Today: [Ezra Three] The Foundation of the Temple is Restored. In this chapter the returning exiles gather together in Jerusalem to lay again the foundation of the ruined temple. In the process of planning this work they were careful first to restore the altar where sacrifice for sin could be carried out. In the absence of the ark of the covenant the brazen altar was the centerpiece of the worship of Jehovah. For us our altar is the altar of our heart laid out in yieldedness before God. The foundation of our life is not in a building in the middle east but in the kingdom that Jesus taught is within each of us where the Lamb that was slain sits enthroned.
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[Ezr 3:1-13 KJV] 1 And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel [were] in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as [it is] written in the law of Moses the man of God. 3 And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear [was] upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, [even] burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as [it is] written, and [offered] the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; 5 And afterward [offered] the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD. 6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not [yet] laid.
The events of Ezra are considered to have taken place in the 5th century before Jesus. After having been in Judah for over a year the intention is carried out to celebrate the feast of tabernacles in the seventh month. The seventh month is a sacred month in which the feast of trumpets, day of atonement and the feast of tabernacles are carried out. These three feasts together come under the general heading of the feast of tabernacles in three parts. It is important to note that there are two Hebrew calendars – the civil calendar and the sacred calendar. The seventh month referred to here is Nisan of the sacred calendar which corresponds to Tishri of the civil calendar. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar whereas the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. Paul taught that the Old Covenant is a reflection of the New Covenant which the establishing of the lunar calendar would bear out as the moon merely reflects the light of the sun (having no emanation of light on its own). The name of the month was Nisan which means “flight”.
There were approximately 50,000 people who returned by Cyrus command to Judah. In this instance they gathered to Jerusalem which tells us they didn’t all live within the city precincts but were spread throughout the province of Judah which was about 800 square miles.
The fact that all the people came together is a significant event because the returned exiles were a small group with a large task at hand and very few resources. They were quite occupied and also were at risk and vulnerable to neighboring peoples. Coming together in this way involved risk on several levels.
The purpose for which they came together was to celebrate tabernacles and in order to do that it was necessary to be ceremonially purified. For this reason top priority was given to erect the brazen altar so that offerings could be made. The ancient altar is set up again by Jeshua the high priest and the other priests with him. Zerubabbel though not a priest or a Levite assisted in the task as well. Therefore we see Levi and Judah working together to restore the altar. This is the office of the king and the office of priest collaborating to bring about the purposes of God in the ancient, ruined city of Jerusalem. This Jeshua mentioned here is the grandson of the last functioning high priest who was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar years before.
The fact that they built the altar first shows it’s significance and also reveals that the ark of the covenant was absence. Without the ark of God’s presence the most sacred artifact becomes the brazen altar set aside of expiation of sin by animal sacrifice. This was to take place in the outer court where the altar was erected although there was not even an existing foundation at the time as the temple was in total ruin and neglect. God wants us to be altar builders. When Rom. 12:1-3 speaks of our lives being living sacrifices we must understand that an altar is implied. We don’t offer the blood of bulls or goats but we do exercise faith in the shed blood of Christ. The altar we worship at is on the inside of us where the lamb that was slain sits enthroned over our lives. God wants us to first and foremost to be altar builders. Abraham was an altar builder. Isaac and Jacob were altar builders. This was where the patriarchs met with God and where God answered by fire the petitions and cries of those that resort to Him there. Make it your purpose in life to be an altar builder and having established that altar in your life resort to it frequently in prayer.
7 They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia. 8 Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD. 9 Then stood Jeshua [with] his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, [with] their sons and their brethren the Levites. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because [he is] good, for his mercy [endureth] for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, [who were] ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: 13 So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
When the altar was rebuilt the explanation was given was because they feared the people. It is interesting to note that they built altars before they built walls. In their minds the altar of God properly restored was more of a defense to them than any army or battlement with which they could have surrounded the city. God favors altar builders.
[Psa 5:12 KJV] 12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as [with] a shield.
The centrality of the altar was essential to the returning exiles as it should be essential to us. Prayer is important to the life of a believer. Even to Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father prayer is important. He is sinless, resurrected and enthroned on majesty on high yet He still prays. He ever liveth to make intercession. If you want to know what Jesus is doing at any given time picture him at the altar in the heavens making intercession for you and I as an example as to what we should do. If He has to pray then we have to pray. Pray is the respiration of the soul before God. Prayerlessness is suffocation. We must pray as we must breathe.
The people offered all the prescribed offerings which they had not been able to do in Babylon. There were thousands of pagan altars in Babylon but sacrifice according to Moses’ law could only be legitimate and accepted if carried out in Jerusalem. After the sacrifices had been made and the feast of tabernacles observed the work of the reparation of the temple began with gathering of building supplies paid for by a grant from king Cyrus. As the work begins it was not a drudgery. There was great joy and responsive singing as they set about the task of rebuilding that which had been destroyed years before. The work began in the second month which was also the second month when Solomon laid the foundation of the original temple years before. The name of the second month is Iyaar which means “to glow” and also “blossom”.
When the foundation was laid there was singing and weeping and shouts of rejoicing. For us we know that we are the house of God and Jesus is our foundation. He is the rock cut out of the mountain and the stone that the builders rejected. God has called us to have a temple mentality and to be altar builders. We do not build something that is first cultural or religious. Religion is not our focus. Christian culture is void without the foundation of Jesus Christ. We see ourselves as the temple and our foundation is sure – in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ sitting as Lord and savior over our lives.
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