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Ezra 8_1-20

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STALLED FOR WANT OF A LEVITE

(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)

Westgate Chapel 8/13/95 a.m.                                  Ezra 8:1-20

PROPOSITION:  The call of the Spirit gathering a restoration people in these last days requires the presence and ministry of the Levitical calling in order for revival to come to the Church of Jesus Christ.

i. introduction

-     FOR the past several months we have been studying the book of Ezra....the Old Testament story of the restoration of the city of God and the Temple of God.

-     JERUSALEM and the Temple of the Lord, built by king Solomon, had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldean army.

-     GOD had allowed it to bring His people under discipline for their idolatry of 400 years.

-     THE city of God and His temple had been completely destroyed....and the people of God had been carried off into slavery in Babylon.

-     AFTER 70 years in Babylon, God worked through Zerubbabel to bring some 50,000 back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple (Ezra 1-6)

-     BUT then between Ezra 6 and 7 another sixty years goes by....and the things of God fall again into a state of disrepair. 

-     THE men of God, like Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest, who had been so greatly used of God, were gone....and there was no one in the city like Haggai and Zechariah to cry out for God anymore.

-     SO, back in Babylon, God raises up Ezra to gather another restoration people to make the trip back to Jerusalem and bring revival to the land.

-     THIS time the group is only about 9,000 strong.

-     REMEMBER the group that came out with Zerubbabel was 50,000.....and 500 years earlier over 2 million came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership.

-     THIS fact on its own should be alarming to us....that the size of those burdened for restoration seems always to get smaller with time.

-     IT reminds me of a Churchill quote, back when he was trying desperately to get England stirred to action in the early 1930’s.....before Hitler was a serious threat to world peace.

      "If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win. If you cannot fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly....you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you, and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case; you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

-     SO, in Ezra 8.....a group of some 9,000 gather with Ezra...make the 9 day trek from Babylon to the canal that feeds into the Euphrates River...and camp there for three days.

-     THEY are on their way home.

-     LET’S read it together.....Ezra 8:1-20.

 

 

ii. A restoration people

-     BESIDES the diminishing size of this restoration people, it looked like they had what they needed for the assignment.

-     THE assignment was.....get back to the city of God and rebuild His house, and restore true sacrifices and worship in His temple.

-     AND it looked Ezra had the kinds of people that he would need for the task.

1.   The families were there. Each listed by heads of households.

•     This group had the right heritage.

•     Even though 60 years had lapsed since Zerubbabel’s return, these were some of the same families that had supplied sons and daughters for the initial trip listed in Ezra 2.

•     Family is so important in following after the Lord.

•     The only problem was that there was a 1/3 to 1/12th decline in the numbers responding from each family.

•     Only 3 new families are listed in verses 1-14.

•     No remarkable people, except for Hattush in verse 2, a descendant of king David.

2.   The priests were there.

•     These were the men assigned to make sacrifices for sin and atonement in Israel....and serve at the altar.

•     As soon as they got back to Jerusalem, the fires of the altar could be rekindled....and temple worship resumed.

 

3.   There were leaders in the group.

•     Verse 16 makes reference to them.

•     The people would have readily recognized these men as leaders by their position as well as their stature and wisdom.

•     These men would provide organizational strength, chain of command....a sense of security.

4.   There were men of learning in the group.

•     This is also found in verse 16.

•     These would be men who had been trained in the wisdom of the world in Babylon....educated, smart, widely read.

•     If you were looking for a read on the affairs of the empire, or trends in the economy, these men would have been consulted.

-     SO, here they gather....nine days out of Babylon.

-     THEY had heard the call, and had gathered together to make the return trip to the city of God.

-     THEY had the right motivation.....their hearts were set on restoring the house of God.

*     That was why they had separated themselves from Babylon.

*     That was why they had packed up their belongings and left their homes.

*     That was why they had gathered next to the canal for the arduous journey.

*     They were submitted to God and His purposes.

*     They were committed to restoration.

 

iii. A RESTORATION REQUISITE

-     THEY have the people, the resources, the letter of authorization, the priests, the families, the leaders and the men of learning.

-     THEY are gathered, ready to move out on the four month trek home.....everything is in place.

-     SO, why are they stalled on the banks of this canal?

-     BECAUSE as Ezra watches the group gather, pitch their tents and start to mingle around the camp fires...something starts to gnaw at him.

-     IT was like the feeling you get when you leave for vacation...and just before you lock the front door of your house you know you are forgetting something, but you don’t know  what it is.

-     GOT the right families to do this assignment....got the priests, the leaders, the men of learning...BUT something is missing.

-     THEN is hits him......”I haven’t seen one Levite!”

-     FOR three days he walks the camp of restoration people looking to see if any Levites have joined them....but he doesn’t find one in the crowd of 9,000.

-     ISRAEL left Egypt with over 22,000 Levites...but now Ezra can’t find one.

-     ONLY 74 had joined Zerubbabel when he went back to Jerusalem with 50,000 returnees.

-     BUT now there was not one Levite to be found.

-     EZRA stopped the whole trip on the spot.

-     HE wasn’t going anywhere without Levites. The whole group was stalled on the banks of the canal.

*     No forward progress without the Levites.....they would stay right there in Persia if none could be found.

*     Mission postponed indefinitely without the Levites....the temple would have to stay in disrepair.

*     A solemn assembly was called...until a remedy could be found and Levites joined the group.

-     THIS seems a little extreme doesn’t it?

-     IF they had all the other resources and people, why would the restoration mission be detained just because the Levites were missing?

-     AND why does this specific group of people seem so disinterested in restoration?

-     I BELIEVE that the answer to these questions will explain why the journey to revival in the Northwest is temporarily stalled.

-     GOD is looking for the Levites.

iv. a restoration levite

-     TO understand the importance of Ezra’s determination not to go ahead with the mission without the Levites, you need to understand the role of the Levite in the Old Testament.

-     LEVI was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, and the tribe named after him was called the Levites.

-     AFTER Israel’s first serious fall in the desert, when they worshipped the golden calf, and Moses came down the mountain and found them in such sin.....he cried out, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.”

-     AND all the Levites rallied to Moses.

-     FROM that day on, the Levites were known as a people “set apart for the Lord.”

*     They were the ones who carried the ark of the Lord’s presence....because no one else was allowed near the presence of the Lord.

      “At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name, as they still do today.” (Deuteronomy 10:8)

*     They were responsible for the care of all of the furnishings and equipment of the Temple....because serving was their function.

*     When the rest of Israel was instructed to camp under the standard of their tribe, the Levites were instructed to encamp AROUND the tabernacle and the presence of the Lord.

*     They were owned by the Lord...given wholly to Him.

      “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine...” (Numbers 3:12)

*     God was their inheritance....not lands or possessions.

*     The Levites were themselves considered to BE a wave offering to the Lord...their lives a praise to Him of thanksgiving (Numbers 8:11).

*     They were to be watchful concerning offenses against the holiness of God (Numbers 18:23).

*     The people were to go to the Levites for godly counsel and decision-making.

*     The Levites were to protect and teach the truth of God’s Word.

*     They were the ones who were to lead Israel in worship.

      “They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening...” (I Chronicles 23:30)

                          

      “David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service: (2) From the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asarelah. The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king's supervision. (3) As for Jeduthun, from his sons: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the LORD. (4) As for Heman, from his sons: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael and Jerimoth; Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-Ezer; Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir and Mahazioth. (5) All these were sons of Heman the king's seer. They were given him through the promises of God to exalt him. God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. (6) All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the LORD, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God.  (I Chronicles 25:1-6)

*     In fact 2 Chronicles 11:16 says,

      “Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers.”

      It is the Levites who lead the way back to the Lord in times of spiritual decline.

*     The Levites were the gatekeepers....holding out unrighteousness from the presence of the Lord....a spiritual warfare responsibility.

*     They also were to guard the treasury of God’s house that was full of the plunder of the enemy.

*     In 2 Chronicles 23:7, when little king Josiah was in jeopardy, it was the Levites who were to strap on their weapons and guard the king.

-     IT is the Levites who:

*     Serve the Lord and the people....doing all the work of the ministry.

*     Live their lives as intercessors.

*     Live for the presence of the Lord.

*     Have unswerving allegiance to the Lord.

*     Are channels for blessing.

*     Are focused in their mission.

*     Have only one master.

*     Live to worship.

*     Are comfortable with weapons of warfare.

*     Are alert and watchful for the assault of the enemy.

*     Have purified themselves for service.

*     Can be trusted for wise counsel.

*     Lead others who are seeking the Lord.

*     Are themselves a wave-offering of praise to the Lord.

v. conclusion

-     EZRA said, “We are not going ahead with our mission until the Levites have joined us.”

-     AND that is what the Lord is saying to Westgate Chapel regarding His call on our lives in this region.

-     THE families are here....many with great heritage in restoration history.

-     THE priests are here...we are all a royal priesthood because our High Priest has made the once-for-all sacrifice for sin.

-     THE leaders are here.....God has graciously put godly leaders at every level of Westgate Chapel’s ministry.

-     THE learned men are here....God has gifted so many of you with wisdom to do so much with your lives and with His church.

-     BUT we need the Levites.

-     WE are camped on the banks of the Jordan...waiting to enter the land of His promise to Westgate Chapel.

-     THE same Spirit that moved in Ezra to send for the Levites...is here this morning on the same mission.

-     I PETER 2:4-5 says,

      “As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- (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 verse 9 says,

      “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.”

-     WILL you be a Levite...so that we can move on with His mission to restore His church and gather a multitude of lost ones to Himself?

 

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