Ezra Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with Matt Lantz, Matt Roefer, Chris Maybury, Brad Holda, and Jake Dong. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

The Temple

Question

I’m looking at Ezra, are those temples still up today?

Answer

So here is a brief history of God’s tabernacle/temple:

  • 1,500 BC – a tabernacle (that is, a sort of tent-temple) was created for God, and moved as Israel moved
  • 900 BC – David-Solomon constructed Temple #1 for God.
  • 500 BC – Temple #1 was destroyed by Babylon
  • 400 BC – Temple #2 was built (which you read about in Ezra-Nehemiah). This is the same temple (though updated) that was around in the time of Jesus.
  • AD 70 – Temple #2 was destroyed by the Romans

That means there is has been no temple since AD 70. BUT WAIT…

God actually did something amazing in that he calls us the temple where He dwells. So the temple built today was made by God – it includes you as an individual (small “temple” if you will), but also the Church as a whole (big “Temple” if you will). God’s best temple design is Him living in you and me.

Ezra 2 & Other Books

I love the subtle connections between the list of names and other biblical books:

in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah)

(Ezra 2:2)

Here we see

  • Zerubbabel (a main figure in Haggai and Zechariah’s prophecies),
  • Nehemiah (book of the Bible about him),
  • Mordecai (Esther’s uncle).

I’m not sure these are always and exactly the same people (though they may be)…but at the very least it shows that these were common names of people for that time period. It’s another of the MANY subtle confirmations of the Bible’s reliability and authenticity!

Ezra 2: People Give Toward Temple

According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 drachmas of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priestly garments.

Ezra 2:69

This is pretty radical generosity from a group of exiled people. My Bible mentions that 61,000 drachmas of gold is roughly 1100lbs. I looked up the value in today’s market and it comes out to roughly 23.7 million USD.

This reminds me of the radical generosity of the people in Exodus 38 when they are building the Tabernacle.

I’d add that Ezra 1:4 speaks of surrounding people assisting in the supplies, and 1:6 shows royal assistance in these things. So I’m not sure how much was drummed up completely on their own versus was corporately brought together for this. But either way, there was generosity in this.

It’s also interesting that this initial zeal is dampened later (read Haggai 1 where they were focusing on building their own houses, while God’s house was still in ruins). Reading Ezra this time through makes me think that this happened around the time that the Persian leader said to stop building. The people almost accepted that a little too readily, and so had a “good excuse” to build their own house instead of God’s. Then the prophets rose up and said, “stop this–get back to building!”

Ezra 5: God is King

I was really struck by the fact that the prophets were stirring the people to rebuild this temple AFTER the king’s decree said to stop! In fact, you’ll read all about this time in the prophetic books of Haggai and Zechariah. I think there were 2 reasons for them continuing even after the king said stop:

  1. God’s Kingship always wins over the kings of this world – God wanted it rebuilt at that time, and so they were to obey God over leaders of this world (see Acts 5:29)
  2. The original order from King Cyrus was for them to build the temple. But then they had a new order saying to stop building the temple (Ezra 4:17-24). The way the law of the Persians was setup is that if the king makes a decree it can’t be revoked by a later decree (see Daniel 6:12, and the dilemma this posed for Daniel). So they were on legal ground to rebuild, even though the Persian King himself didn’t realize that! They appealed to the “original documents” of Cyrus, and ended up winning the legal battle (see Ezra 6).

I think this has a lot of application for the U.S. today as there are A LOT of loud voices saying this country should be this or that. I think a lot of them are truly misinformed and ignorant of the founding fathers’ decrees and intent, etc. (a great example is the “separation of church and state” which originally meant the state had to stay out of the church’s business, but is now taken to mean that the church doesn’t get to be involved with the state–God forbid, the founders would be rolling in their grave!).

All to say, we need to choose to obey God (even above leaders in the land, where they are in conflict). And it’s extra helpful when we have original “decrees” that stand against current dictums and trends today in the political spheres.

Ezra 6 & Esther

This is in the same general time period of the book of Esther. Notice (again) how much the books of the Bible corroborate each other. In Esther you see how quickly the king swings from being for the Jews to being against the Jews. And in Ezra you see the same large swings by the Persian kings. Similarly, in Esther you read about the severe treatment for disobedience (hanging on a gallows made from your house, as I recall). But then I read Ezra 6:11 – “if anyone alters this edict a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it.”

Ezra 7: God Above Artaxerxes

Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should his wrath fall on the realm of the king and of his sons?

Ezra 7:23

I’m not sure whether this is an act of kindness or purely out of selfish motives, but it seems that either way King Artaxerxes recognizes the power of the LORD and does not want to incur any wrath.

I think there was a certain level of respect and fear of God as a true power that seems more prevalent in Bible times than it is today…at least in the West

Ezra 7: Simple, Yet Powerful Principle

For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

He set his heart to: Study, Practice, & Teach! What a simple principle…

Ezra 8: God-Reliance

I love Ezra fasting in Ch. 8. It was almost like he recognized he had to live by his words of confessing to the king that God would take care of him. And he realized that–gulp–here he is totally alone with God to take care of him. So they fasted in acknowledgement that they need God (and can’t take care of themselves). It’s really challenged my proud heart to read that…it almost starts with pride on Ezra (maybe?) to say, “we don’t need your help”, but then he ends up humble.

Ezra 10

You have been unfaithful…Now make a confession to the LORD… The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: ‘You are right!’

Ezra 10:10-12

I always find it compelling when God’s people come together to corporately confess their sin. This must have been very uncomfortable. Personally I always find the result of confession very healing, but I find the process extremely uncomfortable.

This is not something that happens in the church very often today. I wonder what that would look like and what would prompt it in our modern times.

It’s always uncomfortable but always healing and also what we are called to do yet also shy away from.

I think it starts with us responding to the Lord and repenting as individuals (I also don’t think that much about various “repentance” campaigns where people repent for other peoples’ sins…we need to take personal ownership and not look like we were innocent and the others were guilty)…the crux of the issue in Ezra is that they mixed too much with the world; holiness was not preserved. If ever there was a reason to repent, there it is.

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