“GOD’S MAN IN DUE SEASON”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 7/30/95 a.m. Ezra 7:11-28
PROPOSITION: When the men and women of God walk in faithfulness to His Word they will see the provision of God in response to their faith.
- 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.
- THE first phase of this restoration was accomplished by a small remnant group of Jews (50,000) who had left their captivity in Babylon after 70 years there, 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.....much like the condition of the church of Jesus today.
- 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, by the end of Ezra 6, the city of God is rebuilt, the Temple is restored and life is back to normal for Israel.
- BETWEEN Ezra 6 and Ezra 7 there is a sixty year period of life as usual.....same old same old.
- THE men whose vision and lives God had used to inspire Israel to sacrifice and greatness were gone.
- SPIRITUALLY, things had deteriorated in Jerusalem in those sixty years.
- THE Temple of the Lord had 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.
- SO, 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 7:11.
- EZRA was a man of God in due season.
- BY the grace of God Ezra was exactly what the times called for.
- HE was God’s man....for such a time as this, like Esther, just one generation before.
ii. THE story
- THE verses in Ezra 7 that we will be studying this morning contain the king’s official decree for this second returning group under Ezra’s leadership.
- LET’S read it together (READ verses 11-26).
- THIS pagan Persian king knew a lot about the God of Israel.....has a high regard for the God of Israel.
* He was familiar with the laws and decrees of the God of Israel (vs.11).
• I wonder where he got that information?
* He knew that Israel’s God is the God of heaven (vs. 12).
• Where did he get that?
* His timing of allowing another exodus of Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem was perfect....it was taking place exactly at a time of decline in Israel, when revival was desperately needed (vs.13).
• How did he know that was the time a restoration group was so needed back in Jerusalem?
* Artaxerxes was aware that God’s Word contained specific plans regarding the city of Jerusalem and the Temple (vs. 14).
• Where did he get that information?
* The king also knew that the Temple was where God’s presence rested (vs. 15).
• How did he know about that?
* He knew about the altar and the sacrifices of bulls, rams and “male” lambs....as well as grain offerings and drink offerings (vs. 17).
• I wonder where he got that kind of detail about the worship of God?
* Artaxerxes knew that the God of Israel would have and reveal His will to Ezra concerning the handling of excess funds for the Temple (vs. 18).
• How did he know that?
* He knew that it might not go so well for he or his sons, the princes of Persia, if he resisted this God of Israel (vs. 23). In fact, historians record that Artaxerxes was in fact in the middle of a revolt against his rule in Egypt....and following this exodus of Ezra and company he was able to regain Persian dominance of the region.
• How would he have put two and two together like that?
* This king knew about the tax exemption provided for those who ministered in the Temple (vs. 24).
• Where would he have learned that or developed a regard for that provision?
* Sixteen times in this passage, king Artaxerxes respectfully refers to the God of Israel.
- THIS Persian king convened his seven principal advisors and issued this decree for revival.....not of his own accord, but under the influence of a man of God who was God’s man in due season.
- THE sweeping nature of this decree, and its importance to the plans of God for Israel, for Jerusalem, for Calvary, for you and me, was no casual matter.
- SOMEONE must have been a light in the darkness!
- SOMEONE must have been living a life of integrity and consistency before the king and his advisors.
- SOMEONE must have stood up for the God of Israel in a land that did not recognize Him as the God of all creation!
- SOMEONE must have spoken boldly for the city of God and the people of God at a time when speaking up could have cost you your life!
- THERE is a wealth of character in Ezra, this man of God, that shines through in this decree from Artaxerxes.
- EZRA was the reflection of the Light of God in that land of darkness....you can see it all through this chapter.
- IT was Ezra shining... but it wasn’t Ezra.
- IT was God...but Artaxerxes saw the Light shine through Ezra, a vessel who was surrendered to God’s purposes.
- GOD’S man is due season.
- LET’S look at the light that Artaxerxes must have seen.
ii. the man of God
- WHAT was it in Ezra that made him a man of God in due season?
1. EZRA’S COURAGE
- IT was not a small thing to speak to the king on behalf of a nation of captives.
- IT was not a safe position for anyone to petition a Persian king of that time in history.
* Proverbs 16:14-15 says,
“A king's wrath is a messenger of death, but a wise man will appease it. (15) When a king's face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.”
* Nehemiah 2:1 says,
“In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; (2) so the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.’ I was very much afraid, (3) but I said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ (4) The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, (5) and I answered the king....”
* Esther 4:11-14 says,
“‘All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.’ (12) When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, (13) he sent back this answer: ‘Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. (14) For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?’”
- COURAGE....isn’t it easy to forget what little words like this even mean in a society and day like ours.
- THE dictionary says that courage is that quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face difficulty, danger, or pain with firmness and without fear or retreat.
- IT is not bravado.
- IT is courage.
* David had it when he faced Goliath.
* Esther had it when she approached the king to spare her people.
* Moses had it when he faced the Red Sea.
* Joshua had it when he picked up Moses’ leadership of over 2 million Jews in the wilderness.
* Stephen had it when he faced the Sanhedrin.
* Paul had it when he took all of his beatings and imprisonments.
* Corrie Ten Boom had it when she watched her sister die in a German concentration camp.
- IT still takes courage to serve the Lord today...
* In the face of our anti-Christ culture.
* In the face of what men may say or do to you if you stand for Christ.
* In the face of the enemy’s opposition.
* In the face of your own doubts and fears.
- JESUS said in Matthew 11:12,
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
- WHERE does that kind of courage come from?
- LISTEN to 2 Timothy 1:7,
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
- SO, if it is God who gives this quality...where is it that you will be able to pick it up? From staying very near to Him.
2. EZRA’S FAITHFULNESS
- LOOK at Ezra 7:25,
“And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates..”
- THE king had obviously witnessed a faithfulness in Ezra that elicited that kind of affirmation.
- YOU can also see it in the king’s frequent and respectful references to Ezra’s God in this passage......the king had seen faithfulness in Ezra’s life to make those kinds of statements.
- LISTEN to what the dictionary has to say about the word, faithful...
* Thorough in performance of duty.
* True to one’s word, vows or promises.
* Reliable, trusted.
* Implies qualities of stability, dependability, and firmness.
- IT shows up in the work place, and in the family. It shows up in your finances. It shows up in your attendance at worship and in your ministry.
- THE difference between courage and faithfulness is that courage is called upon at moments of crisis....faithfulness is called upon ALL the time.
- ABRAHAM had it when he left his home town and spent the rest of his life on the move and in a tent.
- JOSEPH had it when he was betrayed by his own brothers, enticed by a woman with adulterous fantasies, falsely accused and left in prison for years......THEN he still had it when his fortunes turned and he moved to Vice President of all Egypt.
- MOSES had it when he left the comforts of Pharaoh’s household and spent the rest of his life leading an unwilling band of 2 million Jews for a fifty year trek in the desert.
- PAUL had it all those years that he spent in prison.
- SIMPLY it is staying by the stuff....when everything in you screams to run for a way OUT.
- IT is not glamorous. It is not under the spot lights. You usually don’t get rewarded for it or commended for it until you are gone.
- BUT it is faithfulness.
- WHERE does it come from?
- LISTEN to Psalm 36:5-7,
“Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (6) Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. (7) How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
- PSALM 89:1-8,
“I will sing of the LORD'S great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. (2) I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. (3) You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, (4) 'I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.'" Selah (5) The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. (6) For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? (7) In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. (8) O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.”
- GOD has it!
- WHERE do we get this faithfulness?
- GALATIANS 5:22 says that it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
- SO you get this quality by being filled with the Spirit.
- HOW do you get that?
- BY getting close to God and asking for His Spirit to fill you daily.
3. EZRA’S PRIORITY
- ONE last quality that I would like you to see in this man of God in due season is how he lived according to his priority.
- EZRA had a priority that governed and guided all of his life.
* Why did he say what he did and ask what he did of the king?
* Why did he risk all that he did?
* What was Ezra going to do with all that he asked for?
* For the sake of Jerusalem and the deliverance of the people of God.
- WHAT is the one thing that God is doing in the world today?
- HE is building His Church.
- WHAT is the one overarching priority that needs to govern and guide ALL that we do?
- TO partner with God in building His church with Him.
- IT is incredible to me to think about how much of world history pivoted on this one man, Ezra.
- THE city of God and the people of God in decline back home.
- THE Temple of God in bad shape back in Jerusalem.
- FAITH at an all time low.
- THE priests and Levites not functioning.
- DUST gathering on the altar of sacrifice.
- AND 800 miles away in a land of comfort and ease, the future of Israel hangs on one man.
- IT wasn’t the first time that this was the case and it won’t be the last.
- GOD is looking today, in Seattle, for men and women who would...
* Be courageous.
* Be faithful.
* Live by His priority.
- THESE are NOT qualities that you suck up into existence.
- THIS is NOT a pull yourself up by your boot straps sermon.
- YOU don’t find these qualities in the natural man.
- THEY are the overflow of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- THEY are the reflected light of the God who IS Light.
- 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18 says,
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
- THAT is where Ezra got his qualities from.
- THE Source hasn’t changed in 3,000 years.
- I KNOW that you need courage, faithfulness and God’s priorities where you live.
- GET close enough to the Light...and they will shine through you too.