Romans 3:23 NKJV
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23a NKJV...
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01 January 4, 2015, EZRA, God Commands Obedience

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01 January 4, 2015, EZRA, God Commands Obedience

  1. 1. EZRA GOD COMMANDS OBEDIENCE January 4, 2015 First Baptist Church Jackson, Mississippi USA Memory Verse: Romans 10:9 NKJV 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. What’s the number one thing? The Glory of God! http://www.colindye.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/The-Glory-of-God-in-Christ-Jesus.jpg 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
  2. 2. https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=HN.607998341086249524&pid=1.7 458 BC http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/References/OT/Historical/Nehemiah/_resNeh/EzraTime.jpg http://www.abrahams-legacy.ca/images/captive-map.gif
  3. 3. http://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/the-exile-of-the-israelites.jpg 458 BC http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTzn5CJz8csddglNmyD-x6tvCn_g6zteDOpkATIgKwD8GES7_3uyg 458 BC http://www.bible-history.com/map_babylonian_captivity/map_captivity_of_judah_babylon_shg.jpg
  4. 4. The theme of the book of Ezra is the return to Zion following the close of the Babylonian captivity. • It is divided into two parts: 1) the telling of the story of the first return of exiles (538 BC) and the completion and dedication of the new Temple in Jerusalem in 515 BC, 2) the telling of the subsequent mission of Ezra to Jerusalem and his struggle to purify the Jews from what the book calls the sin of marriage with non-Jews. Together with the Book of Nehemiah, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible. The God of Israel inspires the king of Persia to commission a leader from the Jewish community to carry out a mission; three successive leaders carry out three such missions, the first rebuilding the Temple, the second purifying the Jewish community, and the third sealing of the Holy City itself behind a wall. (The last mission is that of Nehemiah) The Book of Ezra consists of ten chapters: chapters 1–6, covering the period from Cyrus the Great to the dedication of the Second Temple, are told in the third person; chapters 7–10, dealing with the mission of Ezra, are told largely in the first person. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/- CBm7WYPo8E8/UkCUgrgWhbI/AAAAAAAAAG4/jMKCHWoIgmU/s640/timeline+of+persian+kings+esther-ezra- nehemiah.bmp
  5. 5. Chapters 1–6 1) Decree of Cyrus, who, inspired by God, returns the Temple vessels to Sheshbazzar, "prince of Judah", and directs the Israelites to return to Jerusalem with him to rebuild the Temple. 2) 42,360 exiles, with men servants, women servants and "singing men and women", return from Babylon to Jerusalem and Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua the High Priest. 3) Jeshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel build the altar and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. In the second year the foundations of the Temple are laid and the dedication takes place with great rejoicing. 4) Letter of the Samaritans to Artaxerxes, and reply of Artaxerxes: The "enemies of Judah and Benjamin" offer to help with the rebuilding, but are rebuffed; they then work to frustrate the builders "down to the reign of Darius." The officials of Samaria write to king Artaxerxes warning him that Jerusalem is being rebuilt, and the king orders the work to stop. Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius. 5) Tattenai's letter to Darius: Through the exhortations of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua recommence the building of the Temple. Tattenai, satrap over both Judah and Samaria, writes to Darius warning him that Jerusalem is being rebuilt and advising that the archives be searched to discover the decree of Cyrus. 6) Darius finds the decree, directs Tattenai not to disturb the Jews in their work, and exempts them from tribute and supplies everything necessary for the offerings. The Temple is finished in the month of Adar in the sixth year of Darius, and the Israelites assemble to celebrate its completion.
  6. 6. Chapters 7–10 7) Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra - King Artaxerxes is moved by God to commission Ezra "to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God" and to "appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God." Artaxerxes gives Ezra much gold and directs all Persian officials to aid him. 8) Ezra gathers a large body of returnees and much gold and silver and precious vessels for the Temple and camps by a canal outside Babylon. There he discovers he has no Levites, and so sends messengers to gather some. The exiles then return to Jerusalem, where they distribute the gold and silver and offer sacrifices to God. 9) Ezra is informed that some of the Jews already in Jerusalem have married non-Jewish women. Ezra is appalled at this proof of sin, and prays to God: "O God of Israel, You are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before You in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in Your presence." 10) Despite the opposition of some of their number, the Israelites assemble and send away their foreign wives and children. The contents of Ezra–Nehemiah are structured in a theological rather than chronological order: "The Temple must come first, then the purifying of the community, then the building of the outer walls of the city, and so finally all could reach a grand climax in the reading of the Law." The "plot" follows a repeating pattern in which the God of Israel "stirs up" the king of Persia to commission a Jewish leader (Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah) to undertake a mission; the leader completes his mission in the face of opposition; and success is marked by a great assembly.
  7. 7. http://yeshua.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/mistele_clip_image002.gif http://biblepicturegallery.com/samples/ca/teaching/b_study/prophecy/Chronology%20of%20the%2070%20years%20of %20Exile.gif Why 70 years in exile? Jeremiah 25:4-5, 11 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 Leviticus 26:31-35 Jeremiah 25:4-5 NKJV 4 And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. 5 They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Jeremiah 25:11 NKJV 11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
  8. 8. Why 70 years in exile? Jeremiah 25:4-5, 11 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 Leviticus 26:31-35 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 NKJV 19 Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions. 20 And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia (Queen Esther), 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. Why 70 years in exile? Jeremiah 25:4-5, 11 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 Leviticus 26:31-35 Leviticus 26:31-35 NKJV 31 I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas. 32 I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. 34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land (Babylon); then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall rest—for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it. The Sabbath is every seventh day and also every seventh year. (Shemitah) http://www.pgm-blog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/The-Mystery-Of-The-Shemitah-520x245.jpg
  9. 9. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-IrrI199VXVA/VB8ltMzflQI/AAAAAAAAA30/U15RHUKN-l8/s1600/jon%2Bcahn.jpg The Jubilee God’s ultimate message is always one of redemption. See Leviticus 25 - Leviticus 25:8-12 NKJV The Year of Jubilee 8 ‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. 12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field. http://www.pray4zion.org/images/graphics/yearofthejubilee.jpg
  10. 10. Our word, jubilee, comes from the Hebrew word, yobel, which means “trumpet blast”. The Jubilee was heralded with a sounding of the trumpet (ram’s horn) throughout the land. http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQkg_9lqH9ZXvTrlsJlSt0N0wdl3_T77lqWpp7hwyhVXBeBDWdW During the Shemitah, the debtors were set free but during the Jubilee, even the prisoners and slaves were set free. It was a year of liberty. Leviticus 25:10a NKJV 10a And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. In 30 AD, Jesus had prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that the people would be taken captive into the nations and in 70 AD, Jerusalem was under siege by the Roman army led by Titus, son of the newly crowned emperor Vespasian. The Roman soldiers broke through the walls, the Temple was set on fire and Jerusalem fell. Countless thousands of its inhabitants were killed and tens of thousands were enslaved. The Jewish people had lost their homeland as Jesus had predicted and they would wander the world for almost two thousand years from nation to nation – oppressed, persecuted, and hunted down as their land lay desolate.
  11. 11. The Scripture has foretold for centuries that in the end times, God would gather the Jewish people from the ends of the earth and bring them back to their ancient homeland. The return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is the central event of end- time prophecy even though it seemed an impossibility. In 70 AD the land was taken by Roman armies and centuries later would be in Byzantine hands. The Byzantines were conquered by Arab armies who claimed the land for Muhammad and Allah. Then came the Crusaders and after them, more Muslim armies. In the fifteenth century, the land fell to the Ottoman Turks who ruled it into the twentieth century. During the nineteenth century, revival swept through England and one of the fruits of that revival was a new love for the Jewish people and for the nation of Israel. An English boy had been taught by his mother (Catherine Anne) to include this prayer in his devotions: “O Lord, we would not forget Thine ancient people, Israel; hasten the day when Israel shall again be Thy people and shall be restored to Thy favor and to their land.” In the twentieth century, the British Empire was drawn into a war that involved the Ottoman Turkish Empire (those who were ruling over the land of Israel). British forces, led by General Edmund Allenby, entered the Holy Land and took the city of Jerusalem without a fight. http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS20VJUg3gtHMVOC9zBcijcZ0VyRoKQUZPC4kAi73sjd2W9LKYBZw
  12. 12. General Allenby also commanded T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") who assisted in the capture of Ottoman Empire territory. http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSGUwivQ9hnLqDWSsdIBcPLqvgq_oU6-LbQBAaNSTkUjzDqpvePRw General Allenby was that English boy who had prayed every night for God to restore the Jewish people to their ancient homeland and now God used him as a key instrument in bringing it about! For the first time in two thousand years the land was in the hands of a power (Great Britian) sympathetic to the Jewish people which would allow them to return to the land God had given them. Shemitah and the Restoration of Zion The Jubliee must take place in the year following the Shemitah. It always begins in the autumn on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. General Allenby entered Jerusalem on December 11, 1917 less than three months after the year of the Shemitah had reached its conclusion on September 16, 1917 (which was the beginning of a Jubilee year). Fifty years later, in the spring of 1967, the Egyptian government acting on false reports provided by the Soviet Union of an Israeli attack, ordered a full mobilization of the Egyptian military in preparation for war with Israel. The Egyptians blocked Israeli ships from the Straits of Tiran which forced Israel into making preemptive strikes on Egyptian and Arab air force bases. That was the beginning of the Six-Day War. During Israel’s war of independence in 1948, Jordanian forces had seized the ancient city of Jerusalem.
  13. 13. Now, in the first days of the Six Day War, Israel appealed to Jordan to stay out of the fighting. But based on erroneous information from the Egyptians, Jordan joined the other Arab nations in attacking Israel. The Jewish forces captured Jerusalem in spite of the opposition and for the first time in two thousand years, for the first time since the calamity of 70 AD, Jerusalem was in Jewish hands and the Holy City was restored to the Jewish people and them to the city. The Israeli soldiers entered the Lion’s Gate on June 7, 1967 and the year before this was a Shemitah year which began on September 27, 1965 and ended on September 14, 1966. • The liberation of Jerusalem took place during the Jubilee (liberty). So we have here two of the most pivotal events in Jewish history, each taking place in the year following the Shemitah, and each during the Year of Jubilee. 1917 AD – Jerusalem liberated (WWI) + 50 years (49 + 1) 1967 AD – Jerusalem liberated (6 Day) + 50 years (49 + 1) 2017 AD A new Shemitah year just began in September 2014 and will end in September of this year. Thus the corresponding year of Jubilee would be that of September 2015 through September of 2016. This Jubilee Shemitah of 2015 will mark the beginning of a prophetic series of events that could ultimately culminate seven years later… at the second coming of Christ (however only God knows the time and date) when ALL real estate of the planet will be returned to its original owner, the Creator, the ultimate manifestation of the Shemitah. The year following the destruction of the second Holy Temple was the first year of a seven-year Sabbatical cycle. In the Jewish calendar, counting from Creation, this was the year 3829, 68–69 AD on the secular calendar.
  14. 14. By counting sevens from then, we see that the next Shemitah year will be the year 5775 after Creation, which runs from September 25, 2014 through September 13, 2015. The sabbath year, Shmita in Hebrew, literally means "release" and it is also called the sabbatical year or sheviit Hebrew: literally "seventh". Chapter 25 of the Book of Leviticus promises bountiful harvests to those who observe the Shmita, and describes its observance as a test of faith. There is little notice of the observance of this year in Biblical history and it appears to have been much neglected. In Judaism, the Jubilee Year has not been observed in modern times because it only applied when representatives of all twelve tribes have returned to Israel and a majority of the world's Jews live in the Land. • Feasts are observed today, however. http://www.marionbible.com/assets/images/feasts.gif http://endtimeheadlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/eclipse-tokyo-copy1.jpg
  15. 15. The next Feast of Trumpets will be this Fall on September 13. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-18rpa73Sdys/TcF_Sja0cQI/AAAAAAAAAHA/kttavNLuKSY/s1600/TETRAD+2014.jpg http://www.calvarysg.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/return-NEW.jpg Ray Stedman 1917-1992 http://ts2.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4939299503409857&pid=1.7
  16. 16. Israel's return to Jerusalem from Babylon involved about fifty thousand Jews--- much, much fewer than the more recent return, which is such a wonder of our own day. • The Biblical record accords great importance to this return. The book of Ezra is concerned with the building of the temple. The book of Nehemiah is concerned with the building of the city and walls of Jerusalem. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-irjGFw3ddMM/UlWdE8vDrrI/AAAAAAAAAa0/1HIO93A36ek/s1600/Ezra_Nehemiah.jpg The temple was the last thing to be destroyed when the nation fell into captivity. It was the last holdout of the Spirit of God. It is the last place (the temple representing the spirit) to be destroyed in an individual's failure to relate to his God. The temple is also the first place where God begins to set about the work of restoration; and therefore the book of Ezra, which deals with restoring the temple, is placed first in the Scriptures before Nehemiah which dealt with rebuilding the walls. Ezra 1:1 NKJV End of The Babylonian Captivity 1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, …
  17. 17. Now look at 2 Chronicles 36:22 - 2 Chronicles 36:22 NKJV The Proclamation of Cyrus 22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, … The same words exactly! The book of Ezra begins right where Chronicles leaves off. This is one reason why it is felt that Ezra wrote both books. Ezra hence becomes a picture for us of the work of God in the restoration of a heart that has fallen into sin. Restoration can be on an individual basis. It can be on a local church basis, or on the part of any of the great God- honored denominations of our day. • It can be the work of God in a nation, bringing it back from secularism and materialism to true spiritual knowledge and strength. (USA) In any case, it always follows the pattern depicted here in the book of Ezra. This is the picture of how God works when he sets about to restore the heart that has fallen into sin. The book divides very naturally in line with the ministries of two men: Zerubbabel, in chapters 1 through 6; and Ezra, in chapters 7 through 10. Both of these men led the captives of Babylon back to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel, interestingly enough, was a descendant of David. He is of the kingly line. Ezra, descended from Aaron the priest, is likewise a priest. Clearly outlined here is the need for the work both of the king and of the priest in accomplishing restoration.
  18. 18. The work of the king is to build or, in this case, to rebuild and the work of the priest is to cleanse. Both are essential in the work of restoring someone who has fallen into a sinful state. Restoration in the individual life involves rebuilding the control of the Spirit of God through obedience to the kingship and lordship of Jesus Christ. • Thus, it involves his ministry as king in our lives. It means the recognition, again, of God's right to own us, to direct us, to replace our plans with His, to change us, and to make both the major and minor decisions of our life. But restoration also means cleansing. The spirit and the soul are cleansed by our great High Priest Who, when a human heart earnestly confesses its sin, washes away the guilt, tidies up the past, and restores us to a place of fellowship and blessedness in His sight. God always takes the initiative. Romans 5:8 NKJV 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. No one, after falling into a sinful experience, would ever come back to Christ unless God brought him back and this is indicated so clearly in the case of these Israelites. When they had gone into Babylon, they became a different kind of people. Dr. J. Vernon McGee has pointed out that while they were in Israel they were sheep-keepers, or shepherds. When they went to Babylon they could no longer keep sheep, so they became shop-keepers, or merchants and they became very successful, too. • So much so that this stereotyped image of the Jew is popular worldwide today---the merchants of the earth. They became so prosperous, so lost to materialism, that they did not want to go back to Jerusalem even though they were still slaves and exiled from their own land. • Many of them refused to return when God opened the door.
  19. 19. John 5:6 NKJV 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The Spirit of God stirred up the hearts of some of the Israelites and made them unsatisfied with material prosperity. Mere things will never satisfy the deep-seated cry of the human spirit. When we feel that crying need, God the Spirit is stirring us up to return and rebuild the things that make for spiritual strength. Under Zerubbabel the first return takes place. This great kingly descendant led about fifty thousand people from Babylon back to Jerusalem. The account of that return is given to us in the book of Ezra, chapters 1 and 2. When they came to Jerusalem, it was the seventh month of the year---just in time for the Feast of the Tabernacles of the Jews. This Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Ingathering) was the time when Israel dwelt in booths to remind them of their pilgrim nature. Incidentally, this feast looks forward to the eventual regathering of Israel from the vast worldwide dispersion for the millennium and is the feast that is mingled with tears of sorrow as the people saw the foundations of the temple being relaid. Their first act was to build an altar on the original temple site in the midst of the ruins. • Out under the open sky they erected an altar to God and began to worship and offer sacrifice as the law of Moses had bid them. This is significant because the first act of a heart that really desires to return from wandering in darkness in the ways of the world to real fellowship with God, is to erect an altar. • An altar is always the symbol of ownership. It is both the acknowledgement that God has sole right to us and the symbol of our personal relationship to Him.
  20. 20. Therefore, an altar almost invariably involves sacrifice, worship, and praise---the sacrifice of recognizing the truth, "You are not your own; you were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:19-20); the worship of again enjoying a restored relationship, when again the heart is ministered to by the only One Who can meet its needs; and the praise of a rejoicing heart. Ray Stedman relates an account when a man had taken time off work to come talk to him about his prayer life. He had brought along sheets of paper on which he had written all the things that he had been trying to pray about. He had three or four sheets and said, "I have a great deal of trouble with this. I find that it's hard to remember all these things and to go through these lists. It's so mechanical, so empty." Stedman suggested, "Why don't you just forget all this and spend your time, for a few prayer sessions anyway, just praising the Lord." The man later told him, "I was mad. I took time off work to talk to you, and all you told me was, "Why don't you spend your time praising the Lord?" I wanted some advice for organizing my prayer life and handling it a little better. But after I got over being mad, I tried it---and I found that it worked. There was a sense of restoration, a restored personal fellowship." That is what God is after. That is why the altar is the important thing in this work of restoration. The second thing they did was to lay the foundation of the temple. The work was met with mixed feeling, in chapter 3, verses 10-13: 10 When the builders 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 ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.
  21. 21. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. Ezra 3:10-13 NKJV Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever come back to God after a time of coldness and withdrawal---a captive of sin's power---with a great sense of joy as the foundations of fellowship were relaid by the Spirit? Yet also with regret for the lost and wasted years? This is exactly what is portrayed here. Tears of joy mingled with tears of sorrow as the people saw the temple being relaid. The third factor in this return under Zerubbabel is the opposition that immediately develops, as we read in chapters 4 through 6. A force is at work in every human heart, as in world affairs, that immediately rises up to oppose everything that God attempts to do. • A force is found in every human individual that resists with enmity and hatred the work of the Spirit of God. This force immediately manifests itself here, and there is a great lesson in how it does so. This opposition first appears as friendly solicitude in chapter 4, verses 1 and 2: 1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” Ezra 4:1-2 NKJV Incidentally, this is the beginning of the Samaritans, who frequently appear in the New Testament.
  22. 22. These Samaritans, worshiping the same God said, "Let us help you. We would like to join with you in this enterprise. You are rebuilding the temple. Fine. We would be glad to help." They come with an earnest, openhearted, friendly wish to participate in the work. A very subtle request, isn't it? It is not very difficult to say no to an enemy who breathes fiery threats of slaughter. But when he comes dripping with solicitude and offers to help in your projects, it is very difficult to say no. • The only way you can do it is with a heart that is willing to be obedient to the word of God, as these people were. We read in verse 3: 3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us." Ezra 4:3 NKJV That may have seemed a bit churlish, but it was not mere capriciousness that made them reply that way. God had commanded that Israel was not to fellowship with other nations, or to engage with them in enterprises that concerned the faith. • Does this mean that it was wrong for one nation to intermingle with another? No, this has been twisted and distorted, and applied today to situations in which it has no application. • It means simply that God rejects utterly the philosophy of the world in carrying out His work in the world. There is a worldly religion. There is a philosophy that tries to interject worldly concepts, worldly philosophies, and worldly methods into the lives of God's people. God has simply made it clear that these are to be rejected.
  23. 23. The philosophy with which the world would defend its actions and its attitudes is quite contrary to the work of the Spirit of God. The world reflects the spirit of the devil, who is the god of this age, in the philosophy, "Advance yourself. Do this for your own glory. Use religious ways to advance your purposes and win admiration, power, fame, or whatever your heart desires. Use religious ways to achieve self-satisfaction." God rejects this principle here. The veil of friendship that was offered quickly turns to hatred. In verses 4 and 5: 4 Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:4-5 NKJV And in the next two chapters is the story of how successful they were in stopping the work of rebuilding the temple. By deliberately attempting to frustrate these people, by mocking them and taunting them, they discouraged Israel from doing work that God had commanded. These so-called friends even used legal means to undermine Israel's authority and right to build. This is what goes on any time anybody wants to stand for God. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, "The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit." (Galatians 5:17) This is the picture that we have here, and the principle was quite successful. The work was stopped for sixteen years and the temple lay half-completed, overrun with weeds and grass so again, worship ceased. Then God sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. These two men were God's instruments to move the people's hearts.
  24. 24. The minute the people began to turn back to God, He also turned the hearts of the kings, Darius and Artaxerxes, and they issued the decree that started the temple work again. Finally the work was finished. In chapter 6 we read that the first thing they did was celebrate the Passover, marking the beginning of their life under God. • Similarly, you can never make sense out of your conversion unless you are in fellowship with the living God. You have nothing to celebrate. You have nothing to thank God for unless you are enjoying the glory and the light of heaven upon your heart. It is only when you are in fellowship, with the temple built, that the Passover can bring joy to you. The latter part of the book concerns the ministry of Ezra, who also led a return to the land. Ezra was a most remarkable man, a priest of the line of Aaron. In chapter 7, verse 6, we are told: 6 this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. Ezra 7:6 NKJV Wouldn't you like to have that written of you, "the king granted him all that he asked"? • What kind of man is this, whom a heathen gentile king regards so highly that he will give Ezra anything that he asks? The secret of this man's character is given in verse 10: 10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:10 NKJV That is something else isn't it?
  25. 25. We may be Bible students, but are we Bible doers? James 1:22-25 NKJV 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. As a result, Ezra could ask anything of the king and the king would grant his request. Now this man is a man of the Word. Therefore, God sent him to Jerusalem to strengthen and beautify the temple. That is the work of the Word of God in our lives. It strengthens and beautifies within us the place of our fellowship with God. Ezra came to Jerusalem and found an incredible condition. In chapter 9, verses 1-2 Ezra writes: 1 When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.” Ezra 9:1-2 NKJV What does this mean? They were simply starting the whole wretched mess all over again. This is what had broken the strength of the nation before. This is what had undermined the power of God among them and finally dispersed the people, broken up the tribes, and separated them into two nations.
  26. 26. At last, as they had carried on this idolatrous practice, God had delivered them into the hands of their captors. Now, after seventy years, they hadn't learned a thing because the flesh never changes. No matter how long you walk in the Spirit, you will never get to the place where you cannot revert to the worst you ever were, if you depart from dependence upon the Spirit of God. • They are right back to the same old ways. Ezra, in chapter 9, verse 3-4, says: 3 So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. 4 ...until the evening sacrifice. Ezra 9:3-4 NKJV It was unbelievable. As the book nears its close, Ezra prays to God and confesses this great sin. In his graciousness God moves in the hearts of the people. The leaders come in broken-hearted contrition to Ezra and acknowledge the wrong. A proclamation is issued. The people assemble together. It happens to be a day when it is raining, but despite the rain, the people stand, thousands of them in front of the temple, and confess their guilt---the fact that they had disobeyed God---and agree to put away the wives and children they had acquired outside the will of God. Now this is a hurtful thing, isn't it? It isn't easy. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "If any one comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:26 NKJV
  27. 27. Our relationship with God comes first. It doesn't mean that a man is to put away his wife today. This is a symbolic teaching. It means that we are to put away whatever stems from the flesh, which is always pictured by these Canaanite tribes in the land. But we love the flesh, don't we? We like to feel angry and resentful toward others. Do we want to be healed? We love to nurse a grudge, cherish feelings of bitterness, or keep an unforgiving spirit burning away in our hearts against someone. We love it and we don't want to give it up! These things can cause physical ailments in us. Perhaps more than fifty percent of the nervous and physical problems that we suffer are due to wrong attitudes. But when someone points it out to us, we would rather go on having the problem than change the spirit or the attitude. It is hard, isn't it? It was hard for the Israelites to put away their wives and children, but they realized that the only chance of being restored to the place of fellowship with the living God and finding the power of God manifest once again among them, was to be obedient to His word. Be ruthless with things that are against God’s will and cause God not to be first in your life. Put them away.
  28. 28. The Plan of Hope & Salvation Romans 3:23 NKJV 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 6:23a NKJV 23a For the wages of sin is death,  Death in this life (the first death) is 100%.  Even Jesus, the only one who doesn’t deserve death, died in this life to pay the penalty for our sins.  The death referred to in Romans 6:23a is the second death explained in Revelation 21:8. Revelation 21:8 NKJV 8 “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Romans 6:23b NKJV 23b but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 5:8 NKJV 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Revelation 21:7 NKJV 7 “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”  Romans 10:9-10 explains to us how to accept Jesus as our Savior. Romans 10:9-10 NKJV 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:13 NKJV 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” If you have questions or would like to know more, Please, contact First Baptist Church Jackson at 601-979-1900 or http://firstbaptistjackson.org/contact/

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