“STAYING ON TASK”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 5/28/95 a.m. Ezra 5:3-17
PROPOSITION: The calling and task of every believer is to be fruitful in the building of the Church of Jesus regardless of circumstances, environment or opposition.
- THE book of Ezra, in the Old Testament, is the wonderful story of the rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of the living God......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 earlier by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldean army....as part of the discipline of God for Israel’s idolatry and rebellion.
- THE Temple had been leveled, the city of God had been burned and the majority of 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.
- IN Ezra 4 the enemy launches their first assault on the whole process of restoration.....and the rebuilding of the city of God stops.
- IN the first two verses of Ezra 5, God uses two prophets, Haggai and Zecharaiah, to bring the Word of the Lord to the people.....remember that for 16 years the people left off rebuilding the temple for building their own paneled houses and taking care of themselves.
- SO, after a 16 year break in the action, the people of the Lord get back at rebuilding the house of the Lord.....this time, says Ezra 5:2, the prophets were helping them by holding them on task.
- THIS time the people of the Lord were going to fulfill their potential in the Lord.....and accomplish what they had been born into the world to do, like Esther had just a few years before God’s people had left Persia.
- THIS time the people of the Lord would stay on task in spite of continued opposition.
- TURN with me to Ezra 5:3-17.
“At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ (4) They also asked, ‘What are the names of the men constructing this building?’ (5) But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received. (6) This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. (7) The report they sent him read as follows: To King Darius: Cordial greetings. (8) The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction. (9) We questioned the elders and asked them, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ (10) We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information. (11) This is the answer they gave us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. (12) But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon. (13) ‘However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. (14) He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylon. ‘Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, (15) and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’ (16) So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.’ (17) Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.”
ii. on task because of whose they are
- THE enemy had done everything in his power to stop the rebuilding of the City of God.
- IN chapter 4 the enemy....
* Tried to join the effort (4:2).
* Tried to discourage and frighten the people of the Lord from rebuilding (4:4).
* Hired counselors from within the City of God to work against them and frustrate the process (4:5).
* Lodged a complaint with Artaxerxes, then king of Persia by illegal means (4:6).
- BUT after a 16 year work stoppage the Word of the Lord had revived the builders and they were on task not to be deterred again.
- AND the enemy gets right back to what he does best.
* “Who authorized you to rebuild the City of God?”........Self-doubt (5:3).
* “Give us your names!”....intimidation (5:4).
- BUT this time the attack of the enemy does not achieve its purpose (5:5).
- THE reason that the people of God stayed on task, in spite of the opposition, begins to unfold in Ezra 5:11,
“We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth...”
- “YOU ask our names...our identity?”
* We belong to the God who created the heavens and the earth.
* We take our identity from Him.
* He is the Source of our life.
- “YOU ask why we are rebuilding this Temple against your wishes?”
* It is because in doing this work we are serving this great God.
* You see, we are servants. That is our identity. Serving Him is what we were ordained to do.
- THIS was the flag they ran up the pole first.
- LISTEN to Paul respond to the sailors in the ship that was about to be wrecked in a storm, in Acts 27:23,
“Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me...”
- THERE is nothing like your sense of identity to keep you on task when the opposition gets fierce.
iii. on task because of their history
- BUT there was another reason that the people of the Lord kept rebuilding the Temple this time.
- IT is found in the last half of Ezra 5:11,
“.......we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished.”
- THE people of the Lord were rebuilding this time with a sharp sense of the history of it all.
- THIS wasn’t some novelty of the times, some fad passing through......”Hey guys, let’s build a Temple here.”
- THIS was Mount Moriah!
- THIS was the sight on which....
* Abraham had come to sacrifice Isaac, and God had provided a lamb.....1,600 years before.
* David had offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving when God had stayed His hand of judgment against Israel......600 years before.
* David had bought the site for an altar unto the Lord.
* David’s son, Solomon, had built the Temple of the Lord at that site.....500 years before.
- ALL of this had happened hundreds of years before on this very site that God had chosen for His Name to dwell.
- LIKEWISE you and I go back to the history of the Church of Jesus Christ....to Acts 2:4 and the nearly 2,000 year track record of the restoring work of the Holy Spirit in all of those years.
- WE look back to the work that Peter did, and the apostle Paul, and John the Beloved....all recorded for us in the Book of books.
- THEN we can study Church history and see how God has always preserved for Himself a holy people.
- AND whenever things have grown cold and dead, and the Church of Jesus has lost its identity and purpose, God has always raised up a David Brainerd, a Jonathan Edwards, a John Wesley, a Charles Finney....
- AND today He is using a Chuck Colson, a David Wilkerson.....to bring us back on task.
- TO help us realize the potential, the purpose for which you and I were born into this world......to restore the Temple of the Lord in our day.
- THIS is no flash in the pan.
- THIS work of God has a long history.
iv. on task because of necessity
- THERE is another reason that the people of the Lord stayed on task in the rebuilding of the Temple...in the face of opposition.
- EZRA 5:12 says,
“But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.”
- EZRA 5:12 is the recognition that they had gotten into the mess of captivity...and had lost their freedoms, their Temple, and their inheritance in the first place because they had neglected the worship of God in that Temple.
- THEIR forefathers had turned to the worship of idols....and had fallen in with the sins of the pagan nations surrounding them.
- AND it had cost them dearly.....70 years of captivity and slavery.
- THEY were going to rebuild the Temple of the Lord because they didn’t want to go through that again.
- THEY were staying on task because it was a necessity.
- THIS wasn’t some passing fancy...some mid-life religion crisis.
- THIS was life and death, heaven or hell.
v. on task because of god’s authority
- THERE is one last reason that the people of the Lord stayed on task this time.
- EZRA 5:13 says,
“However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God.”
- THEY were rebuilding under a decree.
- THEY had authority to do what they were doing.
- AND back in Ezra 1:1 we learned that it was God who had put it in King Cyrus’ heart to issue the decree.
- SO, they were rebuilding under the authority of God.
- THAT kept them on task this time.
- THERE is no higher authority than God and His Word.
- YOU and I have been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood SO THAT we could invest our lives, our resources, our hearts in the restoration of the Church of Jesus in our day.
- LISTEN to Romans 7:4,
“So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”
- MAY I paraphrase this verse?
* You died to this world through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
* You belong to the One who was raised from the dead.
* SO THAT you might bear fruit to God.
- YOU were born into this world and have been chosen to come into Christ Jesus....so that your life could bear fruit in His Church.
- JESUS said on John 15:16,
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last....”
- PSALM 92:14 says of the righteous that,
“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green...”
- THE Bible says that we will be recognized by the fruitfulness of our lives. That will be the trademark of the follower of Christ....proof that we are abiding in the Vine.
- IN fact, some of Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for those who did not produce the fruit of the kingdom of God in their lives.
- IN MATTHEW 7:19, Jesus says,
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
- THE good news is that when you and I are not fruitful in God’s vineyard....He gives us a chance.
- JESUS taught in Luke 13:6-9,
“A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. (7) So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ (8) ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. (9) If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”