3357.) Ezra 5

Ezra 5 (Good News Translation)

Work on the Temple Begins Again

1 At that time two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, began to speak in the name of the God of Israel to the Jews who lived in Judah and Jerusalem.2 When Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak heard their messages, they began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and the two prophets helped them.

We will soon be reading the books of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, hearing their encouragement! But here is the background, from Haggai and David Guzik:

“In Haggai 1:2-10 we see that the prophet rebuked the people for their attitude towards the building of the temple. They said, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” In saying this, the people made their excuse sound spiritual. They couldn’t speak against the idea of building the temple, so they spoke against its timing. “It isn’t God’s timing to rebuild the temple.”

“Therefore, the prophet rebuked them with pointed words: “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” The problem was simply wrongly ordered priorities. They were content to let the cause of the Lord suffer at the expense of their comfort. Instead, they should have felt no rest until the work of God was as prosperous as their personal lives, and been as willing to sacrifice for work of God as they were for their personal comfort and luxury.

“Then God spoke to the people through the prophet: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified.” God called them to work. Sometimes God’s cause needs work, work that is supported by prayer, not work that is neglected because of pretended “spiritual” service. The people had allowed a delay beyond their control to become a delay of their own choosing.”

And from Zechariah: Some of Zechariah’s prophecy is also recorded for us in the Book of Zechariah. Haggai’s prophecy was a more direct encouragement to get busy on the work of building the temple; Zechariah’s prophecy was more directed to the spiritual condition of the returned exiles.

The name Zechariah means “The LORD Remembers,” and is a fitting name for a prophet of restoration. This prophet was called to encourage and mobilize God’s people to accomplish a task that they began yet lost momentum in completing. He encouraged them indirectly by telling them about God’s care for them and by keeping the presence of the Messiah very much in their minds. He worked with others, notably Haggai, Zerubbabel, and Ezra. He warned them of the consequences of neglecting God’s work and he emphasized that God wants to do a work through His people.

3 Almost at once Governor Tattenai of West-of-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow officials came to Jerusalem and demanded:
Who gave you orders to build this Temple and equip it?4 They also asked for the names of all the men who were helping build the Temple.5 But God was watching over the Jewish leaders,

Psalm 33:18 (ESV)

 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
  on those who hope in his steadfast love.

and the Persian officials decided to take no action until they could write to Emperor Darius and receive a reply.

The official asked for information and the Jews provided it. He seems to be a reasonable official who just wants to cover his bases, and while the inquiry to the ruler is in progress, work on the temple is allowed to continue. After all, as verse 5 says, God was watching over them. And as Psalm 1 says, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.”

God’s blessing was upon them, so that the work — resumed under a response to the prophets of God — did not have to stop almost as soon as it started. The work continued, and this blessing was a confirmation of God’s hand on His prophets.

6 This is the report that they sent to the emperor:7

         To Emperor Darius, may you rule in peace.8 Your Majesty should know that we went to the province of Judah and found that the Temple of the great God is being rebuilt with large stone blocks and with wooden beams set in the wall. The work is being done with great care and is moving ahead steadily.9 We then asked the leaders of the people to tell us who had given them authority to rebuild the Temple and to equip it.10 We also asked them their names so that we could inform you who the leaders of this work are.11 They answered,

         We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the Temple which was originally built and equipped many years ago by a powerful king of Israel.12 But because our ancestors made the God of Heaven angry, he let them be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, a king of the Chaldean dynasty. The Temple was destroyed, and the people were taken into exile in Babylonia.13 Then in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus as emperor of Babylonia, Cyrus issued orders for the Temple to be rebuilt.14 He restored the gold and silver Temple utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple in Babylon. Emperor Cyrus turned these utensils over to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he appointed governor of Judah.15 The emperor told him to take them and return them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple where it had stood before.16 So Sheshbazzar came and laid its foundation; construction has continued from then until the present, but it is still not finished.

   17 Now, if it please Your Majesty, have a search made in the royal records in Babylon to find whether or not Emperor Cyrus gave orders for this Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and then inform us what your will is in this matter.

Respectfully, Tattenai recounts the situation from his perspective and then asks King Darius to research the matter, to determine if the rebuilding of temple and Jerusalem was, in fact, royally sanctioned.

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Music:

We have all had experiences when we knew we were doing the right thing, yet, like the returning Israelites, there are so many problems and delays and set-backs! Where is God in all this?! As Scripture and this song attest, “Your Love Never Fails.” We can rest in the Lord as he works all things together for good. Imago Dei sings it  HERE.

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Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
map of Persian Empire.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/persian-empire1.gif
Psalm 33:18.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/psalm-33-18-christian-wallpaper.jpg

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