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The Scriptorium

Down Payment

A good start, but only that. Ezra 4-6

Return from Exile: Ezra 4-6 (7)

Pray Psalm 67.1-3.

God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us,
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

Sing Psalm 67.1, 2.
(Solid Rock: My Hope Is Build on Nothing Less)
O bless us, Savior, by Your grace, and shine upon us with Your face,
that we Your way may loud proclaim and tell to all the earth Your fame!
Refrain v. 3 (5)
Let all the peoples praise You, Lord, rejoicing in Your holy Word!
Rejoicing in Your holy Word!

Review Ezra 4-6; meditate on Ezra 5.1, 2 and Ezra 6.14.

1. How were the people able to complete the temple?

2. What was the mood of the people upon finishing this project?


Kudos to the people who returned to Jerusalem and persevered in the work of rebuilding the temple. They faltered at the beginning and were temporarily cowed by their enemies. But they heard the Word of God from faithful and visionary prophets, and they followed the directions of courageous leaders until the temple was complete, just as Cyrus had commanded.

Great celebration ensued, but as with any celebration, there was danger here, that they might become satisfied with the “small thing” they had done and fail to keep working and looking ahead. Zechariah labored to keep the people looking ahead to the coming of the Branch and the inauguration and advance of His rule; to the incorporating of nations and peoples into the people of God; and to the fulfillment of God’s covenant in the restoration of the world.

What the people had accomplished was but a down payment on the future glory of the Lord and blessing of His people. They must not become content with this bit of progress, but get busy, in full obedience, preparing for the day of the coming Branch and His Kingdom. There was more work to do, as we shall see in the book of Nehemiah; and the people were still captive to their self-interested ways—as we shall also see. But God had allowed them to make a start toward the full realization of His precious and very great promises. They must not squander their down payment, but invest it wisely.

So, too, with us. We have received the down payment of the Holy Spirit for the work of seeking and advancing God’s Kingdom (Eph. 1.13, 14). Redeemed and saved, we must now work out our salvation in fear and trembling, building the temple of our lives and the temple of God’s Church with a view to the soon return of our eternal Branch and King. Let us celebrate our salvation with joy and gladness. And let us not despise this “small thing” God has begun in our lives. But let us always remember that we are preparing the way for greater glory to come, and so we must be always at work for the Lord.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The sons of Korah, during the height of Solomon’s reign, when everything looked successful and glorious, wrote: “Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following” (Ps. 48.12, 13). Hmm. It seems like this beautiful verse of praise was also a warning for them to remember the way Zion was, so when you must rebuild her, you will do it well.

We, as God’s New Testament Church, can never rest on the laurels of past ministries, revivals, or effective prophets. Christianity is not stagnant—it is either moving forward or going backward. Conquering or remaining captive. We can rejoice about great movements of God’s Spirit in times past, and there is much to be gained by studying how the Irish saved civilization (Thomas Cahill) or amazing times of revival. We can learn by counting, marking, and considering how these things were orchestrated and done.

But we must always realize and rejoice in the current movement of God’s Holy Spirit in our own lives and times. We are called to work and build, which we cannot properly do—rising, working, building—without being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is the way God envisioned it, and that is the way it must be done.

“He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things” (Eph. 4.10). That includes us, His people. We are to be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5.18).

The warning from the sons of Korah points also to the Word of God. Remember it, study it, stay in it, become familiar with it, so that we can live it; but also, so that we can tell it to the next generation. Let the Word of God become so imbedded in your mind and heart that you will never forget it. As in the days of Solomon when everything seemed perfect, there was good reason as we can see, for the psalmists to warn the folks to remember it. Not vaguely, but exactly. “Every word of God is pure” (Prov. 30.5) and the entirety of
God’s word is truth (Ps. 119.160).

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14.6). When He ascended, He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell those who ask to be filled: “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Lk. 11.13).

The sons of Korah recommended that the mighty works of the Lord—buildings, cities, fortresses, ministries, God’s Word—be learned from and remembered (Ps. 48.12, 13). Jesus told us to be filled with His Spirit (Acts 1.8). We will do well to follow their instructions. Paul adds, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5.15-17). He then adds how we are to do this: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5.18). The Down Payment that seals our captivity to Him alone.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;

Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
(George Croly, 1854)

For reflection
1. There’s no standing still in the life of faith. There is always exceedingly, abundantly more to realize. What are the implications of this for your walk with and work for the Lord?

2. Why do we need to hear the Word of God every day? How can you improve in this?

3. Today, whom will you encourage to rejoice in the Lord and press on for more of our great salvation?

So both the priests and the Levites and all the people rejoice in the dedication of the Lord’s restored house because all the orders of the holy church must share in the rejoicing when those who have sinned are reconciled by repenting. They offer victims for this dedication when they bring vows of thanks to God for the efforts of sinners to lead a holy life and when many, observing their life devoted to God, are themselves spurred on to works of greater virtue. The Venerable Bede (672-735), On Ezra and Nehemiah 2.8

Pray Psalm 67.4-6.
God’s Spirit is His down payment in our souls of great glory to come. Spend some time in prayer meditating on the work of the Spirit in you, asking God for a fuller realization of His Presence, fruit, gifts, and power.

Sing Psalm 67.4-6.
(Solid Rock: My Hope Is Build on Nothing Less)
Let all the nations gladly sing and joyous praise before You bring.
You judge them by Your holy worth and guide the nations of the earth.
Refrain v. 3 (5)
Let all the peoples praise You, Lord, rejoicing in Your holy Word!
Rejoicing in Your holy Word!

The earth in full its bounty yields—the blessed harvest of the fields.
We gather blessings from Your Word that all the earth may fear You, Lord.
Refrain v. 3 (5)

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.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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