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Getting Back on Track

Ezra: Rebuilding the Foundation  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:16
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God uses his word to help us get back on track with him.

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Last week, we saw that the people had been sidetracked by the roadblocks they encountered.
The verses after we stopped
When their enemies couldn’t get them to compromise, they set about discouraging the Israelites and getting the governing officials to stop the work.
As we mentioned last week, it worked. For over a decade, the people stopped working on the temple.
Then, in , God’s people snap out of the funk and start working again.
Before we talk about the section in the middle we jumped over, let’s talk about how it fits into the whole picture.
Verses 5-23 are actually referring to something that happened around 80 years later when Ezra and Nehemiah were coming back to the land.
That story picks up in chapter 7, so for now, we are going to pass over it for now.
He includes them here to show you the kinds of opposition the Jews faced all along as they were trying to reclaim the land and rebuild the Jerusalem.
Even though it doesn’t fit chronologically, it fits the theme and helps support the point that the enemies of Israel were always trying to get them in trouble.
Today, though, we are picking back up in verse 24.
God’s people had lost sight of the command God gave them.
Now, he is about to get them started again using a very special tool: God will use his word to get his people back on track.
In fact, that’s what I want you to see this morning. If you have been sidetracked and aren’t living the life you know God has called you to live, then you need to go back to his word to get back on track.
Read with me.
Through the preaching of Zechariah and Haggai, the people were challenged, strengthened, and encouraged to rebuild.
In the same way, God can use his word in our hearts today to get us back on track.
Although we may not have prophets giving new revelation like they did, we have God’s recorded word for us, written down for all of us to see.
When we get off track, that’s what we need to get back to what God has called us to do.
I want you to see three ways God will use his word to help you get back on track with him.

1) God’s word shows us where we are wrong.

When God’s people were discouraged and distracted from doing what God called them to do, he sent two unique men to get them back on track: Haggai and Zechariah.
We have the benefit of reading what they said because we have both of their prophecies in our Bibles in the books that bear their names.
Reading through them, we get a little more detail about what has taken place while the building has stopped.
Yes, they certainly were opposed and discouraged, but they didn’t respond as they should have.
Haggai makes it clear that they turned their attention from what they were called to do to trying to fend for themselves:
Haggai 1:4–6 CSB
“Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” Now, the Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways: You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to be happy. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”
Haggai 1:
In their discouragement, they decided to settle down and make comfortable houses for themselves, neglecting what God had called them to do.
It’s a sad contrast to what we saw of their leaders in .
They were fired up, ready to take on the world to see God glorified.
When they faced opposition, they retreated back and focused only on themselves, which God showed was a losing proposition.
He didn’t allow them to succeed in anything because they were being disobedient, yet they kept trying harder and it kept getting worse.
It is a sad commentary on human nature, isn’t it?
When we look at God’s word, we see that the people in it were just like us in so many ways!
We get discouraged and disheartened so easily, and we may miss out on what God is doing.
God uses his word to show us just how badly we have gotten off track.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, let’s just take one passage as an example: the Sermon on the Mount in .
In that section, Jesus is outlining how people in his kingdom are supposed to act.
In case you think you have this whole “Christianity” thing nailed, prayerfully read through it and see if your actions and attitudes line up with what God says they should be.
As much as we don’t like it, one of the main purposes of God’s Word is to show us where we are wrong.
In our culture, that doesn’t sound like a good thing, but in reality, it is.
Let’s go to last week’s entirely underwhelming Super Bowl as an example.
Say what you will, Tom Brady is an excellent quarterback. How did he get so good?
Through practice and hard work, to be sure, but he never would have reached the level he is without excellent coaches.
If you practice wrongly, you are going to get really good at doing it wrong.
That’s why you have coaches to show you when you need to adjust your form or your technique.
No one likes to hear they are wrong, but you can never get better if you don’t know you are off track.
That’s one of the reasons we love to preach through books of the Bible.
As we go through a book, we are often confronted with truths we don’t like but we need to hear.
God’s word acts as a mirror that sometimes shows us where we are wrong.
For Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the others who came back to Jerusalem with them, they had to hear that they were wrong in focusing on their own house without focusing on what God called them to do.
So, if you have gotten off track, the first way God uses his word is to show you just how far off you have gotten.
Here’s what is so great about God’s word, though.
Here’s what is so great about God’s word, though.
Some people have only heard the negative things that God says not to do, so they think God is a cosmic killjoy who only exists to tell us what not to do.
He only prohibits things that go against his character and nature and would damage us, but even better than that, he doesn’t stop there!
In God’s word, he not only tells us what we shouldn’t do, but he also...

2) God’s word shows us what to do.

He helps us get back on track by either reminding us or teaching us what we need to be doing.
It is one thing to only hear the things you shouldn’t do. After enough of that, you start wondering what you should do.
When God tells us what to do, he is also giving us incredible purpose.
The things he says aren’t just rules for living, they are invitations to join him at work.
When God spoke through Haggai and Zerubbabel, he was challenging his people to stop sinning, yes, but also to join him in glorifying himself in the world.
Going back to Haggai’s prophecy, God commanded them to get back to work rebuilding the temple.
How did they respond? Go back to ...
They got back to work, because what God said had strengthened and encouraged them.
Zechariah spoke words of encouragement, calling them to repent and obey what God was telling them to do.
Let me ask you this: what have you done this week that is in direct obedience to something God has said in his word?
It isn’t enough not to do bad things; God is calling us to do good works!
I have heard JD Greear use this illustration before, but it fits:
A few years after what we have been looking at in Ezra, God would challenge his people through Zechariah again:
Think about how most people who have grown up in church define a good Christian: doesn’t smoke, doesn’t cuss, doesn’t drink, doesn’t cheat or lie, doesn’t have sex outside of marraige…Is that enough?
Zechariah 7:
If that’s the case, then your dog is the best follower of Christ in this church, isn’t he?
It isn’t enough simply to not do bad things; instead, when we study God’s word, he calls us to join him at work and obey his commands.
Not only do we not steal, we are generous. We don’t just not use foul language, we speak words that build up others. We don’t just not have sex outside of marriage, we reflect the sacrificial, selfless life of Christ in every aspect of our marriage.
The Christian life isn’t a life of deprivation. It is a life of purpose, passionately pursuing the incredible privilege of serving and honoring the God who rules and reigns over the entire universe!
Do you see that? When God tells you to do something, he is inviting you to join him at work in the world because he loves you.
That’s what enables you to move forward. He guides you through the principles he gives you in his word so you know what direction to go.
When he does, you are going to be overwhelmed. You know how weak and frail you are, so that’s why I am so glad that there is a third way God uses his word to get back on track...

3) God’s word shows us what he can do.

Here is an important truth: God’s word isn’t about you.
You are not the center of this book. He is!
The messages that Zechariah and Haggai were full of reminders of who God was.
After all this time, I am sure Zerubbabel would have felt inadequate.
He had tried to lead the rebuilding process and failed and he had allowed it to fall apart.
So, what does God say to Zerubbabel through Zechariah?
Zechariah 4:6–7 CSB
So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies. ‘What are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain. And he will bring out the capstone accompanied by shouts of: Grace, grace to it!’ ”
Zechariah 4:6 CSB
So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies.
zech 4:
Zechariah 4:6 CSB
So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies.
Yes, God pointed out where they had failed, and he pointed out what they needed to do, but he didn’t leave it there.
He reminded Zerubbabel that they couldn’t do it in their own strength or might, but through his Spirit, God could do anything through them.
In all of this, the focus is on God giving his people strength to accomplish his purpose.
That doesn’t mean that God is always going to let every investment grow, or every job work out, or every moment of your marriage be happy.
In all of those moments, though, God can work in and through you to do what he has planned and purpose.
If you aren’t experiencing that, then take a hard look at what you need to adjust.
Are you expecting God to agree with your plans and do what you want, or are you willing to surrender to what he wants?
His word through Zechariah gives us an even more incredible promise.
Just before the vision God gave Zechariah for Zerubbabel, God gave Zechariah a vision of Jeshua, the high priest. Jeshua is dressed in filthy rags, which symbolized the sin of both Jeshua and God’s people.
Jeshua, or Joshua, is standing before “the angel of the Lord”, who we see throughout the Old Testament is Jesus before he came to earth as a baby.
That doesn’t mean Jesus was an angel in the same sense the Gabriel or Michael were angels; angels were divine messengers, which is how Jesus is acting here.
As we see Joshua and Jesus standing there, we find out they aren’t alone. Satan is there, and he is hurling accusations at Joshua.
Here’s how the scene plays out:
Zechariah 3:5–6 CSB
Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the angel of the Lord was standing nearby. Then the angel of the Lord charged Joshua:
Zechariah 3:4–5 CSB
So the angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then he said to him, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with festive robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the angel of the Lord was standing nearby.
He goes on to talk about the Branch, a servant of God who would one day remove all the sin from his people.
In this vision, we have a beautiful picture of what Jesus does for everyone who will call on him.
Our sin has made all of us dirty before God. We are filthy, and there isn’t enough Tide or Gain in the world to make us clean.
God knew we could never clean ourselves, so he took off our filthy rags and clothed us in white.
We see this picture over and over again in the book of Revelation: those who have been saved, who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, burial, and resurrection, are given clean white robes to wear.
That’s exactly what he told Jeshua that he would do, and that is what he will do for us if we will stop trying to do it on our own and surrender to his plan, accepting his sacrifice, and willing to work to see him do what only he can.
What happened when God’s people listened and obeyed?
We don’t have time to read it all, but I would encourage you to go through the rest of chapters 5-6 this week.
Once again, the enemies of Israel tried to get the officials to stop the work, but once again, God intervened and worked in the heart of the king.
King Darius not only gave them permission to rebuild the temple but also threatened anyone who opposed them. Look at . Just like with Cyrus, God showed his power to work through pagan kings.
The temple was completed and dedicated, and God’s people were able to honor him through sacrifices, worship, and finally getting to observe the Passover again.
God showed them where they were wrong and outlined what they needed to do. On top of all that, he showed them that strength and salvation come from him and him alone.
As his people responded to him, they were able to do what they couldn’t do on their own and honor him like they hadn’t before.
Are we going to do the same? Then you have to be studying God’s Word both here and on your own.
Where have you gotten off track?
What is God calling you to do?
What is God able to do to carry out his purpose?
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