Faithlife Sermons

Ezra 3


Verse 1

Do you remember what happens in the 7th month on the Jewish religious calendar?
The Day of Atonement the holiest day of the year, the Feast of Trumpets which was a remembrance of the law being given to Moses on Sinai and many Jews today also believe it is the beginning of the year or Jewish New Year as they believe it is when God created the heavens and the earth (Rosh Hashanah), as well as the Feast of Tabernacles which was a remembrance of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years in their tents having a reliance upon God to provide for them. (Leviticus 23:23-44)
No doubt this gave the returned exiles some motivation to get the temple rebuilt and back in operation.
The people have gathered as one man, they are united in their purpose and efforts to begin the work, and they will begin by rebuilding the altar so that sacrifices and offerings can once again be made to the God of Israel in Jerusalem.

Verses 2-3

Notice that as they feared the neighboring people they didn’t try to appease them or make alliances with them, they instead rebuilt the altar so that they could please God and fall upon His mercy and protection. They knew that it wasn’t walls or buildings that could protect them. It was always and only God who could protect them.
Keep in mind however that even though they have built an altar, that altar is surrounded by a city and a temple that was in ruins. There was a lot of hard work left to do, but they knew they needed to start somewhere and that starting place was an altar to make offerings to God on.
Remember that making offerings of burnt sacrifices was the way God prescribed for His people to deal with their sin. The altar was the place all men could deal with their sin before God, so it was vital to the spiritual health and condition of the returned exiles. The rest of the acts of worship inside the temple were things fro the priests to do as their ministry before God, but even they needed to make their own daily burnt offerings to atone for their sin.
Also consider that for some of these younger folks who were born and raised in captivity, they had never before seen a proper sacrifice made to God. This was a very special moment!
Now briefly let’s look again about the overall picture of the book of Ezra. Ezra is the story of God’s people returning to Him after they had strayed away from Him.
So what is the first thing that we do when we want to come back to God? We come to the altar.
Coming back to God isn’t about being in a specific geographic location. It is about humbling ourselves and agreeing with God about what He calls wickedness and righteousness. It is about aligning our thoughts and actions with His word, and it is about aligning our will with His will for our lives.
Coming to the altar to make sacrifices and offerings was the first step for the returning exiles. They needed to acknowledge and obey the word of God and how He prescribed worship to happen. God’s word told them that the only way to be made right with God was to make a burnt offering, a grain offering, a peace offering, a sin offering, a guilt offering as prescribed in Leviticus 1-5.
They set the altar in its place - they found the original location and made sure the newly built altar was on its original foundation. While it was a crude altar and an underwhelming physical appearance, they were dedicated to starting right with God according to His word and according to the heart of the godly men who went before them including King David who built the first altar on the threshing floor that he purchased from Araunah to stop the plague from his foolish census in 2 Samuel 24.
Jeshua is the high priest and is believed to be the grandson of Seraiah the high priest that Nebuchadnezzar put to death that was recorded in the last chapter of 2 Kings...
2 Kings 25:18–21 ESV
18 And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest and the three keepers of the threshold; 19 and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the men of war, and five men of the king’s council who were found in the city; and the secretary of the commander of the army, who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the city. 20 And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 And the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.

Verses 4-6

Now that the altar has been rebuilt and set on its original foundation stones the people have returned to the regular worship schedule for twice daily, weekly, and holy day sacrifices as well as being able to bring extra freewill offerings to their God!
Notice, they did all of this without a temple being built yet.
God is to be worshipped by His people in a proper way even if they do not have a building.
Thankfully today we know that God offered His only begotten Son Jesus Christ as the once for all sacrifice for our sins so that we need neither altar nor building, but rather faith in His grace and trust in His word, and yet today we still make offerings but instead of offering burnt offerings, we offer our lives as a sweet smelling aroma before God.

Verse 7

Just because they could worship at the altar did not mean that they were going to neglect the work of rebuilding a temple for God. Not only was it decreed by King Cyrus, but more importantly it was the proper way to honor God. So, they rounded up the people who could get them the proper supplies and hired workers with expertise to help them accomplish the task of rebuilding a temple.

Verses 8-9

So now that the supplies had begun to come in, they were able to begin the work of rebuilding the temple.
Notice also the timeline. This is happening in the 2nd month.
Why is that interesting?
It was in the 2nd month that Solomon also began to build the temple that was now laid to ruins that this small group of exiles is now rebuilding.
1 Kings 6:1 ESV
1 In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord.
Now notice another interesting thing. The Levites that were appointed for the work are from 20 years old and up. That is interesting because previous to this according to the Law given to Moses the age was from 30 years old and up.
Numbers 4:1–3 ESV
1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers’ houses, 3 from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting.
In 1 Chronicles 23 after a list of the names of the Levites we read about how and why the age limit dropped from 30 and up to 20 and up as David is hearing from God about the way worship was to happen at the temple that Solomon would build after David’s death.
1 Chronicles 23:24–32 ESV
24 These were the sons of Levi by their fathers’ houses, the heads of fathers’ houses as they were listed according to the number of the names of the individuals from twenty years old and upward who were to do the work for the service of the house of the Lord. 25 For David said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people, and he dwells in Jerusalem forever. 26 And so the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service.” 27 For by the last words of David the sons of Levi were numbered from twenty years old and upward. 28 For their duty was to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God. 29 Their duty was also to assist with the showbread, the flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. 30 And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening, 31 and whenever burnt offerings were offered to the Lord on Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, according to the number required of them, regularly before the Lord. 32 Thus they were to keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary, and to attend the sons of Aaron, their brothers, for the service of the house of the Lord.
But also remember according to Ezra 2:40 there were only 74 Levites that came and they needed all hands on deck to get the job done.

Verses 10-11

When the builders laid the foundation
David gave directions for the sons of Asaph in 1 Chronicles 24 but this whole scene is very reminiscent of the dedication of the temple to the Lord right after Solomon had built it and the Priests had brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Holy of Holies
2 Chronicles 5:11–14 ESV
11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
Only in this circumstance they had just laid the foundation stones and they still had many years to go.
Even though they just laid the foundations and were not even near completion of the temple, they were overcome with a heart of worship to God.
How beautiful is that?
Notice again how this continues...
After the worship leaders led the people in worship what came next?
ALL the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD -
Because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Verses 12-13

Remember that some of these guys were old enough to have seen the temple that Solomon had built before they had been taken into captivity.
Don’t forget that the first group of captives were taken 70 years earlier and the last group were taken captive 50 years prior to them returning. So some of these guys remember what the temple looked like from when they were kids, teens or young adults.
They knew the beauty and grander of that first temple and now as they see the foundation stones laid and yet all around them the rest of the temple and the city of Jerusalem including its walls were all still in ruins.
It was a bitter sweet moment for that older generation because they knew what the potential was, and they were very aware of just how far away from that potential the city and the temple currently was.
Yet for the younger generation who had never seen the original temple, this was a dream come true. It was the first step toward rebuilding the temple of the LORD that they had heard about their entire lives.
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