Return from Exile: Ezra 4-6 (4)
Pray Psalm 28.8, 9.
The LORD is their strength,
And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.
Save Your people,
And bless Your inheritance;
Shepherd them also,
And bear them up forever.
Sing Psalm 28.8, 9.
(Angel’s Story: O Jesus, I Have Promised)
Our strength are You, O Savior, our strong defense and sure.
Anointed with Your favor, we rest in You secure.
Save us, and bless us, Jesus, upon us turn Your face.
With shepherd’s care, Lord, keep us forever in Your grace.
Read Ezra 5.1-17; meditate on verses 6-17.
1. Why did the Samaritans write to Darius? What did they want him to do?
2. What had the leaders of God’s people told them?
Perspective is everything. That is, how you see something determines how you feel and respond. We recall that the people who were building the temple in Jerusalem complained that it was such a small thing. Not up to their visions or dreams. For that, they were rebuked and given a fresh vision of what God would do in the latter days.
But note how the enemies of the Lord saw the temple: “Let it be known to the king that we went into the province of Judea, to the temple of the great God, which is being built with heavy stones, and timber is being laid in the walls; and this work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands” (v. 8). Clearly, they saw the temple as a threat, not a small thing.
So they felt it necessary to impose their perspective on Darius, who had replaced Artaxerxes (who issued the work stoppage order), so that he would pick up where his predecessor had left off.
Their mistake was in including too much in their letter. Wanting to make sure the Jews got all the blame for this violation of a decree of the Medes and Persians, they quoted at length from what the leaders told them, going all the way back to the reason for their being in Babylon in the first place (vv. 11, 12) and how Cyrus had “issued a decree” for them to return and build the temple (v. 13). The important point is, if that were true and could be supported from the archives, then Artaxerxes’ stop work order was a violation of the law of the Medes and Persians—which once issued could not be revoked (cf. Dan. 6.8; Est. 8.8)—and Darius would have to defer to Cyrus’ order and let the work go forward again.
Of course, the work had already resumed, under the watchful eye of God, under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah and the courageous leadership of Jeshua and Zerubbabel (v. 5). Darius’ response to the Samaritans’ request (chapter 6) would be a great boost to the people of God and a source of chagrin for the Samaritans.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you.
Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in His mercy is going to give you.
Try to help those who argue against you.
Be merciful to those who doubt.
Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself.
And for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them,
but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins.
Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners” (Jude 21-23 TLB).
God is on His throne. He is Sovereign and He is victorious.
We just need to be sure we know Whom we serve and serve Him well.
There was in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool called Bethesda that had five porches.
These five porches were filled with a great multitude of sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed people.
They were waiting for an angel whose job it was to stir the water at certain times, and the first to enter the stirred pool was healed of their affliction. On a certain day, Jesus was walking by the pool with the five porches. Of all the mass multitude that was there, He chose a particular man to speak with. A man that Jesus knew had been afflicted for thirty-eight years. Think of it. So, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made well?” And the man’s response was: “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” And of course, Jesus in His mercy healed the man. (Jn. 5.1-9).
But here is the slight glitch in that man’s perspective. The quintessential Healer was standing right in front of him, asking him if he wanted to be made well, and all he could think about was the unfair situation with the pool rules. He was looking for healing from a secondary source when the primary source of all goodness was staring him in the face. He was so focused on the temporal, he could not see the eternal. Or for our purposes, we get so honed in on the circumstantial that we miss the spiritual.
Every day we are called to rise up and build. Build ourselves up in God’s Word and prayer. Build into our Personal Mission Field. Build up the Church. Build into the Kingdom. And every day, we can either depend upon God to help us build, or we can unsuccessfully try and build it our way. Which we know that “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Ps. 127.1); so, our way is a waste of time.
“Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless.
Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who
shall tread down our enemies” (Ps. 60. 11, 12).
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but deliverance is of the LORD” (Prov. 21.31).
When we build within God’s boundaries—serving and waiting for Him; being kind; helping others; being mindful of our own propensity to sin; showing mercy; and trusting Him perpetually—He will help us; we will do valiantly; and He will deliver us from all the Tattenai/Shethar-Boznais in our path. (Ezra 5.3; Matt. 6.13).
1. What do you find to be the primary obstacles keeping you from working your Personal Mission Field—brick by brick, as it were?
2. How should you prepare to make sure each day you will be faithful in sowing God’s grace to your world?
3. Whom will you encourage today to persevere in the brick-by-brick work of building the Lord’s temple?
God was protecting and watching over those who obeyed His command. The governor decided that he would not stop the work on the temple until an answer was returned from the king. In other words, Tattenai checked out the Jewish leaders’ version of what was taking place. Earl Radmacher (1933-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Ezra 5.5
Pray Psalm 28.1-7.
Thank God that you are continuously under His watchful eye, and that, as you stay within His Word, His grace will reach you to strengthen and bless all you do. Commit your day to the Lord, then go forth and build.
Sing Psalm 28.1-7.
(Angel’s Story: O Jesus, I Have Promised)
I cry to You, our Savior, O, be not deaf to me!
Lord, speak to me with favor, lest I should dying be.
Hear now my supplications when for Your help I cry.
Receive these, my oblations, before Your throne on high.
Lord, count me not among those who walk in sinful ways.
With words of peace their tongue glows while evil fills their days.
Your works they disregard, Lord, while evil fills their hands.
Destroy them by Your Word, Lord, and let them no more stand.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus, for He will hear our prayer.
His strength protects and shields us with mercy and with care.
In You our heart rejoices; You help us by Your Word.
To You we raise our voices to praise and thank You, Lord.
T. M. and Susie Moore
Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.