Scripture reading – Ezra 3

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The Book of Ezra marked the end of 70 years of captivity for God’s people. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. The LORD sent prophets to call the people to repent and encourage them with His promise that they would one day be restored to their land; the majority dismissed the prophets. With Babylon’s fall, many despaired of ever seeing Mount Zion. Then, Cyrus, the king of Persia, announced: “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” (Ezra 1:2).

Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, responded to the announcement, and with certain priests and Levites, they returned to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem (Ezra 2). Ezra 2 chronicled a census of those who returned to Jerusalem and concluded with them arriving in Jerusalem, bearing the offerings of the people who remained in Babylon. They brought with them the silver and gold vessels of the Temple Cyrus released from the treasuries of Babylon.

Ezra 3


A Shared Purpose (Ezra 3:1, 3-11)

The difficult journey from Babylon to Jerusalem might have taken as much as four months. Allowing an additional three months for the people to rebuild their homes, villages, and towns, we read that it was “when the seventh month was come…[that] the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem” (Ezra 3:1).

Setting aside their interests for the sake of the whole, they worked together, worshipped together (3:3-5), sacrificed together (Ezra 3:6-8), and rejoiced together (Ezra 3:10-11).

A Shared Sacrifice (Ezra 3:6-7)

They came together to “offer burnt offerings unto the LORD” (Ezra 3:6a). “They gave money [silver and gold] also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat [from their livestock], and drink [from their vineyards], and oil [from their groves]” (Ezra 3:7). They recognized the LORD was the proprietor of everything they possessed (Haggai 2:8).

A Shared Purpose...A Shared Sacrifice

A Shared Joy (Ezra 3:10-11)

I have learned that the happiest believers set aside personal interests and agendas for an opportunity to serve the LORD and minister to others. Because the people shared a mutual purpose and sacrifice, they shared in the celebration. It was natural that they rejoiced as one when the final stones of the Temple’s foundation were laid (Ezra 3:10).

The priests wore their finest robes for the celebration and sounded the shofar. The priests sounded their trumpets, and the Levites, “with cymbals,” raised their voices and praised the LORD according to the “ordinance of David king of Israel” (Ezra 3:10). In fact, the people’s singing and shouting were so loud that their voices were heard afar off by their adversaries (Ezra 4:1).


Closing thoughts (Ezra 3:12-13)

Unfortunately, some did not share in the joy and celebration when the stones of the Temple foundation were laid. A discordant sound was heard amid the celebration, for certain “ancient men” (elderly priests, Levites, and tribal leaders) remembered the Temple of Solomon before it was destroyed (Ezra 3:12). Those men were living in the past. They scoffed at the work that was done.

In the Book of Zechariah, we read that the LORD confronted the ancients through His prophet and demanded, “Who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10). The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s sentiment and asked, “Who is left among you that saw this house [the Temple] in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

I doubt the complainers were numbered among those who physically labored on the foundation of the Temple. They were guilty of a sin I have observed in many through the years:

Those who sacrifice little are often the loudest critics.

Ezra 4

Unbeknownst to the people, their adversaries heard the noise of the celebration and set about to halt the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezra 4:1). Ezra wrote, “The adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard[took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (Ezra 4:1).

Methods the Enemy Employs to Discourage God’s People

Ezra 4 – Four Methods the Enemy Employs to Discourage God’s People (4:1-16)

A Pretense of Assimilation (Ezra 4:1-3)

On a pretense of friendship, the adversaries came to Zerubbabel (whom I believe was identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and suggested Assimilation. Those enemies were part of the Assyrian policy that resettled a conquered land with people of other nations. They said to Zerubbabel, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (Ezra 4:2).

Zerubbabel and Jeshua, joined by “the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel,” rejected the pretext of assimilation. They said, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (Ezra 4:3).


A Campaign of Aggravation (Ezra 4:4-5)

Undeterred in their attempt to hinder rebuilding the Temple, those enemies began a campaign of Aggravation(Ezra 4:4-5). As time passed, “the people of the land [non-Hebrews] weakened the hands [the resolve] of the people of Judah, and troubled [terrified] them in building” (Ezra 4:4). They “hired counsellors [conspirators; agitators] against them, to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:5).

An Effort of Adjudication (Ezra 4:6-10)

When assimilation and aggravation failed to hinder the construction of the Temple, the enemy turned to Adjudication. They sent a letter to the king of Persia and challenged the legality and legitimacy of the effort to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 4:6-10).

A Charge of Accusations (Ezra 4:12-24)

When all else failed, the adversaries of the Jews made a fourth attempt to impede the work on the Temple. They brought false Accusations against the Jews and employed two tactics in their spurious charges against the Jews: Deception and Distortion.

The enemy endeavored to deceive the king and charged the Jews were rebuilding “the rebellious and bad city”(Ezra 4:12). They also distorted their motives. They implied that the Jews were rebuilding the fortress of Jerusalem to the end they might rebel (Ezra 4:13-15).

The accusations against the Jews were so severe that the king sent a letter to Jerusalem and demanded that the work cease (Ezra 4:23-24). The antagonism and unrelenting attacks of their adversaries discouraged the people and eventually halted the work on the Temple. Succumbing to spiritual lethargy, it seemed the enemies of Judah and Benjamin succeeded. The construction of the Temple ceased for fifteen long years (Haggai 1:2-11). Sadly, the jubilation of Ezra 3 had turned to sorrow and discouragement (Ezra 4:24).

Closing thoughts –

Faithful servants of the LORD will always have detractors. Unfortunately, some feel their calling is to be critical; however, I have found critics are usually sitting on the sidelines of ministry.

Warning: The most effective implement in the devil’s toolbox is discouragement.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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