“A WORD FROM THE LORD”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 4/30/95 a.m. Ezra 5:1-2
PROPOSITION: The people of God must hunger for, seek after and receive a sure word from the Lord in their lives for every day.
- 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.
- THE city of 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.
- EZRA 1, tells us how God dealt with Cyrus the king of Persia to issued a decree, setting the people of God free to go back and restore the City of God.
- EZRA 2, tells us how 50,000, of the millions of Jews living in captivity in Persia, responded to the call and went home....God’s remnant people.
- THE first half of Ezra 3 describes the Children of Israel arriving home, rebuilding the altar and establishing sacrifices to the Lord.
- THE second half of Ezra 3 describes this remnant people starting work on the rebuilding of the Temple of the Lord.
- AND in Ezra 4 the enemy launched their first assault on the whole process of restoration.
- THESE were the people of the region that had had free run of the region for 70 years.
- THEY had been able to do whatever they wanted, without interference from the God of Israel.
- NO challenge to their selfish, destructive lifestyles.
- NO challenge to their use of the resources of the region.
- AND now, here comes the people of the Lord...taking back the territory, taking over the villages, taking over the fields that had been theirs for generations, restoring the worship of the Temple.
- AND it made them mad.
* First they tried to join the work of rebuilding so that they could sabotage it from the inside.
* Then they hired counselors inside Jerusalem to discourage the people.
* Finally they wrote a letter to Artaxerxes, king of Persia, accusing the Jews of insurrection.
* That worked. Artaxerxes issued a decree that the rebuilding work on the Temple stop immediately.
* And it did. That is what Ezra 4:24 says.
* The enemy had succeeded. The work of God had stopped.
* The burning enthusiasm that had started the whole process of restoring the House of the Lord had faded away.
* Activity had given way to preoccupation with self.
* The zeal of the Lord had been replaced with a love for creature comforts.
* The king that had ordered the rebuilding to stop had been replaced with a new king.....and no appeal had been lodged with him.
* The Jewish leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua, had given up on the vision.
* The people paid more attention to their own houses being remodeled and to putting up new, rich cedar paneling in their own homes (Haggai 1:4).
* The people were having big feasts, breaking out the best vintage wines they could buy (Haggai 1:6).
* They were buying the finest of clothes at Nordstroms (Haggai 1:6).
* All the while the House of the Lord lay in ruins.
* And instead of looking for every chance to start rebuilding the House of the Lord again, the people had given up and given in to an indefinite postponement.
- HAGGAI 1:2 describes this time period between Ezra 4:24 and Ezra 5:1. It says,
“These people say, '‘The time has not yet come for the LORD'S house to be built.’”
- THIS sad condition went on for sixteen years.
- BETWEEN Ezra 4:24 and Ezra 5:1 there was a 16 year period of incredible neglect while the House of the Lord lay idle and half-restored.
ii. what is a word from the lord?
- THEN, in Ezra 5:1, something happened that changed the whole situation. Listen for it. See if you can identify what it was that turned things around at such a critical time for Israel.
“Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.”
- WHAT was it that broke 16 years of indifference and inactivity?
- WHAT was it that changed the attitude of the leaders?
- WHAT was it that turned the hearts of the people from their preoccupation with their houses and clothes and boats and cars?
- WHAT was it that got the builders back on the job at the House of the Lord?
- IT was a Word from the Lord!
- HAGGAI and ZECHARIAH arrived on the scene with a word from the Lord.
- THE last word from the Lord had been from Daniel when he warned of the opposition in Daniel 10. That had been 16 years before.
- THERE had been 16 years of silence from heaven and no one had been too concerned about that.
- AND then it came.....maybe in response to Daniel’s fasting and praying back in Babylon.
- AND it came in four ways....ways that you and I can expect to hear from the Lord still today.
1. DIRECT COMMAND
- HAGGAI 1:8 says,
“Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD.”
- HAGGAI 1:9-10 says,
“‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. (10) Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.’”
- HAGGAI 2:4 says,
“But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”
- ZECHARIAH 4:9-10 says,
“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. (10) ‘Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.’”
- THAT was how the Word of the Lord came to Zerubbabel and Joshua, and the people of Israel in Ezra 5:1.
- HAGGAI and ZECHARIAH give us the inside track on exactly what the Lord spoke.
- AND it is still how the Lord speaks to you and me today if we will seek Him, and hunger to hear His voice.
- HE still speaks directly to us with....
- ARE you hearing Him?
iii.why do you need a word from the lord?
- WHY do you need a word from the Lord?
- WELL, it may seem obvious to most of you, but just in case, let’s go back to our story in Ezra.
- SIXTEEN years of silence and inactivity had taken their toll on the hearts of the people.
- THE people had fallen asleep spiritually.
- THE people of the Lord needed to be roused from their spiritual slumber.
* The work stoppage had cooled their zeal for the Lord. If they had examined their own hearts they might have realized this....but they had become too busy to do that.
* They couldn’t even see the significance of God’s displeasure with them.....no rain, poor crops, money running through their fingers, left to their own devices.
* They needed the truth brought back to their hearts.....God’s perspectives and priorities.
* The leaders needed the courage to lead in the rebuilding regardless of what the people might say.
* The people needed the courage to rebuild God’s House no matter what the enemy might do.
- AND that is exactly what a word from the Lord will do in your life today.
* Awaken and warm your cold heart.
* Reveal to you what God is saying to your life.
* Bring God’s truth, His perspective, His priorities to your heart.
* Give you courage to lead without the fear of man intimidating you.
* Give you courage to rebuild the House of the Lord no matter what the enemy might do against you.
iv. how do you get a word from the lord?
- LET’S look at the next verse in Ezra 5,
“Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.” (Ezra 5:2)
- IF you follow this story with us over the remaining Sundays we will be in Ezra, you will discover that the work never stopped ever again.
- THIS time it took off and never slowed down until it was completed.
- THIS time the prophets of God were with them....and were helping them.
- THE word of the Lord sustained the rebuilding process until it was completed.
- EVERY few months...there it would come....another word from the Lord just at the right time.
- AND it would be effective. The work would continue in strength...even with the enemy railing against it.
- IF this story has challenged you, you may be asking how you receive a word from the Lord.
- FOUR principles:
1. ASK FOR A HUNGER
- IT is hard to believe that any of us would not want to hear from the Lord in our lives.....but the self-centeredness of sin is deceptive and dulling.
- AND, like the Israelites, we can get so busy paneling our own houses that we forget.....and go to sleep.
- SO, if the desire is not there to hear God’s voice, ask for it and expect God to do it.
- IN JOHN 6:44 Jesus says,
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him...”
2. STUDY GOD’S WORKS
- BE alert to what God is doing in the world today...and what He has done historically with and through His people.
- WHAT does it mean that tremendously significant peace treaties are being signed in the Middle East?
- WHAT does it mean that in countries like Nepal, where it used to be against the law to become a Christian, missionaries are pouring in to raise up national pastors.
- WHAT does it mean that 2,000 people a month are coming to Christ in Cuba right now?
- WHAT does it mean that pastors of different denominations are coming together for prayer in the US like never before?
- WHAT does it mean that Promise Keepers events are selling out already in many large US cities?
- WHAT does it mean when you hear pastors and missionaries say that the harvest is coming in in places previously impossible?
- STUDY God’s works....and listen to what He is saying in the world today.
- LISTEN to Jesus chasten the religious leaders of His day in Matthew 16:1-3,
“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. (2) He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ (3) and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.’”
- HOW do you hear the word of the Lord?
- YOU ask for the desire.
- AND you study His works.
3. LISTEN TO GOD’S WORDS
- BUT there is another way that you hear the word of the Lord to you.
- YOU listen to His Words.
- YOU ask Him for a hunger for His Word and then you make room in your life to draw near to Him in His Word...and then you LISTEN.
- ROMANS 10:17 says that,
“.....faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
- I WOULD even suggest that if you are serious about hearing the word of the Lord to you that you keep a journal of what He reveals to you.
- THE essence of worship activity is two-way communion with the Lord.
- SPEAK and listen...speak and listen.
4. HOLD JESUS IN THE CENTER OF ALL THINGS
- THE final method for hearing the word of the Lord to your heart is to hold Jesus in the center of all things in your life.
- HEBREWS 1:1 says,
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,(2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...”
- IF you are going to get into a holy dialogue with God, and listen or the word of the Lord in your life, you need to know up front that JESUS is the topic of conversation.
- WHAT is it that God wants to say to you that is more important than anything else?......JESUS.
- WHAT is the topic of conversation that will solve the problems and crises of your life?......JESUS.
- WHAT is it that will satisfy the longings of your life?....JESUS.
- HOLD Jesus at the center of all things.
- THE worst times in the life of God’s people in the Old Testament were characterized by silence from heaven.
- (FIND examples)
- NOTHING has changed from the time of the Judges, some 4,000 years ago, to now.
- GOD longs to be in dialogue with His people.
- HIS voice is what you need more than any other single thing.