Ezra 5:1-2 (NIV) 1 Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.
On verses 1-2: The Jews had spent six years trying to rebuild the temple, but in 530 BC their work came to a standstill after much opposition from Samaritans (Ezra 4:1-16) and an order by King Artaxerxes to halt the work (Ezra 4:17-24). Soon dust was settling on the unfinished work and apathy set into the people’s hearts. Ezra 5 picks up the action a decade later, in approximately 520 BC, when God raises up prophets like Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the Jews (Ezra 5:1). Inspired by their prophetic messages, governor Zerubabbel and Joshua the high priest lead the Jews to resume the work of rebuilding the temple.
What can we learn from this? Here we see the power of the Word of God spoken prophetically to strengthen, comfort and encourage God’s people. When you are discouraged and disheartened, one of the best things you can do is to listen to God’s Word spoken through gifted preachers and prophets. Let the Word of God revive you, encourage you, comfort you and get you back on track once again.
Ezra 5:3 (NIV) 3 At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?”
On verses 3-17: Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethat-Bozenai and others question the Jews as to what authority they have to rebuild the temple (v3-4). The Jews’ response to their questioning is reported in a letter from Tattenai and Shethat-Bozenai to Darius King of Persia (v11-16). From the Jews’ response, we learn something about the authority God has given to every believer:
Ezra 5:11 (NIV) 11 This is the answer they gave us: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished.
On verse 11: The Jews acknowledged that their authority to rebuild was ultimately from God, as they say “We are servants of the God of heaven and earth”. They also realize that what they are doing is a continuation of a story that God was writing “many years ago”, long before they were alive.
What can we learn from this? When you know the authority that God has given you,you can serve God with confidence, pray with faith, deal with people without fear and insecurity, and know that the work you do in the Lord has eternal significance.
Ezra 5:12 (NIV) 12 But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.
On verse 12: The Jews recognize that the authority they now have was not something they earned or deserved, but something that God had given them as a gift of His grace despite their shortcomings and failures.
What can we learn from this? When you know that the authority God has given you depends not on your performance but on God’s grace, you can exercise that authority with humility and can keep on going despite setbacks. It reminds me of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”
Ezra 5:14-15 (NIV) 14 …Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, 15 and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’
On verses 14-17: The Jews not only appealed to God for their authority to build the temple, but also to King Cyrus of Persia, the human authority whom God had set over them and who had specifically authorized their work. Those who questioned the Jews’ authority could then go to the current king of Persia, Darius, and verify whether his predecessor Cyrus did indeed give such authority to the Jews.
What can we learn from this? As much as God has given every believer authority to serve Him and represent Him in this world, it is good and healthy for you to minister under the protective covering and supervision of an established person or organization who recognizes the calling God has on your life and who commissions you to do the work. When you have both a calling from God and a commissioning from a God-given leader above you, it gives you and those you serve a sense of security, that you aren’t just serving out of your own whim but with the verifiable support, accountability and approval of the larger body of Christ.
Finally, notice that another theme is Ezra 5 is that God is watching. As verse 1 says, the God of Israel “was over them”, and “the eye of their God was watching over” them (v5). Every day, all day, the protective, loving eye of the Lord is watching over us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for using gifted preachers and prophets to help get me back on track whenever I’m disheartened or discouraged. Thank You for the authority You have given me as Your child to represent you and to do Your work in this world. And thank You that Your eyes are always watching over us. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!