Ezra 3 (Good News Translation)
Worship Begins Again
1 By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns.
The seventh month was an important month on the spiritual calendar of Israel: they celebrated the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
–David Guzik (and all following comments in green)
Then they all assembled in Jerusalem,
This was an encouraging sign of obedience among the returned exiles. In a time of small resources and great work to be done, they took the time and money to observe the commands to gather in Jerusalem for the major feasts.
2 and Joshua son of Jehozadak,
Jeshua (Joshua) the high priest was the grandson of Seriah, who had been put to death by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces. There being no king in Jerusalem after the exile, the high priest’s office took on great prestige and political power. By the time of the New Testament, priestly involvement in politics had led to great corruption in the priesthood and discontent among the Jews.
–footnote from the Archaeological Study Bible
his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, together with his relatives, rebuilt the altar of the God of Israel, so that they could burn sacrifices on it according to the instructions written in the Law of Moses, the man of God.
“Thus, we see, the full establishment of religious services precedes the building of the temple. A weighty truth is enshrined in this apparently incongruous fact. The worship itself is felt to be more important than the house in which it is to be celebrated.”
–W. F. Adeney
3 Even though the returning exiles were afraid of the people who were living in the land, they rebuilt the altar where it had stood before. Then they began once again to burn on it the regular morning and evening sacrifices.4 They celebrated the Festival of Shelters according to the regulations; each day they offered the sacrifices required for that day;5 and in addition they offered the regular sacrifices to be burned whole and those to be offered at the New Moon Festival and at all the other regular assemblies at which the Lord is worshiped, as well as all the offerings that were given to the Lord voluntarily.
“During their long stay in Babylon, the Jews were not able to offer any sacrifices, as this could only be done in Jerusalem. Instead they were surrounded by a myriad of pagan temples. About fifty temples are mentioned in Babylonian texts together with 180 open-air shrines for Ishtar, three hundred daises for the Igigi gods, and twelve hundred daises for the Anunnaki gods.”
6Although the people had not yet started to rebuild the Temple, they began on the first day of the seventh month to burn sacrifices to the Lord.
They could not wait for the building! They had to worship God just as soon as they had an altar! (How eager am I, Sunday morning or otherwise, to worship the Lord?)
The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins
7 The people gave money to pay the stonemasons and the carpenters and gave food, drink, and olive oil to be sent to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in exchange for cedar trees from Lebanon, which were to be brought by sea to Joppa.
This is how the first temple was built . . .
1 Chronicles 14:1 (ESV)
And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also masons and carpenters to build a house for him.
All this was done with the permission of Emperor Cyrus of Persia.8 So in the second month of the year after they came back to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, they began work. Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of their people, the priests, and the Levites, in fact all the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, joined in the work. All the Levites twenty years of age or older were put in charge of the work of rebuilding the Temple.9 The Levite Jeshua and his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons (the clan of Hodaviah) joined together in taking charge of the rebuilding of the Temple. (They were helped by the Levites of the clan of Henadad.)
10 When the builders started to lay the foundation of the Temple, the priests in their robes took their places with trumpets in their hands, and the Levites of the clan of Asaph stood there with cymbals.
The Lord is good, and his love for Israel is eternal.
Psalm 118:1 (ESV)
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
In general, the description matches the massive and elaborate dedication ceremony for Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 5:13), except this was held in far humbler circumstances.
Everyone shouted with all their might, praising the Lord, because the work on the foundation of the Temple had been started.12 Many of the older priests, Levites, and heads of clans had seen the first Temple, and as they watched the foundation of this Temple being laid, they cried and wailed. But the others who were there shouted for joy.
Some, remembering the richness and grandeur of Solomon’s temple, wept at this lesser model. But others rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to return them to their homeland so they could begin to rebuild the house for the name of the Lord!
13 No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the crying, because the noise they made was so loud that it could be heard for miles.
HERE is a perfect fit for our song and our chapter today! “You’re Amazing, God” was written by Brenton Brown and is sung here by Anthony Evan.
We can hear it growing louder
songs from every nation
rising to your throne
Saints in every generation
singing for your glory
telling what you’ve done
From the north and south, we are crying out
There is hope in Jesus’ name
You’re amazing God, You’re amazing God
You can bear the weight of every heavy heart
You can heal the pain, you can clean the stain
You can turn our tears into songs of praise
You’re amazing God
Beauty rises from the ashes
sorrow turns to gladness
when our God is near
You speak light into our darkness
you heal the broken-hearted
you wipe away our tears
Songs of praise surround us, songs of praise surround us
Hear it growing louder, we are growing louder