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Ezra 5

Ezra   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  57:59
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As you might expect when God’s people return to Him and begin doing as He says the enemy WILL come and try to distract or destroy the work. That is what we see take place throughout the rest of the timeline from now on till through the days of Nehemiah.

Verses 1-2

If you remember from when the Assyrians took Israel captive the Assyrians would relocate the people they conquered, and when the Babylonians conquered a people they would leave the poorest of the land behind to tend to the land so it would not become overgrown.
2 Kings 17:24 ESV
24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.
2 Kings 24:14 ESV
14 He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land.
2 Kings 25:12 ESV
12 But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.
The group of people that resulted from the mingling of the people relocated to Israel and those poor who were left in Judah are what is known as the Samaritans. In the 70 years of captivity those Samaritans had begin to have children and grandchildren and grew into a small nation of people who are not very happy that the exiles of primarily Benjamites and Judahites are back in the land that God promised.
It is these same Samaritans who we see in the gospels and specifically in John 4 when Jesus speaks to the woman at the well and also the parable of the good Samaritan.
The Samaritans in the NT were thought of by the Jews as being a half breed people both genealogically as well as spiritually because they had a corrupt system of worship...
2 Kings 17:24 ESV
24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.
So if you recall from the end of chapter 3 the Jews had a huge celebration after the foundation stone for the Temple were laid that included instruments, singing, and sacrifices. The Samaritans heard what was going on and they were not happy about it so now they step in to try and distract from the work according to the way God wants it done, and when that doesn’t work, they will try to stop the work from going on.
On the surface it all sounds innocent enough and perhaps the Samaritans were well meaning and sincere, but they were sincerely wrong in the way they worshipped God.
Just because they worshipped God sis not mean that they were correct in their worship. God commanded a specific way to worship Him and that included the Temple and the priesthood, something the Samaritans did not obey. But they did not obey because they were also worshipping other idols so when you consider that you understand that they were not truly worshipping God at all.
With all that said...
Does anyone remember why Israel and Judah were taken captive to begin with?
IDOLATRY!!!! The very same thing the Samaritans were guilty of.

Verse 3

So it was right for Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the leaders of Israel to refuse their help.
[Just to give some understanding to what we are about to see. From verse 4-5 Ezra records the multiple times the enemies of God’s people tried to distract from or destroy the work of rebuilding the Temple. It is here we see Ezra record events that took place in the time of King Cyrus, (559-530BC). The work of rebuilding the Temple was stopped from 530-520BC when in the days of King Darius (522-486BC)it was commanded to begin again.
Then we see from verse 6-23 the time of the book of Esther with the reign of King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes) (486-465BC) then into King Artaxerxes I (465-424BC) during the events of the book of Nehemiah where we have not the rebuilding of the Temple, but rather the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the wall around Jerusalem.
Isn’t it interesting and predictable that the enemy doesn’t stop attacking the work even though it took over 100 years to complete?
So basically from verse 4-23 if we were writing it today we would put the whole section in parenthesis (4-32) because it is a broad overview of many years of Samaritan opposition to the work of the Jews rebuilding first the Temple, then the city of Jerusalem, then the wall around Jerusalem.
So just to be helpful if we wanted to skip the overview of history we could read verse 5 then skip right to verse 24.
So now that we know all that, let’s look again at]

Verses 4-5

Verse 6

Verses 7-16

There were three Persian kings named “Artaxerxes”: Artaxerxes I (464–424), Artaxerxes II (403–359), and Artaxerxes III (358–337). The king in this passage is Artaxerxes I.

For those of you who are real Bible nerds you will know that from Ezra 4:8-6:18 and then again from Ezra 7:12-26 the original text is written in Aramaic and not Hebrew.

The letter was probably dictated in Persian to a scribe, who translated it into Aramaic and wrote it down in Aramaic script (see Introduction: Text). Aramaic was written in an alphabet borrowed from the Phoenicians. In the eighth century B.C., this became a distinct script that remained quite uniform till after Alexander’s conquests

Notice again that the accusation in the letter to Artexerxes is that they are building the walls, just as the book of Nehemiah records.
By this point the Temple had already been finished. In fact the prophet Zechariah prophesied that Zerubbabel would himself see the completion of the Temple...
Zechariah 4:8–10 ESV
8 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
Also the prophet Haggai brings further confirmation that it was completed in Zerubbabel’s day...
Haggai 2:1–5 ESV
1 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
So by the time of King Artexerxes I the Temple had been completed for about 50 years.
The reason this is so important to get straight is because as you may remember from the day we call Palm Sunday, the date of the decree to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem given in Nehemiah leads us right down the calendar to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday 1 week before Resurrection Sunday!
Now again notice what the accusations against the Jews is...
They will not pay tribute - This was fake news, but the letter was written in such a way to say that if the Jews completed the work, they would have no reason to pay their taxes. Of course they would still have to pay taxes because they were still a territory of Persia and had to pay taxes to the King of Persia. It is not as if completing the walls would also produce millions of soldiers to fight against the Persians.
Notice how they present themselves as looking out for the king’s best interests in verses 13-14.
Notice also how they say that Jerusalem and it’s inhabitants are rebellious and hurtful to kings and provinces and that from a long time prior the Jews in Jerusalem stirred up sedition (revolt) and that’s why the Babylonians destroyed it to begin with.
I just hate the lies of the enemy and yet we will have those same lies told about us because we belong to Christ...
John 15:18–19 ESV
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
But notice that the whole time they are carefully crafted lies that have just enough truth mixed in to make the lies believable.
Unfortunately we see this tactic everyday in the world around us.

Verses 17-23

Verse 24

This stoppage of the work would last around 15 years until God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to speak to His people as we will see in the next chapter.
You might say that verse 24 tells of what happened between verse 4-5.
Now the enemy continued to bring a barrage of attacks against the work of rebuilding the temple, the city of Jerusalem and the wall around Jerusalem for over 100 years, but please don’t forget that the enemy had to continually attack because the people of God refused to permanently stop that work.
So while there may have been time when the Jews were forced to stop, they would eventually find another way to get back to the work.
I think that is an important aspect for us to consider as we see the way the world around us including politicians are acting toward the church of Jesus Christ. We must remain diligent in the work of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples even during adversity.
Now for some real world examples
While I know it wasn’t in this country there was very recently Christian Grace Life Church in Canada who’s Pastor James Coates has just been released from a jail sentence that lasted from February 16 until March 22 for defying COVID-related orders in Alberta was shut down this morning by the government as they raided the church without any legal documents to show they had the authority to do so. The crime committed? Having church when the government told them not to. Despite their own criminal code saying … Section 176(2) of the “Criminal Code of Canada” bans interrupting or disturbing a religious worship service.
That is something you might expect to see in communist China not in a democracy like Canada.
It is also something that we can expect so long as godless politicians and leaders in our own nation continue to gain power and grow in boldness.
I was in a meeting yesterday with Pastors from around the state that was hosted by a nation wide ministry and we were warned that such things are headed our way barring a miracle.
So pray church! Pray for yourselves, your spouses, families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, community, state, and nation.
While God has been doing a wonderful work of calling people to Himself as well as separating the sheep from the goats during the last year or so, their very well may be worse treatment ahed for the church in order to wake up the people from their slumber.
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