Preparing to Rebuild the Temple

These events take place following the 70 years which Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 25:11).  Ezra is God’s man for returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple which was razed by the Babylonians and carried many captives of the land away.  Ezra had been faithful to God and His word through all the time of his life in that culture.  Hear the word of the LORD concerning these things…

This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. Ezra 7:6-10 (KJV)

I want us to keep in mind that today the temple of our Lord is His people – those who have believed and received the grace of God through the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God, God the Son.  Sometimes even this temple needs a rebuilding.  We can let sin carry us away from God, His Spirit and His word; but He is never away from us.  If there is any rebuilding to do it starts with God doing the work in us, calling us to repentance, forsaking our sin, and coming back to what we believe in Christ.

Consider the following verses from Paul’s epistles…

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, to do it, and to teach it to others.  Let us as the temple of God be as committed, devoted and faithful to the LORD as was Ezra; and follow Jesus faithfully.

Some Sermon Thoughts on Ezra 8:21-23

Being Dependent

Ezra 8:21 – 23

I.  THE PEOPLE HAD COMMITTED THEMSELVES.

  1.  They had boasted of God’s Providence and power.
  2.  They had sought His way in going through the lands of trouble – evil, bandits, and murderers.

II.  THEY WOULD NOT ASK HELP OR PROTECTION FROM MAN OR GOVERNMENT.

  1.  Due to their boasting in God.
  2.  The hand of God is on those who depend on Him.

III.  GOD GRANTS THEIR PETITIONS.

  1.  He provided their material needs.
  2.  He provided their protection.
  3.  He still does, for all those who will trust in Him.

Dependence On the LORD

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and He was intreated of us.” Ezra 8:21-23 (KJV)

For Ezra it was a matter of faith in God to journey to Jerusalem, and rebuild the temple. He could not and would not cast doubt in the mind of the king; nor would he allow the human government to take credit for what God was doing, and was about to do.

Follower/Disciple of Jesus Christ our faith is solely in the Lord our God. We cannot depend on the arm of flesh; our own or the government – no matter what that government is.

We speak clearly, boldly, confidently of the wonders of our Lord; now let us not show weakness of faith by crying out to the government for help. Let us call on the name of the LORD our God. He will hear us, and He will prevail.

Those who truly know the Lord Jesus Christ trust only upon Him.

A Thing… In the King’s Heart

“Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem: and hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.” Ezra 7:27-28 (KJV)

The words above come from Ezra the scribe. After being given a letter from king Artaxerxes of Persia, he rejoices in the LORD God for directing the heart of the king in matters of God and Israel.

One thing I will always stand by, and believe is: God reigns in the affairs of men, and nations. I believe Ezra realized that. Every follower devoted to Jesus Christ should realize that God is carrying out His plans in this world.

The rulers of this earth, the kings, the presidents, the prime ministers, think they have their own plans; but God will have His way, and He does so by directing the hearts of those who rule…

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will.” Proverbs 21:1

Even when men begin to call “Wrong” right, and “Right” wrong; and evil seems to be the genre of the day; God still reigns. Evil is its own worst judgment.

What is evil? What ever the LORD God says it is. To despise His Word, and turn your backs on Him is evil.

The LORD God Almighty reigns. Walk in His ways. Begin by trusting His only way of salvation; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ His Son.

Give Place to Weeping, and to Praising

“And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.” Ezra 3:11-13

The people of the captivity in Babylon had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

Now the foundation was laid, and there was praising and shouting for joy; however, the ones who had seen the original temple (the “ancient men”); saw the new foundation and wept because they remembered the beauty of the old one.

There can be rejoicing, singing, and praising when there is a return to the land of Promise. It should be that way.

There should also be weeping because of the peril of sin. It was the people’s sins and their forsaking of God and the Sabbaths (2 Chronicles 36:19-21; Jeremiah 25:1-11) that brought them to this point in their lives. It could be that that was part of the reason for the “ancient men” weeping.

It does us good to remember our past; lest we be doomed to repeat it. It does us good as well to rejoice in today, and God’s good blessings, and to love Him every moment; to rejoice with singing, praising and giving of thanks for His wonder mercy and grace.

Weep for your sins. Rejoice in God’s forgiveness, and praise Him.

The Word of GOD is Sure

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4 (KJV)

Just for a note: Cyrus was named by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28 – 45:4); at least 150 years before Cyrus was born. Of course this is the fulfillment of God’s Word.

Jeremiah the prophet tells of the children of Israel spending 70 years in captivity in Jeremiah 25:8-11 and 29:10-14. Daniel the prophet while in the captivity reads Jeremiahs prophecy, and realizes the promise (Daniel 9:2).

The one thing I am always blessed by; encouraged by; inspired by; is that God’s Word is always fulfilled. He will not allow it to return to Himself void; or without accomplishing what He has said.

The Word of God is the one thing in the world that never changes; because God does not change. He is reliable. He will judge sin; all sin. It has been judged in His Son Jesus Christ Son of God, and God the Son. The wrath of God was poured out upon Him on the cross, and when we believe Him, turning from our sin, He saves us by His grace.

Day 30 – Inspirational and Encourageing

Today marks the thirtieth day for the journey through the Bible in ninety days.  I have been thoroughly blessed, inspired, and encouraged.  I have also learned things I did not know, helping me to realize even more that “The more I know; the more I realize I do not know.”  I am now one third of the way through this journey and looking forward to the next 6o days.

I was greatly inspired and encouraged by reading through Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah this morning; thus, the title for today’s post.

In yesterday’s reading, finishing 2 Chronicles we were left with Judah going into Babylonian captivity, Jerusalem being destroyed, the walls broken down, the temple destroyed, and all the vessels, gold, silver, bronze, taken to the storehouses of Babylon; just as the prophet Jeremiah warned and foretold.  The prophet Isaiah had warned of this destruction, and captivity at least one hundred years before it happened.

Some may ask, “Why do you put so much stock in the Bible?”  and my answer to that is, “Because, when God speaks, it comes to pass; just like He says it.”  There is not one word God speaks that has been diminished, is being diminished, or will be diminished.  That is why I was so inspired and encouraged by Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah.

Someone has said, and I believe it was written by Charles H. Spurgeon; “God will not allow His children to sin successfully.”  Reading the Bible sure helps us see that.  God pulls no punches.  We can see clearly that God deals with sin.  We see also that He is gracious, and slow to anger and wrath.  He is also merciful in not giving us what we truly deserve.

According to Jeremiah’s prophecy the nation of Israel would be in Babylonian captivity for seventy years.  At the time of Ezra that seventy years has been fulfilled, and we read –

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, ‘Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.  And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place helpa him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”  Ezra 1:1-4 (KJV)

Now here is a catcher for you.  The prophet Isaiah names the king that will do this probably 150 years or more before Cyrus is born.  How can this be?  The prophet, being inspired by God; God who knows all things; who knows the past, present and the future, and knows your name; and knew you before you were born; told the prophet what was going to happen, and to write it down.  Isaiah did –

“That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.’ Isaiah 44:28

‘Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.  For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me.”  Isaiah 45:1-4 (KJV)

In Ezra God has  put it in the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia to fulfill His word of promise to Israel/Judah and have the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt, even to providing the precious metals and all necessary costs at Persia’s expense.

God’s purpose in the captivity was to drive Israel from her sins, and to give rest to the land for the sabbath years the people had avoided to observe (2 Chronicles 36:21), and to restore their faith in Him.  In reading Ezra we read of much opposition from people of the area, even putting the work of the temple to a standstill until the king finds that it had been ordered by Cyrus years before, then the work is continued with the approval of Persia.  Haggai, and Zechariah were two prophets  who prophesied during this time, and encouraged the people to continue building without the approval of the king of Persia, until they did receive it (chapters 5 – 6).

Ezra went to encourage and lead in the temple’s rebuilding and to teach the word and law of the LORD –

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”  Ezra 7:10

There are some things I read in Ezra about their divorcing the foreign wives and sending them away that poses some problems. However, the problem was their sins and disobedience to the word of God, not God’s causing.  How seriously should God’s people take the matter  of holiness?  Very seriously.

Nehemiah had a burden for the building of the walls of Jerusalem.  He is sent by the king to go and rebuild the city.  He surveys the city walls, the city (chapter 2:12-20), then he challenges the people and they comply joyously with his requests.  Now see what God has wrought in the Old Testament with Judah.

Now, think of what God can do with you if you would surrender yourself to the way of Salvation which is found only through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, His burial where all our sin, guilt and condemnation was carried away as far as East is from West, and then He arose bodily from the grave; and is today seated by the Father’s right hand as our Great High Priest.  There is no one but Him who can deliver you from your sin.

Inspirational and Encourageing?  To me it definitely is.

– Tim A. Blankenship

A Nail in His Holy Place

A Nail in His Holy Place

Ezra 9:5-15 (v. 8 )

1.  Verses 5-15 is a prayer of Ezra for the people who have been in captivity, having disobeyed God in the matter of holiness, and sanctity (9:1-2).
2.  Ezra was grieved by the disobedience of Israel, and even at this time in Jerusalem there were things which needed to be corrected (v. 3).
3.  Those who were trembling because of the disobedience joined Ezra in the mourning, and prayer to GOD of Israel (v. 4).
4.  It was at the time of the evening sacrifice, and Ezra fell on his knees, and spread out his hands to GOD (v. 5).

I.  THERE IS SHAME FOR THE BEHAVIOR, AND DISOBEDIENCE OF GOD’S PEOPLE (vv. 6-7; 2 Cor. 6:17-18).

II.  GRACE AND SECURITY ARE GIVEN TO THE REMNANT OF GOD’S PEOPLE – THE NAIL [PEG[ IN HIS HOLY PLACE (v. 8).

III.  GOD’S PEOPLE GRIEVE OVER FORSAKING THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD (vv. 9-14).

IV.  BECAUSE OF SIN NO ONE CAN STAND BEFORE THE RIGHTEOUS GOD (v. 15)

Summary –

i.  Christians of our day need to be ashamed of our own sin;
ii.  We rest assured in the security of the Nail of Jesus Christ who holds us in His hand from which no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand;
iii.  The reason for the lack of holiness, sanctification in the church is not related to the sins of a lost world;
iv.  It is related, and the sole responsibility of the Christian who refuses to grieve over their own sin.
v.  Remember it is the Nail of His holy place which keeps us in grace – and the Nail has a name; His name is JESUS (Isaiah 22:21-25)

-T.A.

This message was preached at Carr Lane Baptist Church Sunday July 17, 2011 – Morning sermon.

Ashamed To Ask A King

Wouldn’t it be great if every citizen of the United States of America was ashamed to ask our government anything, but for those things which, God requires of government?  It would indeed.  And the government would be in much better shape financially.

Our trust, as Christians, is in God; not government.  We cannot trust the gov to provide  our health care, nor any of our financial security.  These are areas we trust our Lord to provide by giving us strength for the day to do our jobs; creative minds to better ourselves; and a good motivation for helping our fellow man.

The answer for the problems of the USA is not more gov; but more of God and trusting Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

Nehemiah – the king’s cupbearer has written,

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.  For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.  So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.”  Ezra 8:21-23 (KJV)

When we boast of a great God, bigger than any Government, bigger than any king; then, we ought to be ashamed to call on any government aid to do the LORD’s will.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The LORD’s Greatness

“For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, ‘The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him” Ezra 8:22 (KJV).

Ezra, a priest and scribe of Israel, was much burdened for the return of God’s people back to their homeland, and for the restoration of the worship of the LORD God.  They had been in captivity in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, and now Cyrus.

Ezra had made a big boast to the king about the greatness of God.  He would not require a band of soldiers for their protection.  He believed that in asking it would be a shame to the Lord, and show a lack of faith on his part.  The way to Jerusalem was dangerous; filled with thieves and murderous hearted culprits who hated all things good.

We can never do wrong in boasting of the greatness or our LORD God.  Boast of Him daily.  Boast of Him many times during the day, and during every hour and minute of the day.  You cannot begin to over boast of His greatness.

The LORD God is Almighty, full of grace and mercy, He holds the world in His hands, He holds the Universe in His hands, He smiles in the smile of a child and one of His saints.  There is no other god.  He is the only one.  He has made a way that all may come to Him, and that is provided only one way; that is His way through the cross of His Son Jesus Christ, the Creator of all that is.

Boast of Him today, all day long.  You will grow to love Him much more than you do right now.  Then put your boast of Him to work by faith.

-Tim A. Blankenship