Knowing Your Place in History

The Book of Ezra

3:1-13  And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. 3 And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; 5 And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. 7 They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.

8 Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord. 9 Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. 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. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, 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; and 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 noise was heard afar off.  ESV
I remember one of my college professors, Joe Crawford, saying in class one day that people are always trying to make heaven now. Everyone does this to some extent. In your youth you date, find that special someone, and imagine, “When we’re married, it will be like heaven!” You quickly find out marriage is not heaven! Then you buy your first new car, supposing that it will whisk you heavenward, but the car develops problems and you find that it is not heaven. Your children start to arrive, and they seem so angelic when they’re newborns in your arms. But as they become whining, demanding and mischievous, you decide that they act more like fallen angels. Next, you buy a new home, confident that having a piece of earthly real estate will be heaven. But then you encounter the costs of home ownership and you moan that your house is far from heaven. The years pass and you dream of retirement and that cabin on the lake where you can go out and fish every day. But even if you reach that dream, you discover that your golden years are more about health issues than fishing. Ah, heaven is not to be found in this present age!
But you might say, “Pastor, I know that. I’m not looking for heaven on earth. I just wish my life showed more of the triumph of believers in Bible times. They might have had a few problems, but God made their lives easy.” Oh yeah? Anyone who seriously supposes such ideas is either woefully ignorant of the Bible, or is guilty of selective reading, or has been mislead by false teachers, or is a false teacher. Believers in Bible times did not have easy lives. Yes, we read of the triumphs of some (read Heb 11:1-35a). But do we want to read the rest of that chapter? We do this much too often! For example, many can imagine the glory of being part of the joyful throng in the exodus. God rescues his people! But would you have wanted to be in previous generations that endured years of bitter oppression? Or suppose you were twelve when you and your family left Egypt. You would probably have been filled with hope as you looked forward to a bright, new future! But that future suddenly became dark and dreary two years later when your parents refused to believe and obey the Lord. And you spend the next thirty-eight years, the prime years of your life wandering in the wilderness—and it wasn’t your sin that brought you to such a place! Then you have to wait for the Promised Land to be conquered. You are nearly sixty when you can begin your bright new future!
Our text today is one that is rarely read. I doubt you have verses underlined and notes in the margins of your Bible. In fact, these pages might be like new. Most Christians don’t read the post-exilic books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. And so we fail to listen to an important part of God’s word to us. But let us listen together to one part of that message today.
I.          They reestablished proper worship (3:1-6).
I think we don’t think enough about what they returned to—a scene of devastation. Yes, they had just come back to the land, and there was so much to do! They had to rebuild their infrastructure, homes, farms and business, etc. But they put the Lord first.
A.        They acted immediately on priority of the altar and the sacrifices (3:1-3). The renewal of worship preceded the rebuilding of the temple. Compare the order when the Lord first made them his people. After he gave them the law covenant, he told them how to build an altar (Ex 20:22-26).

1.         They assembled together as one.

2.         They knew that this was essential for their life with God.

3.         They acted according to what was written for them—Bible based spirituality.

4.         They did this in spite of fear.

Apply: The centrality of Christ and the gospel; knowing justification by grace through faith
B.        They also pursued other parts of old covenant worship (3:4-6).

1.         They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:33-43; Num 29:14-40; Deut 16:13-17).

2.         They offered the other regular offerings: daily (Num 28:1-8), Sabbath (Num 28:9-10), and monthly (Num 28:11-15)

Apply: They became wholly devoted to God. They lived as holy or set apart people ought to. As they were to bring constant offerings, so we must continually fix our eyes on Jesus.
II.        They started to rebuild (3:7-9).
A.        They gave in order to start rebuilding (3:7).

1.         The Lord includes us in the privilege of supplying the means for public worship. We give because we highly value the worship of God and the gospel ministry. This requires ongoing faith!

Comment: Most of our money for ministry comes from people who worship together here.

2.         To rebuild required them to plan and to reach out to others. God expects us to use our brains and our backs to build.

B.        They engaged themselves in the hard task of rebuilding (3:8-9). They started in the same month that Solomon began to build the first temple (1 Ki 6:1).

1.         A work of unity – as they acted together in worship, so they worked together to rebuild the temple. Unity is a key idea for the people of God (Eph 4:1-6).

2.         A work of wisdom – they appointed the Levites as supervisors. The Levites were the tribe responsible for the proper worship of the Lord.  It is interesting that David appointed 24,000 men of Levi to oversee the work of the temple (1 Chrn 23:4). But they had only a total of 341 Levites (Ezra 2:40-42). Okay, this was going to make everything quite a bit more difficult. But difficulty is no reason to quit! It is an opportunity to see the power of God.

Apply: Remember that the Lord had reduced Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300, so that he would have the glory. Go ahead, consider our weakness, and then rely on God’s awesome power.
III.       They celebrated the present work of the Lord among them (3:10-13).
We must trace the mercy we receive back to its source—the Lord.
A.        A time of singing (3:10-11a)

1.         Trumpets were used by the priests in worship (Num 10:1-10; 1 Chrn 15:24; 16:6).

2.         They followed David’s pattern for worship.

3.         They sang a testimony of praise for God’s goodness (cf. 1 Chrn 16:34; 2 Chrn 7:3; Ps 106:1; 107:1; 136:1; Jer 33:10-11).

B.        A time of mixed emotions (3:11b-13)

1.         The younger generation shouted loudly. They were glad that the Lord had brought them back from exile to worship him!

2.         The older generation wept loudly. Though some of them might have been weeping for joy, many were weeping because they remembered the temple of fifty years before and its former glory. They counted the present as small and wept (Hag 2:1-5).

3.         We should praise God for whatever grace and blessings we have, even if they are not all that we desire.

4.         Their problems were far from over (3:13). Yes, while we are in this present world, we will face affliction. But this must not stop us from praising God for the present blessings we enjoy.

Apply: Now is the time for us to rejoice and worship. And it is also the time for us to rebuild. The Lord has not met our needs so far to encourage us to quit, but to move forward by renewing our faith in him and by working according to faith. The Army of the Potomac had been badly beaten by the Confederates at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. But then came a great change in a small town in Pennsylvania, where there would be another battle. Its name was Gettysburg. And everything was about to change…!
~ Dave
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.