“CHOSEN TO RESTORE”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 7/23/95 a.m. Ezra 7:1-10
PROPOSITION: God’s hand is on you to be a vessel through whom He brings a remnant of His people back into repentance and restored fellowship with Himself. .
- THE book of Ezra, in the Old Testament, is the wonderful story of the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of the living God.
- THIS restoration was accomplished by a small remnant group of Jews (50,000 compared to 2 million brought out of Egypt) 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.
- JERUSALEM looked like a disaster area.
- BUT God had allowed all of this to bring His people to repentance....and ultimately back to Himself.
- AND now, at the end of Ezra 6, the city of God is rebuilt, the Temple is restored and life is back to normal for Israel.
- AND between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7 there is almost sixty years of life as usual.....same old same old.
- WITH life expectancy of less than thirty years in those days.....two generations have passed.
- THIS now is the third generation since that first exodus of rebuilders came out of Babylon under decree of Cyrus in Ezra 1.
- THERE are strange things that seem to happen in the third generation removed from any great work of God.
- ZERRUBABEL are dead and forgotten....the last representative of the house of David.
- THE high priestly function, formerly held by that man of God, Joshua, was now held by Eliashib, who was connected by marriage to two enemies of the faith of Israel.
* His grandson had married the daughter of Sanballat....a family devoted to the destruction of the city of God.
* He himself was allied with Tobiah, an enemy of God, whom he gave residence in the Temple courts itself.
- HAGGAI and Zechariah’s prophetic voices no longer thunder the oracles of God in the streets of Jerusalem.
- THE Persian king, Darius, favorable to the people of God had been replaced by Xerxes......whose pride and feebleness in governing the state is recorded in the book of Esther.
- THE men whose vision and lives God had used to inspire Israel to sacrifice and greatness were gone.
- THE climate of the Persian empire is not favorable to the things of God.
- SPIRITUALLY, things had quieted down quite respectably in Jerusalem.
- AS we will find out in the few chapters, the Temple of the Lord has been up and functioning long enough to be in need to quite a few repairs.
- IN fact, it was in a state of neglect.....as was attention to God’s Word, to worship and obedience.
- WE are now in the third generation of God’s people AFTER the revival of the city of God under Zerrubabel.
- THE things of God have been allowed, again, to fall into disrepair.
- SO, out of this third generation people....God raises up someone through whom to restore His house, and His people.
- THIS morning the story is about that restorer, Ezra himself....and we pick it up in chapter 7.
ii. THE BACKGROUND
- THE extent of the run down conditions at this time in Israel’s history was not known in Babylon. When Ezra and Nehemiah arrive they record surprise at how bad things were amongst the people of God.
- BUT from 800 miles away, out of a third generation man of God, God shapes the heart and life of a restorer....Ezra.
- EZRA knew enough about conditions in Jerusalem to have deep concern about God’s people.
- AND in Ezra 7, he gathers a remnant people....still smaller in number than the 50,000 that had made the trip three generations back (Interesting how the number gets smaller each time....9,000 make this trek back).
- BUT God is relentlessly committed to restoration.
- AND all along He has been preparing the heart of Ezra for the task.
- WHAT is this man’s background?
- WHAT has been God’s preparation?
- LET’S go to the text.
“After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, (2) the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, (3) the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, (4) the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, (5) the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest-- (6) this Ezra came up from Babylon.” (Ezra 7:1-6a)
- THIS Ezra, the restorer.....this man that God was going to use to being another needed revival to His people had the office of a priest.
- IT is inescapable....God uses His priests.
- AS a priest Ezra was authorized to declare the Word of the Lord.
- AND how can you declare the Word of God without lifting up truth and denouncing sin?
- BUT not only was Ezra a priest...but when you look at the particular heritage listed in these verses you discover that he was from a line of priests dedicated to revival.
* He was from the line of Eleazar, not Ithamar, the line that Eli and his sons came from.
* Phinehas is conspicuous in Ezra’s ancestry (Numbers 25).
- THE lengthy listing of Ezra’s background here in these verses is to prepare us to understand the work that he has to do.....as a priest devoted to restoring the glory of God on His house and His people.
- THAT is the same background that you have.
- THE conditions of our nation are strikingly similar.
* Violence all around.
* Family disintegration.
* Moral disintegration.
* Corrupt leadership.
- THE conditions of the Church of Jesus are strikingly similar.
* House of God neglected.
* Much repair needed.
* Moral disintegration.
* Corrupt leadership (Lawrence’s letter).
- AND we are the third generation from the Azusa Street awakening of the early 1900’s.
- AND we are from the line of priests that God has used in the past.
- THE apostle Peter writes, in I Peter 2:5,
“.....you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
- THEN in verse 9 he continues,
“.....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.”
- THIS is a call of the Spirit to us at Westgate Chapel to radical Christianity......SERVING God as a priest unto Him to restore His presence and His glory in His Church.
- SPECTATOR Christianity is destined to rot and decay....there is no life there, no hope there.
- YOU are a priest....by heritage.
- JESUS, your Savior and example is our great High Priest.
- THAT is your heritage.
- IF you are a Christian, you follow Him.
- YOU serve as a priest, offering spiritual sacrifices, declaring His praises with your life and mouth.
- BRINGING your family, your associates, your church, your city out of corruption and decay and back to Him.
- THAT is what He did. That is your background.
- YOU’VE got the background for it!
ii. the qualifications
- EZRA had the background....but so did other priests who had failed miserably at bringing revival to God’s people.
- THERE was something else about Ezra that qualified Him for the task.
- LOOK at Ezra 7:6b.
“He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”
- WHAT set this priest apart as one that God could use?
- HE knew how to listen to God.
* He knew where to look for the will of God....the Word that the “Lord had given.”
• Ezra valued God’s Word.....He knew that they came from God Himself.
* He knew that diligence in the Word was necessary (“well versed”).
• He read the Word to know the content.
• He took special note of it to understand the meaning.
• He applied it by faith to know its power.
- A MAN of God who is immersed in God’s Word like Ezra is ready for any situation....hearing God’s voice AND empowered to obey.
- AND obey Ezra did, because.....
- HE knew how to speak to men.
- YOU cannot persuade men towards God unless you have been persuaded by God in your private life in His Word.
- EZRA was able to persuade this unpredictable Persian king to let he and the remnant go back to Jerusalem.
- EZRA was able to persuade 9,000 people, many of them prominent and comfortable in Babylon, to uproot and go back to Jerusalem, a city in disrepair.
- THERE are lots of people who are versed in Scripture and can describe what they know....but not many who can lead others to Christ.
- EZRA was qualified for the job because he knew how to listen to God AND how to speak to men.
- THOSE are the men and women that God is looking for today.
iv. the anointing
- EZRA had the background to be used of the Lord...and so can you.
- EZRA had the qualifications to be used of the Lord...and so can you.
- BUT in this chapter there are three references to something that Ezra had that you and I must have.
- WITHOUT this one ingredient we can be perfect in every way and miss His assignment.
- THE first place that it shows up is in verse 6,
“The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”
- HE got what he needed from the pagan king, not because of his persuasiveness, his ingenuity, his skill in negotiations....BUT because the hand of the Lord was on him.
- LOOK at verses 7-9,
“Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. (8) Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. (9) He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.”
- THE pagan king let him go AND supplied a lot of the materials needed for the task.....because the hand of the Lord was on Ezra.
- WORKERS, critical to the success of the task joined Ezra.....because God’s hand was on him.
- THEY completed the arduous 4 month trek on foot, through treacherous terrain....because the hand of the Lord was on Ezra.
- IN fact, this chapter ends with Ezra (verse 28) telling us that he accomplished his mission because God’s hand was on him.
- ALL through Scripture, the hand of the Lord is associated with miracle power, prophetic anointing and declaration, with divine direction, with restoration and with winning the victory.
- THERE is no other way to do what God has assigned you and me as priests of restoration than to have His hand on us.
- VERSE 10 wraps up this passage on the priest of restoration,
“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”
- LET me put that word “for” in context for you.
- EZRA succeeded in his mission BECAUSE the hand of the Lord was on him.
- EZRA had the hand of the Lord on him......”for” or “because......”
* He devoted himself to study the Word.
* He devoted himself to obey the Word.
* He devoted himself to teach the Word to others.
- THOSE are the people on whose lives God’s rests His hand to do mighty exploits in His Name.
- A.W. Tozer says that we will never have revival and be restored to the glory of the Lord until that revival begins in you and me as individuals.
- REVIVAL MUST be personal before it can have any lasting, life-transforming effect corporately.
- THEN he goes on to suggest that you and I cannot have personal revival without three things that Ezra had here....
1. Surrender to God......obedience to the Word.
2. Concentration on God....study the Word.
3. Fascination with God.....give yourself to pursuing Him and His work.
- HOW about it this morning?
- YOU have the background to be a restorer.....Jesus is your High Priest.
- YOU have the qualifications.....IF you listen to God and speak to men.
- YOU have the anointing....IF you walk in the Word.
- ARE you willing to be a restorer of the presence and glory in your generation?