[b]An Interesting Example Of "Body-Ministry" In The Old Testament[/b]
[i]by Zac Poonen[/i]
There are a number of interesting parallels in what we read in Chapters 3 to 6 of Ezra with what happened in the early days of the church in Acts. We read about the beginning of the construction of the temple in Ezra 3. There was a great spirit of unity among the people. "The sons of Israel were in the cities. The people gathered together as one man in Jerusalem" (Ezra 3:1). That was like the 120 who waited as one man in the upper room for the Holy Spirit. "Jeshua and his brothers the priests and Zerubbabel and his brothers arose and built" (Ezra 3:.2). It was a body-ministry and not a one man show. They first built the altar and offered burnt offerings (Ezra 3:2). This speaks of the pre-eminent place being given to the message of the cross, to build the Body of Christ. And then they celebrated the 'Feast of Booths' according to the ordinance. They honoured God's word. Then there was a time of praise (Ezra 3:10) when the builders laid the foundation of the temple. The priests stood and with trumpets and cymbals began to praise the Lord. That's another thing that must be found in Jerusalem the true church - a spirit of praise and worship. This was followed by a time of "weeping with a loud voice" (Ezra 3:12). Mourning for our sins is also a necessary part of building the church.
The next thing that happened was opposition (Ezra 4:1). No genuine work of God will be without enemies. These enemies pretended that they too wanted to help in building the temple. But Zerubabbel said, "You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God"(Ezra 4:3). We do not cooperate with unbelievers even if they are nominal Christians. They may say, "We also serve your God. We are also Christians." But we say No. Thank God for men like Zerubbabel and Jeshua who put their foot down and said, "Nothing doing." Thank God for people like John the Baptist who refused to baptize the Pharisees, saying, "You must repent first." We need more people like John the Baptist, Zerubbabel and Jeshua in the church. Then these people got up, joined up with the people of the land, and tried to frighten them (Ezra 4:4). There was religious opposition, fear and harassment. They hired counsellors (Ezra 4:5) to frustrate their counsel - all this opposition to these simple people who just wanted to build the temple! When you try to build the house of God as the Body of Christ you will face a lot of opposition. If you are interested only in coming out of Egypt and living an individual Christian life, there may not be much of a problem. But if you go further to this second movement from Babylon to Jerusalem, you will face many attacks from Satan. But your life will be exciting, because God is sovereign. God permits this opposition, and He overcomes both kings and their decrees. The enemies sent a request to the king, and a decree came from the king (Ezra 4:17-22). They went with the kings order to Jerusalem and stopped the work. The king was influenced by the false reports. You can be sure that there will be a lot of false reports when we try to serve the Lord. Religious people, secular authorities, the police and many other people will turn against us. Thus the work stopped. So what did God do? He killed that king and raised up another - Darius (Ezra 4:24)!
In Ezra 4:24, we see that even 16 years after returning to Jerusalem, the Jews hadn't got past laying the foundation of the temple. This was because the Jews had a casual attitude towards building the temple and were all busy building their own homes (See Haggai 1:1-4). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah then challenged the people to put God first and to build His temple (Ezra 5:1,2). But once again the enemies were stirred up and said, "Who told you to build this temple?" And then we read this wonderful verse, "The eye of God was upon them, and they could not stop them"( Ezra 5:5). The enemies sent a report to King Darius, and Darius issued another decree, because he found the decree that Cyrus had made. Notice the sovereignty of God in operation here. Darius wrote, "Leave this work on the house of God alone. I issue a decree that you must do whatever you can to help build this house. The full cost is to be paid out of the royal treasury. Whatever is needed - bulls or rams or wheat or salt they must be given" (Ezra 6:7,8). Who was Darius' advisor? Daniel. God has His people everywhere to help His servants. So we see that the opposition only worked for good here, because ultimately God's people got more than what they had earlier: The government paid the entire cost of the construction! The temple was finally completed through a body-ministry with all working together. It had started in a very small way as all of God's works do. But finally they completed a building that God was happy with. This is how it is in the building of the church too. Then they celebrated the Passover and rejoiced - "because the Lord had caused them to rejoice, and had turned the heart of the king to encourage them in the work of the house of God" (Ezra 6:22).
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon