Lesson Info:

Lesson 4 Summer Quarter
Lesson Text: Ezra 6:13-22
Golden Text: Ezra 6:14

Listen to Today’s Lesson

Introduction

Our lesson this week will be the last lesson for the unit of lessons titled – Faithful to Serve.  Over the first month of lessons for this quarter, we have taken a look at answering God’s call and His commission.  Just last week in our lesson, we saw the struggles that believers may have when it comes to being faithful.  This week’s lesson is actually going to be something that I just preached about in a very recent sermon – The Rebuild: Time to Be Better.  Our lesson this week is being taught from Ezra 6:13-22.

The Temple Completed

Our lesson opens up with Tattenai, a governor of the region beyond the River (the Euphrates River), Shethar-Boznai, and their companions diligently carrying out King Darius’ decree (v.13).

History of the second temple’s construction

So, there’s some history here that we need to discuss before we can really jump into this lesson.  All of what we are going over in our lesson today is taking place after Judah’s (the southern kingdom) exile to Babylon.  The Jews had returned to Jerusalem in three waves – the first led by Zerubbabel, the second by Ezra, and the third by Nehemiah.  The time covered in our lesson is just prior to Ezra’s return to Jerusalem.

During the first group’s return to Jerusalem, they found the city left desolate and in waste – the temple and the city walls had been destroyed by the Babylonians.  So, there was much work that needed to be done by those who were returning to Jerusalem.  As I said a few weeks ago, the Jews were left with a choice of either rebuilding or living in desolation.

The choice was made to rebuild by Zerubbabel and the other leaders.  Everything with the rebuild actually started off really well for the Jews.  They began to worship the Lord again and restore having the holy feasts (Ezra 3:1-7); so they started off with rebuilding themselves spiritually.  This then led the Jews to desire rebuilding the temple; they began laying the foundation of the temple and there was much rejoicing at the laying of the foundation (Ezra 3:8-13).

Rejoicing eventually turned into sorrow as the adversaries of the temple being rebuilt did their very best to stop any construction (Ezra 4:1-4); this even included a letter being written to the Persian king (Ezra 4:6-24).  So, work eventually stopped on the reconstruction of the temple.  The Jews would try to pick up the work now and then to only be questioned about what they were doing, and eventually the Jews got lax in even trying to rebuild the temple.

Encouraged to rebuild

So, the Jews were in need of some encouragement to finish what they had started in rebuilding the temple.  The first bit of encouragement came from Darius, king of Persia at that time, who made a decree that the temple be rebuilt (Ezra 6:1-5).  The second bit of encouragement came from the people beyond the Euphrates; these were people who had actually questioned the Jews when the Jews listened to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and tried to restart the rebuild (Ezra 5:1-2).

So, in the opening of our lesson, we see those who were beyond the River diligently did according to the decree of Darius; this encouragement began to stir the Jews up a bit more.  The encouraging word that really pushed the Jews to get to work came from the Haggai and Zechariah.  The Jews got up and got to work according to the commandment of God (vss.14-15).

I feel like this is the most interesting point made in this passage of scripture.  The reason I say this is because the Jews had been so discouraged in rebuilding because of the adversity that they had faced.  So, when the decree was received from Darius, it did little to move the Jews.  Even when the people from across the river did diligently according to the decree, it stirred the Jews just a little.  However, God’s word got them to get up and get to moving!

Now, when I preached about this rebuild a few weeks ago, I related it to how we have to rebuild ourselves.  New believers are rebuilding themselves as they transition from living in the way of sin and they certainly need to be encouraged.  Us older believers, whether you realize it or not, we are also always in need of upgrading and construction work as well and we also need encouragement.  We should not let anyone hold us up from rebuilding and at the same time, we should also encourage one another in doing such as well.

Rejoicing after the rebuild

So, after all of those years and the rebuild being completed, the children of Israel, the priests, the Levites, and all of the others that returned from the exile celebrated with joy (v.17).

Let’s make note of this group of people because many of those who were of this group resided in Jerusalem prior to the exile.  Judah and Benjamin initially made up the southern kingdom.  The priests and Levites were initially a part of the northern kingdom but returned to Jerusalem during the days of wickedness in the northern kingdom.  The others were exiles who were set free by the Babylonians and they returned with the Jews.

This was a great celebration, as you can imagine.  There were several sacrifices that were offered up to the Lord (v.17).  The priests and Levites were both assigned to their divisions of work in the temple as they once had been doing (v.18).  This, again, I want to point out that the rebuild was more about a spiritual rebuild even though we see that there was physical reconstruction done on the temple.

To show you even further that this was about a spiritual rebuild, the descendants of the captivity went about keeping the Passover as the children of Israel had initially been commanded to do during the days of Moses (v.19).  The priests and the Levites, we will see, kept to the tradition of performing the Passover by first purifying themselves and then killing the Passover lambs for the descendants of the captivity, the children of Israel, the priests, and themselves (v.20).

In the end, all of the people came together and they ate together (vss.21-22).  Imagine how glorious this day was for all of the people after so much time had passed with them not being able to complete the temple.  These people were all so dedicated in their hearts for the Lord – this was faith at work.  In their faith, they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) and they did so with great joy; they were so joyful because the Lord had made them joyful.

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