Today: [Ezra One] Let the Temple be Rebuilt! In this lesson we see the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple. For New Testament believers we understand this to include the temple that we are in our persons and the temple we are in our connection to one another as the body of Christ. Cyrus of Persia in the very first year of his reign makes decree to include the rebuilding of the city and the temple and many are stirred to returned to the ruins of Judah to see it happen. The book of Ezra and also the book of Nehemiah recount the challenges they faced.
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[Ezr 1:1-11 KJV] 1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and [put it] also in writing, saying, 2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, 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. 3 Who [is there] among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which [is] in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he [is] the God,) which [is] in Jerusalem. 4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that [is] in Jerusalem.
The book of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book but were divided in the early centuries of the church. Rabbinic writings in the first century refer to these as one book which is confirmed by 3rd century historian Eusibius and also by Josephus. The 3rd century theologian Origen is the first authority to divide the books in his work. It is also interesting that in the Hebrew bible Ezra – Nehemiah is placed before 1st and 2nd Chronicles. As to authorship tradition attributes both books to Ezra but other authority ascribes Ezra and Nehemiah to each book respectively.
The book of Ezra describes Ezra’s arrival before Nehemiah responding to the edict of Cyrus to return and rebuild the city and the temple. The book of Ezra consists of 10 chapters covering the period from the edict of Cyrus the great to the dedication of the temple. Chapter one focuses on the command of Cyrus and the return of vessels from the temple to Ezra in expectation of the temples repair.
In verse 1 we see that Cyrus king of Persia issues the decree to rebuild the temple in the very first year of his reign. It would seem that this was in the heart of Cyrus before he came to the throne and he wasted no time in carrying out the command. The decree that Cyrus issued gave the exiles under his rule the right not only to return to their ancestral lands but specifically for the purpose of rebuilding the temple. While Ezra is the writer of this book bearing his name this decree of Cyrus and the first pioneers who returned took place before his birth. We don’t meet Ezra until chapter 7.
Where did the desire to rebuild the temple come from in Cyrus? Very possibly from Daniel. Daniel was contemporary with Cyrus and doubtless would have known one another from the high position that Daniel was said to have held. He may have shown Cyrus passages in Daniel relating to the restoration of the temple that Cyrus would have seen as directing his destiny to be a part of the return of the exiles for this task. The historian Josephus held this view as well, suggesting that Cyrus was shown these passages from Jeremiah and others from Isaiah as well.
Persian kings were known to pay close attention to prophecies and Cyrus makes the decree and puts it in writing. The decree is quoted in the last few verses of 2 Chron. 36 and repeated in the first verses of chapter one of Ezra. This decree is one artifact that comes down to us from antiquity in an object of archaeology known as the “Cyrus Cylinder”. The cuneiform writing on the cylinder speaks of Cyrus rise to power and his policy of repatriating exiles to their nations and the express policy of restoring their temples and places of worship. The Jews and Jerusalem are not mentioned specifically but the policy of Cyrus and the dating of the cylinder are consistent with sacred history.
For us the edict of Cyrus and the timing of it teach us how to properly respect and respond to the prophetic word when it comes to our lives. Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the kingdom and “all things will be added”. If we seek the kingdom there is a result that blessing will come. The haste with which we act is a measurement of the haste with which blessing comes. If we see what God calls for in our lives and delay then blessing is delayed. Your response time to God is a measurement of His response time to you in a given situation. If you fold your hands and ignore the heart of God or the word of God then unnecessary delay is experienced. The pace of your response to God measures the pace of His response to you. The quality of your response to God is a measurement of His response to you. Obey quickly. Obey quickly and in full. Lukewarm or tepid responses to the word of the Lord whether in the scripture or through a directive prophetic word only engender delay and unanswered prayer.
5 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all [them] whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which [is] in Jerusalem. 6 And all they that [were] about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all [that] was willingly offered. 7 Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; 8 Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. 9 And this [is] the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives, 10 Thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second [sort] four hundred and ten, [and] other vessels a thousand. 11 All the vessels of gold and of silver [were] five thousand and four hundred. All [these] did Sheshbazzar bring up with [them of] the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
It is important to note that the command of Cyrus facilitated not only the return to rebuild Jerusalem but also to repair the temple. For New Testament believers this speaks much deeper to us than a physical building on the temple mount. We are the temple in our individual persons and the temple in our corporate connection with the community of the redeemed. Paul wrote of both these aspects of the spirituality of the temple:
[1Co 3:16 KJV] 16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
We are in our individual persons the temple of God. When we pray – we pray as Solomon declared “toward this holy temple”. Jesus emphasized this in Luke 17:20,21 when He taught “the kingdom of God” is within us – not in some external infrastructure either physical or cultural. In prayer our tendency is to focus outside ourselves toward an outward sustaining grace but the clear teaching of scripture is that whatever and whoever God is – He is WITHIN US. That is the temple we want to RETURN TO in our focus and our faith – to repair that place of worship in the inside of us.
[Eph 2:21 KJV] 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
The second consideration of temple understanding is that we as individual believers are mandated to be builded together in what Peter called “lively stones – built up a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). In a time of spiritual declination and in a culture of highly developed individualism that is a difficult proposition to commit to. We either hold ourselves aloof from spiritual community seeking the higher esoteric communion with God alone – or we resign ourselves to merely being consumers of church-as-performance while the religious monkeys on the platform perform for us. Either of these extremes miss altogether the sublimity of spiritual community that God intends. Paul describes for us the nature of our connection with one another:
[1Co 12:27 KJV] 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular… 20 But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
For us this is what God is building. He is building INTO us a temple mentality and building ONTO us a temple corporeality. Unfortunately we often do not get past the simple and necessary connection one to another falling into the extreme of individualism or adversely into the commonality of religious culture devoid of dynamic spiritual life. One thing the early days of the Charismatic renewal emphasized was dynamic and living body life and unity of the spirit. We are more than a gathering of religious consumers in the sheep sheds of Christian culture. Our connections are intended to be dynamic and living even transcending that of the sanguineous relationships to natural family. Jesus emphasized this in the Matthew:
[Mat 12:47-50 KJV] 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
This is the temple of God’s building. This is the outworking of God in us and the establishing of the body of Christ as a dependent and dynamic spiritual community. Jesus said we would be known as His disciples by our love one for another. This is more than mutually deferent narcissism where you tell me how great I am and I tell you how great you are. This is spiritual family coming together not just in religious culture but in life itself to promote the kingdom in us, in each other and in the world.
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