Every one here, in one time or another, has seen thing which we are hope for begin to slip away. How are we supposed to respond this as God’s people? Some people get enraged and blow up. Others shut down and become laziness and lethargic. Some become cowards and are afraid to do anything. Then there are also those who become exceedingly anxious—worrying about this or that.
In Ezra 5 we are going to see how God helps His people deal with their hopes. But before we do that let me take some time and remind all us where we are in the story. In Ezra 1 we saw a new exodus taking place. God’s enslaved people were set free, and went to go rebuild God’s Temple. Ezra 2 shows a list of all the people saved. In Ezra 3 the people have a huge party called the Feast of Booths—an annual party for God’s people in the OT. Ezra 4 reveals to us there are people who want to crash the party in order to bring everyone down. Ezra 5 tells how God gets the party going again. What I hope we will see today is...
Theme: God re-ignites our passions to build His house through prophets.
1. Tear us down to build us up—Ezra 5.1-5.
When I began looking at Ezra 5 this week the first thing that jumped off the page to me was the word “prophets”. I have a love/hate relationship with the prophets. They can really bother me because I feel like all they ever do is get in my face. When I read them I am like, “these are some real negative cynical dudes. Do they ever see anything good?” I love them because even though they get in my face, and the face of the people of their time, they never leave you without hope. They always end up proclaiming a HUGE GOD!
God gets the party going again through the prophets. They are almost like motivational speakers or Gospel coaches. The function of the coach is to push you, and help bring the best out of you. Coaches can be hard on you, but can always be encourages.
The first prophet mentioned is Haggai, and Haggai is the hard coach. He is the one getting in people’s faces. In Haggai he gets after them. He says how can work so hard on building your homes, finances, and whatever else while the Temple of God is struggling. Is not God’s house more important than ours? He tells them get your butt to work and build God’s house. How do they respond? They do it!
The prophet Zechariah is more of an encourager. Zechariah takes us to throne room and helps to see the current circumstances in light of redemptive history. These are the types of things from prophets I love so I want to read some of them—READ Zechariah 3.1-8. The current Joshua (or Jeshua) we see here in Ezra 5 is a type. He is the high priest, but what Zechariah is pointing out that he represents a better, or should I say, the best high priest—the “Branch”. It is this high priest who will take away our iniquity and shall rule the house of God.
But there is another awesome image—READ Zechariah 6.9-13. Here we see God taking the royal throne and given to the high priest. This priest will truly build the Temple of God. So Zechariah is taking these tough circumstances and giving people not only hope for now, but for something even greater.
So the first prophet comes in and tears the people down. Not to beat them up or to be malicious, cold-harded, or mean. No, they are living out Hebrews 12.6, 11:
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”..For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.—Hebrews 12.6 & 11
So while it feels like these prophets are tearing you down, they are attempting to build you up. They are confronting you for your good. It may not seem like it but they are pursuing your joy! I believe this is primarily the role of NT pastors.
The question for me is how can we know when it is a message from the LORD or from the persons flesh? We need some way to evaluate it. There are various types of truth or ways God reveals Himself. The first of these is empirical truth—what we see. We look for patterns and make educated guesses, but they are guesses because we could look at the evidence another time and see something completely different. That brings to the other type of truth—subjective or existential truth. Essentially this is how we feel about something. Many times this governs the way we look at what we see (Eph 2.3). So, once again how can we really get at the truth? We measure every word or truth against the Word of God. This is the governing principle. No matter how you feel or what you see look in God’s Word for the answer.
If you cannot find anything on, then that means you are missing it and may need to talk to someone who knows the Bible better than you, or it could mean God has nothing directly to say on the matter. I believe this is when God encourages us to use Biblically informed wisdom. People get into trouble when they make a wisdom matter equivalent to the Word of God. This is where false prophets are developed. They can be ignorant false prophets (which is the majority) or malicious ones. Once again this is why you need to know God’s Word. This why Paul says:
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.—I Thessalonians 5.19-22
2. Remind us of past trials to fuel desires for future grace—Ezra 5.6-17.
This is the second major thing we can see here Ezra 5 that prophets do. Because they did such a wonderful job rebuking and encouraging the people they felt confident to the work even under persecution. Not only did they do the work, but they were not afraid to be honest with their enemies. They could embrace their failures, weaknesses, and even sin because they had HOPE. They had the grace of God giving them the fuel to carry out the commands without fear—READ Ezra 5.11-16.
See friends the world wants us to believe there are only two ways to rule—(1) fear, or (2) what they call “freedom”. They use fear tactics to beat people into submission. This is not rooted in love and does not take into consideration the person discipling or ruling is sinful. The other just lets people do whatever they want. Let the children run the daycare center. Nothing gets done, and once again people get hurt. This approach also misses the deceitfulness of humanity.
True prophets help us remember what God has done (Ezra 5.11-16). I mean I don’t know if you just notice this but they just preached the good news of God to unbelievers. They told them the truth. Not arrogantly, but they were honest about themselves, their mistakes and sins. They said to the ruler of the known world that they serve “the God of heaven and earth”. That’s bold, and not politically correct.
The only way people can live like this is if they fueled by the grace of God. Their circumstances are not their driving motivation. They want to see the grace and power of God in miraculous ways in their lifetime.
The prophets in Ezra 5, Haggai and Zechariah, did a good job of explaining how the people got in this situation—SIN. But they also did not leave them without hope. They have them longing for future grace. They are hoping to see the grace of God work in their lifetime the way it did in the past and as it promised for the future.
Is this not our hope too friends? Aren’t we looking at the painful past of the Cross, and looking forward to hope of the resurrection. Truly Christ is the greatest prophet who has ever walked the earth. He strongly rebukes us, beats us up, but then He is right there to build us up. On Friday it seems like there is no hope, but Sunday is coming. If you are here today without hope, you see no future grace in sight, then look to Christ. He was a man of sorrows. He was a man afflicted. A man of sorrows and we esteemed Him not. But you know who did? His heavenly Father. Now because of Him the same is true for those who place there faith Him. Not just for the first time, but every day.
My hope your passions have been re-ignited to build the Temple of God today. If they have then get to work ;-)