“REBUILDING GOD’S TEMPLE”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 3/19/95 a.m. Ezra 3:7-13
PROPOSITION: The restoration remnant of God’s people quickly gave themselves, on their return to Jerusalem, to preparations for rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, to the foundation stone for the Temple, and to a celebration of great emotion at the laying of the foundation stone.
- THE book of Ezra, in the Old Testament, is the story of the rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of the living God.
- THIS amazing feat was accomplished by a small remnant group of Jews who had been in captivity in Babylon for over 70 years, but had been allowed to come back to the City of God....by the Persian king, Cyrus.
- JERUSALEM had been destroyed 70 years before by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army....as the discipline of God.
- THE Temple had been leveled, the city of God had been burned and the people carried of as slaves to Babylon.
- GOD had allowed all of this to bring His people to repentance....and ultimately back to Himself.
- IN Ezra 1, God dealt with Cyrus the king of Persia who issued a decree to set the people of God free to go home and restore the City of God.
- IN Ezra 2, only 50,000 of the millions of Jews living in captivity in Persia responded to the call and went home....God’s remnant people.
- IN Ezra 3:1-6, the Children of Israel arrived home and immediately rebuilt the altar and established sacrifices.
- TODAY, from Ezra 3:7-13, this remnant people start work on rebuilding the Temple of the Lord.
- THE lessons that we learn from these Israelites are crucial for our lives today....because God has called us to take part in the restoration of the Church of Jesus in our times.
- 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 the love of this world in America today, and rebuild the City of God, Zion, the Church of the firstborn.
- EVERYTHING else in life is of secondary importance.
- IF you are a born again follower of Jesus....your sins forgiven.....your future assured in heaven....then you are called to be a builder of His Temple.
- YOU are NOT saved and called of God to be healed, happy, fulfilled, contented, and consumed with building your own kingdom.
- THOSE are things that He will bless you with IF you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
- YOU are called to be a builder of God’s Temple.
- TURN with me please to Ezra 3:7-13.
- IN this chapter the returning people have arrived back in the Promised Land....and they set about rebuilding the Temple of the Lord.
- NOW, you need to know that there were plenty of reasons why they should not have started rebuilding the Temple of the Lord at that time.
1. Rebuilding the altar was enough for now.
* Sacrifices were the heart of Old Testament worship...why make a big deal of the Temple?
2. God would be pleased with the sacrifices for now.
* There was no need to go all the way for God so soon. That would be fanatical.
3. Let’s not rattle the enemy all at once.
* The enemy was unsettled as it was with them just moving into the region.
* Rebuilding the Temple right away would draw too much opposition.
4. We are far too weak to do anything this ambitious so soon.
* We don’t have the resources nor the strength to build anything like Solomon erected on this site.
5. There is wisdom in waiting on the Temple until we can do something really worthy of the Lord.
ii. the preparation for rebuilding the temple of the lord
- BUT all of those objections and concerns were swept away as the Israelites remembered all that the Lord had done for them.
* Deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
* Crossing the Red Sea on dry land.
* Food and water in the desert.
* A land flowing with milk and honey.
* Deliverance from Babylon.
* A safe journey home.
- THEY realized that they owed the Lord everything...and that He deserved the best from them.
- SO, with hearts full of thanksgiving, they rebuilt the altar and started right in with preparations for rebuilding the Temple of the Lord.
- EZRA 3:7-9,
“Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus king of Persia. (8) In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work, appointing Levites twenty years of age and older to supervise the building of the house of the LORD. (9) Jeshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers--all Levites--joined together in supervising those working on the house of God.”
- THREE things were set in motion, preparing for the rebuilding of the Temple of the Lord.
1. THE PEOPLE GAVE (vs.7).
* Food and drink.
• All of this so that the workers and the materials for the work of restoration could be assembled on the site.
• It is amazing to me the stereotype of Jewish people being so thrifty and careful with their money...but when it comes to the things of God!
• Remember in Exodus 36:5 how the workmen who were building the tabernacle had to ask Moses to stop the people from bringing their gifts...they had too much.
• How does this happen?
• When God’s people live in a spirit of thanksgiving for what He has done for them....and see themselves as His restoration people...they give to see His Temple rebuilt.
• John Stott, in his book, The Cross of Christ, writes,
“Far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness. We can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit. And there we remain until the Lord Jesus speaks to our hearts His word of pardon and acceptance, and we, gripped by His love and brimful of thanksgiving, go out into the world to live our lives in His service.”
• Restoration people are giving people.
• Jesus said, in Luke 6:38,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
2. THE PRIESTS BEGAN THE WORK. (vs. 8)
* The royal household....Zerubbabel.
* The priests and Levites....Joshua.
• After the building materials had been collected, they got right after the work.
• They weren’t that many.
• It looked like a formidable job.
• But they didn’t sit around for long and talk about it....they got after it.
• Peter writes in I Peter 2:9,
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
• You are a royal priesthood....are you getting after the work of restoring the Temple of the Lord?
3. THEY APPOINTED SUPERVISORS (vv.8-9)
* Priests and Levites were appointed as supervisors to ensure that the work get done in an efficient and timely manner.
* To supervise means to give oversight and direction in the accomplishment of a task.
• They were not going to leave the outcome to chance.
• There was nothing casual about their approach to this work of restoration.
• This was serious business to them.
- THREE steps of preparation....giving, working, supervising.
- THIS was a critical point in the restoration of the City of God.
- GOD was not interested in just re-establishing a nation here....or rebuilding the fields and herds and cities would have been His priority.
- HE was working through His people to reveal His Light to the nations.....so restoring the City of God and the Temple were key to His plans for the world.
- TODAY, the Temple of the Lord is in you and me, not a building made with hands.
- PAUL writes in I Corinthians 3:16,
“Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?”
- IN Ephesians 2:21-22, Paul expands the concept of God’s Temple to include the Church of Jesus when he writes to the local fellowship in Ephesus,
“In him (Jesus) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (22) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
- SO, we are called to GIVE, to WORK, to SUPERVISE so that the Temple of God can be restored in our day and in our region.
iii. the foundation for rebuilding the temple of the lord
- SO, the steps of preparation were completed in Ezra 3:7-9.
- NOW let’s see what is next in verses 10-11a.
“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. (11) With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’”
- OBVIOUSLY, the first thing you do when you erect a building is lay the foundation.
- A FOUNDATION determines....
* The footprint of the building.
* The size and purpose of the building.
* The height of the building.
* The strength of the building.
* The integrity of the building.
- EVERYTHING that had taken place in the past 70 years since their capture and exile had been for this moment.
- ALL that had gone before and all that was to come hinged on the laying of this foundation stone.
- AND if you don’t think it was a big deal to this restoration people...look at what accompanied the moment.
* The priests in their full worship attire sounded their trumpets.
• It was like the voice of the Lord speaking His approval to His people.
• These trumpets were reserved for coronations and for calling the people to great feasts of celebration.
* The Levites played their cymbals in praise to the Lord.
* And they all sang to the Lord, “He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.”
- THE foundation stone was proof that God was with them and promise that He would give them the victory in the end.
- WHAT is the foundation stone of the Temple that we are called to restore?
- IN MATTHEW 21:42 Jesus says about Himself,
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
- PAUL writes in Ephesians 2:19-22,
“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. (21) In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (22) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
- LISTEN to I PETER 2:6,
“For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’”
- THE foundation stone, the Chief corner stone of our lives is JESUS.
- THE message of the Church is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
- THE hope of the Church is Jesus Christ alone.
- NOT His blessings, not His manifestations, not His gifts...but Christ alone, our Hope and Glory.
- NO wonder Paul said to the Corinthians,
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2)
- WHEN that foundation is laid....trumpets sound, cymbals play, and the royal priesthood sings “Hallelujah to the Lamb!”
iv. the response of god’s people to the restoration of his temple
- NO wonder Ezra 3:11b says,
“And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.”
- BUT look at the last two verses of this chapter.
“But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. (13) No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.”
- LET me make a few observations about these interesting contrasts in response to the foundation stone being placed once again in Zion...weeping and shouting for joy.
- IN that crowd that day were some old-timers who remembered what it had been like in Solomon’s Temple.
* There had been no glory or splendor quite like the splendor of Solomon’s Temple.
* But these old-timers had seen the glory depart.....although they had done nothing about it while it was waning.
* They had seen everything that they had held in high esteem lost to the enemy.....everything of value carried off to Babylon.
* They were some of the ones who had been force marched across the desert to a pagan land.
* They knew what it was like to live in exile for 70 years with no Temple and no song.
* All that they valued had been lost and lay in ruins around them.
* And of that once great nation, only 50,000 had returned, weak and faltering.
- AND as those memories came flooding back....they wept out loud for what had been lost.
- BUT while some were weeping, others were shouting for joy at what the Lord was about to do again.
- IT might not have looked like much...but it was a start.
- IT might have not looked as grand as Solomon’s Temple yet....but it was just the foundation.
- SO there were tears and joy mixed together.
- THERE is always some of both....tears and shouts of joy...in the life of a restoration people.
- MOURNING and REJOICING are both valid responses to God’s presence.
- AND that holy mixture of sounds has not died out in 3,000 years.
- PSALM 126:5-6 says,
“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. (6) He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”
- THERE are tears in our eyes at what has happened to the Church of Jesus in America...and our land.
* We remember the days of Jonathan Edwards....of George Whitefield and Charles Finney.
* We remember reports of 100,000 in prayer at noon on any given work day in New York City in the mid 1800’s.
* We remember the reports of Azusa Street and the outpouring of the Spirit that followed on this land.
- AND we pour out tears of repentance.
- BUT friends, the foundation stone is being laid once again...and the Temple of the Lord is being rebuilt by a restoration people.
- THERE is reason to shout as well.
- GOD is moving amongst His people once again.
- ARE you willing to pay the price for preparation?
* It is paid in prayer.
* It is paid in your personal pursuit of the presence of God.
* It is paid in obedience to God’s Word by the indwelling power of the Spirit.
* It is paid in the stewardship of your time, talents and giving.
* It is paid as you wrestle with making His Temple your priority....doing the WORK of rebuilding with all seriousness.
- ARE you willing to lay the foundation stone again in your life which is Christ alone?
- YOUR response to restoration will have some tears and some joy...but that isn’t even the point.
- THE point is doing with Him the one thing that He is doing in the world today....BUILDING HIS TEMPLE...the Church of Jesus Christ!