Study Notes

Ezra 3:1-9


As you recall, we started our study of the book of Ezra two weeks ago. In covering the first two chapters, we saw that the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus, causing him to let the captive Jews return to their homeland - even giving back the stolen temple treasures and commanding the Jews' neighbors to help finance their trip home.

In all, about 50,000 people returned to Israel. When they arrived, they settled in the cities from which they and their families had come.

3:1 The Seventh Month

Although the people lived throughout the land of Israel, they gathered together in Jerusalem for a special time. It was the seventh month on their calendar - a holy time of year. There were three special holidays that were observed during this season.

The first day of the month was the Feast of Trumpets (Lev 23:24; Num 29:1). Nine days later came Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29; 23:27), followed by the Feast of Booths (Lev 23:41; Num 29:12), which lasted for a week, beginning on the 15th.

The people were all gathered in Jerusalem for this holy time.

3:2 Jeshua and Zerubbabel

Yay-SHOO-ah and Zer-oob-baw-BEL are the major players during this time in the history of Israel.

Yay-SHOO-ah, the son of Yo-tsaw-DAWK, was the high priest in those days.

Zer-oob-baw-BEL was the son of Shal-tee-ALE and direct descendant of King Josiah, who had brought revival to Israel during his reign. Zer-oob-baw-BEL's family tree extended down throughout the generations to Joseph, the husband of Jesus' mother Mary. You can track that down in the genealogy listed in Matthew chapter one.

3:3 The Altar Of Sacrifice Rebuilt

Yay-SHOO-ah and Zer-oob-baw-BEL, along with their families, built the altar of sacrifice and set it up on its foundation. Notice the reason that they did this:

Ezra 3:3 ...for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands...

At first, this sounds like a mistake. I believe that's why the translators of the NIV switched it around to say,

Ezra 3:3(NIV) Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar...

But I believe that this is the opposite of the intention of the author. I think that it is entirely accurate to say, as does the King James and New American Standard, that they built the altar because they were afraid of the peoples of the lands. It seems to me that their reasoning is found all throughout these verses:

Ezra 3:2 it is written in the law of Moses...

Ezra 3:4 it is written ... according to the ordinance, as each day required;

Ezra 3:5 ...all the fixed festivals of the LORD that were consecrated...

They were obeying the Law of God as it was given to Moses. Why? Because they were afraid of the peoples of the lands. You see, in Exodus 34, the Lord said,

Exod. 34:11-14 "Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, lest it become a snare in your midst. But {rather,} you are to tear down their altars and smash their {sacred} pillars and cut down their Asherim - for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

Exod. 34:23-24 "Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God."

I believe that the people knew that their only protection against the people of the land was to be walking in obedience to the Law of God.

3:4-5 The Feast Of Booths

The Feast of Booths, also called the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of the Ingathering, was a time of remembering the wilderness wandering. The Israelites would take leaves and branches and make little shelters, or lean-to's out of them to sleep in. In Leviticus 23, God instructed the people,

Lev. 23:39-43 ‘On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it {as} a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It {shall be} a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'"

This feast was a yearly reminder of the time in Israel's history when they lived in booths in the wilderness. It was one of three feasts of which attendance was mandatory (Exodus 23:17). Even Jesus, although He was avoiding Jerusalem during a certain time in his ministry because His time was not yet at hand, obeyed the command and went.

John 7:10 ...when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as it were, in secret.

It was during this feast that Jesus gave an amazing invitation to the people. He stood in the temple and cried,

John 7:37-38 ..."If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'"

For a complete understanding of the significance of this, I would refer you to the tape of John 7:37-53.

3:6 No Foundation Yet

The altar was set up, and the feasts were observed, but there was not yet a foundation of the temple laid.

Notice the order of that, because this is the model we find in the Scripture. People do not worship God because they have built a building. People build a building because they worship God. This is an important distinction.

Moses and the children of Israel worshiped the Lord before they built the tabernacle. Solomon worshiped the Lord before he built the temple. The people of Israel are worshipping the Lord before they rebuild the temple.

Too many people in the church today are of the mindset that the building is the thing.

There were several folks who have admitted to me that they wouldn't worship with us when we were in our little cinderblock building on Morrie Avenue because it didn't look like a church. It was only after we began to rent this church building that they felt comfortable attending.

It has come to me through the grapevine that there are still many people in this town who have said, "Once you get your own church building, I'll come to Calvary Chapel."

Saints, this is so Biblically backward! You don't build a building so you can be a worshipper. You build a building because you are a worshipper.

In Genesis 35, Jacob told the people of his household that we was going to build an altar to the Lord in Bayth-ALE. He didn't say this because he was hoping that the Lord would meet him there, but because the Lord had already met with him. He said,

Gen. 35:3 ..."I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and has been with me wherever I have gone."

3:7 Hiring Contractors And Buying Materials

Once they had established themselves as worshipers, it was time to build the temple. They hired stoneworkers and woodworkers for this, as well as spending money on wood imported from Joppa.

All of this cost money - quite a bit of money. Where did that money come from? Back in chapter one, Cyrus told the people that they were supposed to help finance the relocation of the captive Jews. But he also said that they could give

Ezra 1:4 "...a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem."

A freewill offering is one that is given voluntarily, handed over willingly.

Again in chapter two, we read,

Ezra 2:68 And some of the heads of fathers' {households,} when they arrived at the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, offered willingly for the house of God to restore it on its foundation.

Again, there was willingness to give for the project. The people were not coerced, made to feel guilty, manipulated, or prodded. The project was made known, and people gave of their own free will.

Paul the apostle followed this model with the Corinthians, saying,

2Cor. 9:7 Let each one {do} just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

This is where many churches and ministries fail to follow the Biblical model. It's not wrong to let people know that they can give. But it is wrong to force them or guilt them into giving. And besides, if God is guiding the project, He's providing for the project!

3:8-9 The Second Month

Construction began in the second month of the year, the month of Zeev, which falls on our calendar about April or May. I don't know if they were waiting for the best weather, or whether there was a spiritual precedent set when the temple was first built by King Solomon. You might recall that it was then,

1Kgs. 6:1 the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.

Levites As Supervisors

The Levites were assigned the job of overseeing the project. They would make sure the money was spent wisely, that things were laid out properly and Biblically, and that the work was performed with quality.

Next week, we will see the first service in the newly rebuilt temple.

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