Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rejoicing in Captivity

Ezra 3:11--"And they sang together by the course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord, because he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel.  And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid."

Have you been involved in a church plant?  If so, you know the joy of a new work beginning in order to spread the gospel.  You've seen the hard work, the labor of love that begins to plant new seeds into hearts and bring them to the saving grace of God.  It's a wonderful feeling knowing you had a hand in the work, and you rejoice in the beginnings of a new church.

In this passage in Ezra, the people sang and gave praises as they laid the foundations of a new temple.  They were in captivity, but given permission to build a temple to worship in.  They were excited!  This was a serious work, and the people, as well as the older priests, wept as they began the building.

Soon after they began the temple, they faced the ecumenical movement.  Outsiders, also called adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, sought to worship in the new temple. 

Ezra 4:1-24:    Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;

Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye [do]; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.

But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,

And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they [unto him] an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter [was] written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.

Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:

Then [wrote] Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, [and] the Elamites,

And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest [that are] on this side the river, and at such a time.

This [is] the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, [even] unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time.

Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls [thereof], and joined the foundations.

Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up [again, then] will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and [so] thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.

Now because we have maintenance from [the king's] palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;

That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city [is] a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.

We certify the king that, if this city be builded [again], and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river

[Then] sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and [to] Shimshai the scribe, and [to] the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and [unto] the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time.

The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.

And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and [that] rebellion and sedition have been made therein.

There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all [countries] beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.

Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until [another] commandment shall be given from me.

Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?

Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter [was] read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.

Then ceased the work of the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

With the beginning of a new church, a new pastor, a new work, there will be adversaries.  Wolves come to the door and try to stop the shepherd from tending his flock.  It could be anything, from a cult member trying to infiltrate, folks talking bad about the new work/pastor/etc and spreading malicious rumors, city code folks pushing extreme and discriminatory code enforcement rules on the new building/work, etc.  If you can think of it, it can or has probably happened, whether it be a local plant or missions.  Extra biblical theologies, practices from the New Age movement, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and other "religions" have absolutely no place within the work of God.  The priests in Ezra's day knew this and kept the wolves out of the temple despite the cost. 

God's work will prevail.  One way or another, He doesn't let His work die.  We find reward when we continue in the Lord's work no matter the opposition. 

Ezra 5:1-6:22   :Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that [were] in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, [even] unto them.

Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem: and with them [were] the prophets of God helping them.

At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? 

Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?

But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this [matter].

The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which [were] on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king:

They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.

Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands.

Then asked we those elders, [and] said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?

We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that [were] the chief of them.

And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.

But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.

But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon [the same] king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.

And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that [was] in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto [one], whose name [was] Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor;

And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that [is] in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place.

Then came the same Sheshbazzar, [and] laid the foundation of the house of God which [is] in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and [yet] it is not finished.

Now therefore, if [it seem] good to the king, let there be search made in the king's treasure house, which [is] there at Babylon, whether it be [so], that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.

Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.

And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that [is] in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein [was] a record thus written:

In the first year of Cyrus the king [the same] Cyrus the king made a decree [concerning] the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, [and] the breadth thereof threescore cubits;

[With] three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house:

And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which [is] at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which [is] at Jerusalem, [every one] to his place, and place [them] in the house of God.

Now [therefore], Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which [are] beyond the river, be ye far from thence:

Now [therefore], Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which [are] beyond the river, be ye far from thence:

Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, [even] of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.

And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which [are] at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:

That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.

Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.

And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter [and] to destroy this house of God which [is] at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.

Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.

And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished [it], according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.

And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,

And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.

And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which [is] at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.

And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth [day] of the first month.

For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them [were] pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.

And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,

And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.



The Israelite sprevailed and were able to worship in the temple!  Read farther on into Ezra, and you'll see King Darius decreeing that all will follow the law of the Lord or suffer consequences.  God's desire won over adversaries.  That's how it should be!

Let's use the book of Ezra as a lesson.  Stand by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you won't go wrong.  The world will send adversaries in any shape or form they can think of, but stay strong--God is with you!  Stand firm, God will take care of you!

Proverbs 3:5-6--Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.





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