International Sunday School Lesson for July 14, 2013
Scripture Text: Ezra 6:13-22
Purpose: To celebrate the faithfulness of God through worship in holy places and set-apart communities
Ezra 16:13-22 (CEB)
13 Then Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out the order of King Darius with all diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews built and prospered because of the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah, Iddo’s son. They finished building by the command of Israel’s God and of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. 15 This house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the rule of King Darius.
16 Then the Israelites, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles joyfully celebrated the dedication of this house of God. 17 At the dedication of this house of God, they offered one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a purification offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 They set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their sections for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the scroll from Moses.
19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles celebrated the Passover. 20 All of the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were clean. They slaughtered the Passover animals for all the returned exiles, their fellow priests, and themselves. 21 The Israelites who had returned from exile, together with all those who had joined them by separating themselves from the pollutions of the nations of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel, ate the Passover meal.
22 They also joyfully celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days, because the Lord had made them joyful by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria toward them so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
The Book of Ezra records for us the rebuilding of the Temple. But, to understand all that was going on during this reconstruction period you must also read the two books of prophesy, Haggai and Zechariah, because they fill in the blanks. Since these two books are referenced in our text for today, we can assume they preceded the writing of the Book of Ezra.
To bring you up to date historically, when those that were previously held in exile returned, there is a resentment between those that remained in Judah during this 50-70 year period. Also King Cyrus, that had originally helped in the return and rebuilding of the temple had been replaced by Darius. Additionally there was a local conflict between the people on the “other side of the river,” and those that had come back to restore the temple. After correspondence back and forth King Darius found Cyprus’s original decree and acted to enforce it, which meant all of the reconstruction would be paid for by decree, and those on “the other side of the river” would be taxed to pay for it. (Ezra 6:1-12) They were also instructed by Darius to leave those involved with the reconstruction alone, and to provide anything needed for sacrifice offerings.
Haggai's prophesy came in Darius's second year, and it basically said, The Lord is not happy that you have rebuilt your own houses, but have not rebuilt my house, and until you do you will not prosper. Since the construction was being paid for by the government, there was no excuse for delay in building this new temple.
Haggai's prophesy influenced both the civil and clerical and it was decided that construction would begin immediately. Thanks to the leadership provided by these two men, everything was set in order, so that the law of Moses would be followed and the new temple completed.
While the laying of the foundation had taken place in the fall of the year, Rosh Hashanah, the new temple is completed during the spring, at the time of Passover and Unleavened Bread holy days.
Each type of animal, offered for sacrifice, carried a special meaning and each sacrifice covered a particular event or ordination. Interesting to note that a Ram was used in the case of Isaac, and that Christ was referred to as the “lamb of God.” The lamb was the sacrifice of choice during the Passover feast.
This new Temple did not have all of the glamor or size of the original built by Solomon. Nor, did it house the “ark of the covenant” which had been carried off during the Babylonian siege. The one thing it seemed to have was the ability to unite, those that returned with those that had stayed and now separated themselves from the worldly neighbors that lived among them. I think God's house should always unite us with God and with each other. All that are willing to subject themselves to the purification of the Lamb should come and worship. In addition all of those that feel estranged from God can find solace in His presence, and in His people's presence.