We are in the Nation Stream reading from the New American Standard Bible.
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Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis
Lord, our faith needs to be built, sometimes rebuilt. We can learn from Ezra today. Don’t let us weep for what was [once upon a time] “back when”. We want to build the Kingdom with you today. Amen.
3 – Seven months after returning to Israel and Jerusalem, everyone joined in and the Hebrews got the altar built. They offered sacrifices continually. It was worship, yes, it was also for fear of the non Hebrew people who had migrated in while the Jews were away. The work plans went through at a feverish pitch. Offerings were gathered and provided for the specialized workers who were getting things done. Zerubbabel, the deceased King Jehoiachin’s grandson, had been appointed Governor of Judah, and was at the center of all this. 13 months after being home, the work on the foundation of the Temple started. It progressed uninterrupted until it was laid in place. The pageantry was full scale and the rejoicing was exuberant. The young had never known such a thing. The old, however, wept as they recalled Solomon’s Temple from 900 B.C. Emotions were in overdrive! It was a beautiful day.
4 – The squatters in Judah, who were not Hebrews, wanted the Temple to not be built. First they infiltrated and feigned it to be teamwork hoping to “build” on the Temple together. Zerubbabel smelled their duplicity and refused to let them in on it. Then the hagglers discouraged the work. Then they wrote devious documents and worked out the translation and got the King of Persia to come stop the Temple construction. He did so by force. The work was stopped for 15 years! Shameful isn’t it? Folks, holidays are coming and there will be exacting folks with the same contrarian attitudes who aren’t thankful, who don’t want to see Baby Jesus or “Merry Christmas” signs. Don’t yield. You celebrate our Savior ! Never succumb to those who want a de-Christianized world. Because once they get it, they still despise God and you for loving Him. Live your faith. Everyone loses when you don’t, especially you.
5 – The next Persian King, Darius I, came to power and he changed the decree back and the Temple project resumed after 15 years in silence and chagrin. Haggai and Zechariah were there to encourage the process.
[We read Haggai last month and are reading Zechariah now in the “Exile Stream”.] Then adversaries came from “beyond the river” (this is the Tigris/Euphrates, not the Jordan) and questioned Zerubbabel as to who gave clearance for the Jews to rebuild their Temple. A quest; a team goes back to Darius to find if their work was cleared by the former king. This is a set back again. However, they are being slightly more civil about it. Doesn’t make the delay anymore enjoyable.
6 – Darius then does agree to confirm that Cyrus did indeed decree that the Hebrews were allowed to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. Once they find Cyrus document and confirm that the Jews are in the right, and realize that those who are being agitational to the Jews while trying to appear hyper-vigilant, Darius makes his decision. He (likely bothered at the unnecessary setback) takes funds from the Persian treasury and put up the cash to pay for the rest of the Temple to be built. And orders anyone else who stops progress to be executed. Amazing how a set back turns out to be a very fortunate development for the Jews rebuilding their Temple! It’s done in 1/2 dozen years and the dedication ceremony is wondrous. Soon thereafter the Passover is celebrated and there is joy in Jerusalem! It is 515 B.C. It’s another one of those, y’wish you could be there seasons.
[It’s important to know that there is almost a 60 year interval between the end of chapter 6 and the start of chapter 7.]
7 – Ezra finally makes the trek to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. [Most of ch’s 7 and 8 are prep for this event.] Artaxerxes I is king. He happens to be Queen Esther’s stepson. He also is favorable to the Jews. He realizes there is blessing in blessing them and he does. Ezra is being sent back to teach the law of God, to bring beautiful items to adorn the Temple, and to oversee the services that are to take place in the Temple. The opening of Ezra 7 makes it abundantly clear who Ezra is, who he is related to, that fact that he is very adept in the Law, and that God was upon him. He’s the man for this historical job. Artaxerxes is so taken with this whole development that he sees to it that Ezra is stocked to the hilt for this journey and assignment. Ezra returns to Jerusalem with items for service, for the Temple and wealth that required a squadron of men to haul it all, plus staff to provide for all else that is needed.
8 – The extensive list of those who went back to Jerusalem with Ezra is itemized. It’s almost a subtle hint to all of us: learn the scriptures – really learn then – and you will simply have all that you need. Ezra makes particular effort that there are enough Levitical priests for the journey. He takes steps to make sure they are spiritually prepared for this epochal trip. The items for the Temple are given to each apportioned man to transport to the Temple with all reverence. They arrive from the 900 mile trek after roughly four months in transit. The items are delivered in the house of God. The process is declared to be unopposed on all fronts. Halelujah.