Ezra 1-3 Seizing New Opportunities

SEIZING NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Ezra 1:1-3:13        December 3 2006

Over 40,00 Jews returned. The Book of Ezra notes
the ancestry of returnees and the number who would
serve in the religious life of the country , such as
Levites , singers, temple servants, and priests. Some
people were unable to verify their ancestry , and
other were disqualified from being priests. After
they arrived in Jerusalem , some family leaders gave
freewill offerings to assist in rebuilding the temple
in its original location . People settled in several
towns in Judah.

1. Respond To God -Given Opportunities (Ezra 1:1-6)

Ezra 1:1   In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order
to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the
LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a
proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:
1:2   “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The LORD, the
God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth
and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at
Jerusalem in Judah. 1:3   Anyone of his people among you—
may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in
Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel,
the God who is in Jerusalem. 1:4   And the people of any
place where survivors may now be living are to provide him
with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with
freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ ” 1:5
Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests
and Levites —everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared
to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 1:6
All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and
gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in
addition to all the freewill offerings.

King Cyrus’s decree in Ezre 1:2-4 , also (2 Chron.36:23)
shows that God moved his heart on behalf of the Jews.
Cyrus credited the true God whom the Jews worshiped
with his victories, but he was not a personal follower
of God. The prophet Isaiah had predicted Cyrus’s role in
Jewish history (Isa. 44:28;45:1). Although the Persians
would control the Jews for about two centuries, the
Persian rulers were generally tolerant of the Jews. The
phrase the God of heaven is often used in the Books
such as Ezra and Nehemiah, which deal with event after
the Exile.
Perhaps some Jews had become so comfortable in
Babylon that they resisted returning. Many, however,
were open to God’s leadership and seized this
opportunity to rebuild their homeland.

2. Recognize The Priority Of Worship (Ezra 3:1-3)

Ezra 3:1   When the seventh month came and the Israelites had
settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man in
Jerusalem.  3:2   Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow
priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates
began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt
offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law
of Moses the man of God. 3:3   Despite their fear of the peoples
around them, they built the altar on its foundation and
sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning
and evening sacrifices.

The Jews had begun the process of rebuilding the temple
and offering sacrifices to God, but they were realists. Not
everyone in that area wanted them to succeed. They feared
the surrounding people – “people of the land,” who included
Samaritans, descendants of the Hebrews in the Northern
Kingdom who had intermarried with foreigners.
The Jews definitely made worship a priority as they rebuilt
their homeland. They would need a close relationship with
God in order to accomplish the task facing them.

3. Rejoice In The Lord’s Help (Ezra 3:10-11)

Ezra 3:10   When the builders laid the foundation of the temple
of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets,
and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their
places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel.
3:11   With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD:     “He
is good; his love to Israel endures forever.” And all the people
gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation
of the house of the LORD was laid.

The Jews praised God for helping them finish the foundation
for the temple. They also praised God for His faithful love.
The Hebrew word rendered faithful love might also be
translated as steadfast love or loyal love. God was faithful
to His promises to His People.

Summary:

Jeremiah had prophesied  that the captivity in Babylon
would end. When Cyrus, the king of Persia, defeated the
Babylonians, he announced that the Jews of Judah should
return to their homeland and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem,
The family leaders of the two Jewish tribes, Judah and
Benjamin, the priests, and the Levites prepared for the return
to Judah. The Jews’ neighbors gave them supplies, and Cyrus
returned to the Jews Plunder stolen from the temple.