“PROFILE OF A REMNANT PEOPLE”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 3/5/95 a.m. Ezra 2:1-70
PROPOSITION: Those who respond to the call of God to be His remnant people and rebuild Zion have a common profile...a common identity, similar companions, a commitment to ministry, evidence of their security, and a Source for their success in rebuilding the City of God.
- THE book of Ezra, in the Old Testament, is the story of how God rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and the Temple...using a remnant of His people who had been in captivity in Babylon for over 70 years.
- GOD had delivered the Israelite nation from slavery in Egypt, 470 years earlier, and had taken them to the promised land of Canaan.
- HE made them a chosen people through whom He would reveal Himself to the nations of the world.
- BUT in the 400 years that they were in the Promised Land they had gotten lazy and fat and had turned to worshipping the pagan gods of the Canaanites surrounding them.
- SO, after sending prophets and tough times to try and turn them back to Him, He sent Nebuchadnezzar to take the nation of Israel into captivity in Babylon.
- FOR 70 years the people of God languish in a foreign land, held captive by a pagan king.....longing to go back to Zion.
- NOW, after 70 years of God’s discipline in that dark land, hope begins to flicker.
- CYRUS is the Persian king on the throne of Babylon and is moved by the Spirit of God to let Israel return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, the Temple and worship the Lord again.
- NOW, remember that these Old Testament stories have been handed down to us so that we can draw lessons from them for our lives...as God calls His people to return to Him today.
- PAUL says in I Corinthians 10:11, concerning the history of the nation of Israel, that,
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”
- THE Church of Jesus Christ is the one on whom “the fulfillment of the ages has come.”
- THE reason for Creation, for the nation of Israel, for Moses’ life, for king David’s reign, for Jerusalem, for the Old Testament temple......for the life of Christ, His death and resurrection....is the Church.
- GOD is today revealing His love for the world, calling to the world to Himself, through the Church.
- THE Church of Jesus is the people “on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”
- THIS is why it is so important that we live in the power and victory of the Holy Spirit.
- GOD has chosen to focus His work in the world through the Church of Jesus Christ.
- IT is why He is calling a remnant people to leave Babylon and rebuild the city of God, Zion, the Church of the firstborn.
- REMEMBER that wonderful passage in Hebrews 12:18-24,
“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm.....(22) you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (23) to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (24) to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
- SO, the lessons that we learn from the Israelites who returned to rebuild the City of God as it lay in ruins, are crucial to our lives today....as we look to be a part of the restoration of the Church in our times.
- TURN with me please to Ezra 2.
- IN this chapter the returning people have been gathered for the trip back to the City of God.
- AND there are five things about them....a profile of God’s restoration people that I would like to share with you from Ezra 2.
ii. live in a “zion” IDENTITY
- LET’S read together from verse 1.
“Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town....”
- “THE people of the province....”
- THAT was their identity.
- THAT was what they called themselves....”the people of the province.”
- THEY might have been slaves and servants under a Persian king, living in Babylon.....but they were “the people of the province.”
- THE province being referred to here is the province of Judah....where the City of God was, and the ruins of the Temple.
- IT was 1,000 miles away at the time. They were slaves in a foreign land. Getting back seemed impossible. What Persian king would let such cheap labor return?
- BUT that had not mattered to them.
- THEY had not been totally absorbed by the world that surrounded them.
- THEY were not citizens of Persia.
- THEY had not lost their identity.
- THEY were still “the people of the province” who had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and were on their way back home to the City of God.
- THAT is our first lesson from Ezra 2 this morning.
- WE are people of God, the Church of the firstborn, Zion, the City of God.
- THAT is your identity, and mine.
- THIS world is NOT our home.
- OUR citizenship is NOT in this place of bondage.
- HEBREWS 11:10 says of Abraham, our father in the faith, that he was not tied to this world because.....
“.....he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
- EPHESIANS 2:19-20 says,
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, (20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
- WE must live with that sense of our self-identity.
- WE are “people of Zion, the City of God” before we are ANYTHING else.....and we must live like that, make our choices based on that.
- DOES that mean that we check out and live in Idaho waiting for the rapture? NO!!!!!! We are called to rebuild the City of God as an ark of salvation for the rest of the world.
- LESSON #1 is.....”Live in a Zion identity.”
iii. be with partners in the vision
- THE second lesson that we learn from the profile of this returning remnant people is found in verse 2,
“Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles......(2) in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah)....”
- LOOK who these people were in company with!
• He was of the lineage of king David.
• He was promised to reign on the throne of David.
• He was a man of God on a mission. Listen to what Zechariah 4:9 says about him.
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.”
* Jeshua...or Joshua the High Priest.
• He was a man who moved under the influence and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
• He was also a man on a mission.
• Zechariah 4 portrays him as one of the olive trees through whom the oil of the Spirit is poured out to bring light to Israel.
* The other men listed in Ezra 2:2 are also leaders in the restoration of Zion. Men of vision and faith.
- VERSE 2 says that the returning people were “in the company” of these men, Zerubbabel, Joshua, Mordecai.
- HERE is the lesson for us today.
- IT matters who you hang around with.
- SOME of the people around you are staying in Babylon and are going to die in Babylon.
* Their lifestyle says it.
* Their choices say it.
- OTHERS around you are part of God’s remnant people on their way to rebuilding the City of God.....get in their company.
- LESSON #2 is...”Be with partners in the vision.”
iv. commit yourself to MINISTRY
- NOW, the next several verses are a fascinating listing of names and numbers.....and speak to the fact that God is intensely interested in every ONE.
- LOOK at the detail....by NAME and NUMBER (READ SOME).
- NOW look at verse 36....the priests are listed and numbered.
- VERSE 40...the Levites listed by name and number.
- VERSE 41....the singers.
- VERSE 42....the gatekeepers.
- VERSE 43...the temple servants.
- VERSE 55...the descendants of the servants of the king.
- VERSE 58...more servants.
- DO you get this third lesson that we learn from the restoration people of God?
- EVERYONE has a ministry.
- THEY are not going back to Zion to get a sun tan.
- THEY are not going back to get a blessing, a thrill, a Pentecostal rush.
- THEY are going back so that they can minister before the Lord and to the world.
- EVERY believer has a ministry.
- LESSON #3 is....”Commit yourself to the ministry of the City of God.”
v. guard the evidence of your SECURITY
- LESSON #4.....look at Ezra 2:59,
“The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel...”
- LOOK at verse 61,
“And from among the priests: The descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name). (62) These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.”
- YOU see, most of the Jewish families, even while they were in captivity in Babylon, believed that they would eventually return to Zion......so they kept scrupulous records of their place in the family of God.
- THE evidence that they were the people of God was kept safe and secure.....it was written down and protected.
- THE evidence could be produced at a moment’s notice.
- HOW much more important then the evidence for those who were priests.
- BUT for many, they had been careless in protecting the evidence of their place amongst the people of God.
* They never believed that they were ever going home.
* They thought they would just blend in with the others in Babylon.
* They didn’t think it was worth it to protect the evidence.
- SO, here, when it is time to go back....they are without necessary evidence.
- NOW, for us it is not a piece of paper.
- BUT the Bible does say that there is a Book of Life....and our names are written down through faith in the blood and resurrection of Jesus.
- BUT the evidence of that salvation is NOT something that we can afford to neglect.
- HEBREWS 2:1-3 says,
“ We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (2) For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, (3) how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”
- LESSON #4 from the profile of a returning people is.....”Guard the evidence of your salvation.”
vi. depend on a powerful source
- FINALLY, the last lesson that we learn from this returning people has to do with their source of power.
- SOME people may wonder why the Bible even has chapters like this.
- WHO cares about all the lists....the numbers.
- I MEAN, look at verse 64,
“The whole company numbered 42,360, (65) besides their 7,337 menservants and maidservants; and they also had 200 men and women singers. (66) They had 736 horses, 245 mules, (67) 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys.”
- WHO cares? Right?
- BUT remember how many walked out of Egypt 400 years earlier?
- BECAUSE God is concerned about the individuals who make up numbers we know that over 1 million left Egypt headed for Canaan the first time...not to mention herds and herds of sheep and cattle and camels.
- IN fact, Genesis 24:10 tells us that when people any means in that day went on as trip, they took 10 camels per traveler.
- INSTEAD of well over 1 million strong......this group goes back to rebuild Zion with under 50,000. That is one twentieth of the original group.
- INSTEAD of 10 camels per person....this group has one camel for every 110 people.
- ALL of these numbers serve to tell us that this is a puny, weak, ill-equipped group that is on their way to rebuild the city of God.
- BY comparison with what God did with His people in Exodus....and certainly by comparison with the Persian empire, this group is minor league.
- BUT listen to what God said about this very group in Zechariah 4:6-7,
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. (7) ‘What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!’”
- LISTEN to the word of the Lord to this same puny group of people in Zechariah 4:10,
“‘Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.’”
- LISTEN, in the loins of Zerubbabel, king of Judah.....there was the future seed of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born son of David by the Holy Spirit.
- IN that seemingly insignificant group marching to Zion across the desert was the rebuilders of Bethlehem, verse 21 gives them special mention......that was the town where Heaven would come down and touch earth.
- IN fact, in that group marches a little known priest named Joshua....and his name is translated Jesus.
- AS the sounds of that little caravan, with the few cattle and sheep and camels that they had, rise up from the dusty road, it is almost as if we can hear the feet of Jesus leading His people back to the City of Zion.
- IN I SAMUEL 14:6, Jonathan is led by the Lord to take in a whole regiment of Philistines....just him and his armor-bearer.....and he says,
“Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”
- HERE is lesson #5.....IT doesn’t matter what our strength looks like in the natural....God is the source of our victory.
- IT is His arm that brings salvation.
- CAN I review the lesson with you?
1. Live in a “zion” IDENTITY
2. Be with partners in the vision
3. Commit yourself to MINISTRY
4. Guard the evidence of your SECURITY
5. Depend on a powerful source
- NOTICE that in this chapter, there is no reference to the trip itself.
- THEY start out...and they hit the ground in Jerusalem running.
- VERSE 68 says,
“When they arrived at the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. (69) According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 drachmas of gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments. (70) The priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.”
- THERE is a job to do. How about it?