Ezra: Rebuilding What Matters Most
Ezra begins with things going along great as the rebuilding was happening, but then there was pushback and discouragement. Ezra 4 begins, "Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord..." They offered to help in the construction, hoping to infiltrate and sidetrack the project. Zarubbabel and Jeshua didn't fall for it and continued to build without them. They said, "You have nothing to do with us" which means, "we have no common interests." These antagonists claimed they had worshipped God since the days of Assyria - the empire that had conquered and dispersed the ten northern tribes of Israel. Their policy had been to send in foreign people to marry the remaining Jews, muddying religion with pagan practices. These people would be known as the Samaritans in Jesus' day. This worship is known as SYNCRETISM - which is the worship of both God and others. It is obviously rampant in the world today.
They discouraged the builders and hired counselor to frustrate them (v 4-5) "all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia." This timeframe lasted 20 years.
The writer of Ezra then goes "out of order" as he jumps from Cyrus to Xerxes and Artexerxes before coming back to the reign of Darius. This is done to show thematically that the scope and magnitude of the defiance and hostility to rebuild and restore. During this timeframe a letter is written to the king that "they are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations." The king's response was "Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me."
God's solution to the stoppage was to send 2 prophets (Haggai and Zechariah) to inspire Zarubbabel and Jeshua to start rebuilding again. The proclamation of God's Word challenged and encouraged them. Haggai rebukes (Haggai 1:3-4) and Zechariah encourages (Zech 4:6). Ezra 5:2 says, "Then Zerubbabel and Jeshua arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. Verse 3 starts, "At the same time...", which is in reference to the governor going to King Darius to make him aware. Darius asks 2 questions, "Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure? and "What are the names of the men who are building this building?" Darius looks for the letter from King Cyrus, finds it, and makes a new decree that allows the people to keep building. It said (Ch 6:11) "Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill." It was a serious matter!
The Jews built and prospered. They finished the building and them worshipped God by offering sacrifices, observing Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
To Discuss Today:
1. What is a hardship you have been through in the past? How did you grow from that experience?
2. What hardships do you have currently? Take a step back and look at those in the context of your Creator. Allow Him to take control of the situation and surrender to Him.
3. How are you soaking yourself in the Truth? What "people of truth" do you have speaking into your life right now?
4. How do you prepare yourself to "expect hardship"? Knowing our life is not about fixing hardship but growing through it is a hard truth to accept. How has our culture impacted our ability to work through hardships? What is out there that we reach for to escape those hardships?