Ezra 3:1


The return from Babylon is supposed to have been in the spring. The first employment of the people would be to construct for themselves huts, or so to repair dilapidated buildings as to make them fit for habitation. This accomplished, no time was lost in setting about the great work of re-establishing their ancient worship. So "when the seventh month was come," the month Tisri, corresponding to portions of our September and October, they repaired to Jerusalem to encourage and witness, -

I. THE REBUILDING OF THE ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERINGS.

1. They saw it placed upon its old bases.

(1) They regarded it as the same altar. No ceremonies of consecration needed - wanted no novelties in religion. Here is a useful lesson to Christians. The religion of their fathers was Divine, and was associated with a wonderful history.

(2) Antiquity should be tested by appeal to Scripture.

2. They saw it rise to its completion.

(1) They had hostile neighbours (see Ezra 4:1, 9, 10). Idolaters of all sorts will ever oppose true worship.

(2) These were overawed by the multitude. The wicked are cowards at heart.

(3) The hands of the elders were encouraged. This is the force of the particle, "Then stood up," etc. Learn the great value of witnessing for Christ.

II. THE OFFERING OF THE DAILY SACRIFICES. These are described Numbers 28:1-8.

1. The offerings. These were -

(1) The burnt offering - a lamb of the first year, type of Christ, consumed in fire, and so called the "food of God."

(2) The meat offering - fine flower mingled with oil, consumed by the worshipper or his representatives.

(3) The drink offering - wine - like the meat, partaken of by God and man (see Judges 9:13). This feasting the symbol of friendship.

2. These were continual.

(1) Morning, evening, day by 'day the year round, so forward "year by year continually" (see Hebrews 10:1).

(2) Kept up a continual remembrance of sin.

(3) Continually procured the "forbearance of God" until his justice should be satisfied in the perfect sacrifice and offering of Calvary.

3. But there was no sacred fire.

(1) The Jews confess the absence of this after the captivity. No account of any in the more recent Scriptures.

(2) Strange fire would scarcely be used. No account of its authorisation. Without this would it be accepted (see Leviticus 10:1, 2)?

(3) Burnt offerings without fire! Significant of the waning of the dispensation. Designed to wean the Jews from Moses in favour of Jesus. Strength of prejudice! Strong tendencies even in Christians to ritual rather than to the spiritual in worship (see Galatians 3:1-3). We witness here -

III. A UNITED NATION OF WORSHIPPERS,

1. There was concert among the priests.

(1) The high priest was there. Joshua is not here expressly so styled; implied in the words, "Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren." Thus distinguished elsewhere (see Haggai 1:1; Haggai 2:2; Zechariah 3:1). He was the grandson of Seraiah, the high priest who was slain by Nebuchadnezzar (see 2 Kings 25:18-21). He was a type of Christ not only in virtue of his office, but also in his name, which is the same as Jesus, and in his leading the captivity out of Babylon.

(2) The "brethren" of Jeshua were with him. The sons of Aaron in general.

2. There was concert among the nobles.

(1) Zerubbabel was there. He heads the roll of names (Ezra 2:2) as a principal leader of the restoration. He was the representative of the royal family, and now a worthy successor of his ancestors, David and Solomon, who were so gloriously concerned with the first temple.

(2) His "brethren" were with him.

3. The people were there "as one man.

(1) Responsive to the summons of the chiefs. They assembled fifteen days earlier than the feast of tabernacles, when all the males should appear (see ver. 6).

(2) They came with exemplary unanimity; their heart was in it; they were the noblest of the nation, under 50,000, leaving the indifferent ones in Babylon. Such unanimity could never have been secured by coercion. Value of the voluntary principle. - J.A.M.









And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely.
I. The completion of their journey. "They came to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem."

II. THE EXTENT OF THEIR POSSESSIONS (vers. 65-67).

III. THE PRESENATION OF THEIR OFFERINGS.

1. The object of their offerings.

2. The spirit of their offerings.

(1)They offered promptly, without delay.

(2)They offered spontaneously, without constraint.

3. The measure of their offerings.

(1)Proportionately.

(2)Liberally.

IV. THE SETTLEMENT IN THEIR CITIES. This suggests —

1. Home after exile.

2. Rest after a long and tedious journey.

(William Jones.)

As I was reading my Greek Testament the other day, I was delighted with a discovery concerning the well-known text: God loveth a cheerful giver. The word cheerful is our word for hilarious. And I began to imagine what would happen if the meaning of the word was put into action. "Will you give five pounds to missions?" "Will you contribute a hundred pounds towards our evangelistic work this winter?" "Ha, ha, ha! I am only too glad for the opportunity to give, since I have so abundantly received." And the hilarious giver writes out a cheque on the spot. How much better that sounds than the doleful, "Oh, dear! I am tired with the never-ending calls for money, money, money." But this "hilarious" giving is not possible except the Spirit is dwelling richly within. For only the Spirit shows the greatness of that salvation which we received through Christ, and the greatness of our consequent obligation.

(A. J. Gordon.)

The temple and its worship marked the last days of the kingdom of the Jews anterior to their captivity, and formed the point around which the returning wanderers gathered at their restoration to the home of their fathers. So around the Church, the events of all successive empires have gathered since the day of Pentecost.

I. Every STATE OF IMPORTANCE, alike in ancient, mediaeval, or modern history HAS GATHERED ROUND THE CHURCH, AND HAS RECEIVED ITS SHAPE AND DEFINITENESS FROM HER. Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome each became important in their different times in proportion as they were able to bless or to chasten the Church of God. The long dynasties that ruled on the banks of the Nile; the invasion of the Hyksos; the vast undertakings of Rameses or Amasis; the gigantic records of antiquity which rise in such sepulchral magnificence in Egypt from amidst her waste of sand; the high philosophy of one Ptolemy and the literary research of another, proclaim one after the other in successive generations the splendour of an empire whose principal end of existence was to aid in the throes of the early Church; to give a home to the famine.stricken patriarchs; to be a scourge in the successive invasions of Shishak, Pharaoh Hophra, and Pharaoh Necho, and to be the probation of the Jews when God ordained the Chaldean captivity. All these seem to have been the main objects for which Egypt existed as a nation. So in each successive period in after-history the Church became more and more the central body which gave shape to the kingdoms of the world, alike in mediaeval as in modern history. The vast multitudes from the north-east of Europe which swept like a bankless flood over the fertile plains of Italy, arrested by the walls of Constantinople or of Rome, or diverted by the intercession of or Gregory, became at length themselves children of the Church whom they had persecuted; and the imaginative genius of the Goth lent mellowness, sublimity, and tone to the architecture and service of the Church. Men who came to persecute remained to pray, and the Gothic invasion formed an era in ecclesiastical history. The kingdom of France beheld a repetition of the acts of in the conversion of ; and Clotilds and her husband resembled in the story of their conversion , king of Kent, and Bertha his wife. followed in the passage of years, in family as well as name mixed up with those who were giving protection to while they received their own definiteness from the Church of Christ. And the gifts of Pepin became a record to a long after-day of the power which the Church had to give shape to the early civilisation of Europe. From the death of Charlemagne throughout eight following centuries, the interests of Europe became synonymous with those of France or Germany, while they oscillated in alternating supremacy, each of them seeking the recognition of the Church for their claims. The Great Reformation which broke out over Northern and Western Europe bore upon the billows of its tempestuous sea the vessels that carried the destinies of Spain and Austria, France and England, and many of the minor states of Germany; while religious questions became the direct causes which shook the dynasty of the Stuarts, and agitated France through the illustrious periods of Catharine de Medici and Henry the Great and the imbecile reign of Louis XIII; while the names that have rendered so many pages of French history interesting — the Hugonot and Coligni, Conde and Turenne — were immediately brought out by questions connected with the doctrine and discipline of the Church in defence of which each one of them was brought before the notice of history.

II. THE CHURCH HAS IN HER THAT PRINCIPLE OF VITALITY WHICH GIVES HER THE POWER TO REKINDLE LIFE WHERE IT HAS BEEN EXTINCT, AND TO RECONSTRUCT THE SHATTERED PORTIONS OF FABRICS WHICH HAVE FALLEN TO DECAY. The children of Israel, leaving their patriarchal government at Goshen to enter upon that developed state of their history which was to issue in the kingly line of David, preserved their nationality and drew together their otherwise scattered forces around the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the lawgiver; and the Church of God became in the wilderness of Sinai the source and fountain of national life and existence to the tribes reseeking their home. A second time the chosen people were called upon to bewail their sins in a long captivity; a second time their national distinctiveness bid fair to be lost, but the voices of Daniel and Ezekiel sounded loudly to penitence and prayer by the Chebar and in Babylon. These were the voices of the Church of God — these represented that eternal principle around which national and individual existence might coil and find compactness. These were the forces from within which kept together the people of the captivity, and were the means of restoring them in their national integrity to their homes. Forlorn and orphaned indeed must the returning tribes have felt; like men who in the chill of the morning wander amid the fading flowers of the banquet of yesterday. At that moment the Church again became the centre of their national revival and around the foundation stones of the temple the scattered people again became a nation.

(E. Monro.).

And when the seventh month was come.
: —

I. THEY BEGAN BY RE-ESTABLISHING THE WORSHIP AND SERVICE OF THE HOLY PLACE. They set up an altar, and offered the daily sacrifice. A wise beginning. Their task was hard, and they did well to begin with God. They made the right use of fear. It stirred them up to religious duty.

II. BEFORE SETTING THEMSELVES TO THEIR TASKS THEY KEPT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES. The full repression of our religious joy, even though it be prolonged, will not delay the performance of life's severer tasks. It is a suitable preparation for them.

III. THEY USED THEIR TREASURES IN SECURING THE BEST MATERIALS AND THE MOST SKILLED LABOUR.

IV. THE FOUNDATIONS WERE LAID AMIDST ACCLAMATIONS OF JOY. Many of the psalms which fill the Psalter with joyous strains were doubtless sung or composed on this occasion.

V. IT WAS, HOWEVER, A JOY MINGLED WITH SORROW.

(Willard G. Sperry.)

I. THE FIRST THING THEY DID WAS TO REBUILD THE ALTAR. This was a right beginning. The altar of sacrifice was the centre of the Jewish religion; just as its antitype, the Cross, is the centre of Christianity. The Cross is our altar; it stands at the centre of our religion.

1. The altar of burnt-offering in this instance was intended as a safeguard. There is no security like that which a timid soul finds under the shadow of the altar (Psalm 84:3). A man is never so safe from adverse influences as when upon his knees.

2. This altar was "set upon its bases" — that is, it was restored upon its former foundations. There is virtue in observing old landmarks. Some things never grow obsolete. Air and water and sunlight are just what they always were, nor is human ingenuity likely to improve them in any way. There are some truths which bear to our spiritual constitution the same relation that light does to the eyes and water to the lungs. Nothing can amend or improve them. There may be new formulations, new modes of presentation; but the altar of the Christian religion will stand on its old bases as long as time endures.

3. The ceremonies of this restored altar were conducted after the prescribed form.

II. THEY NEXT PREPARED FOR THE REBUILDING OF THEIR TEMPLE.

1. The altar meanwhile was kept in constant use. Its fires never went out. There was no lack of offerings upon it. The people had learned by sad experience their dependence upon God.

2. There was little difficulty in collecting the necessary funds.

3. The workmen were secured by generous outlay and paid promptly when the wages fell due.

4. The materials for the temple were collected from every quarter. Tyre and Sidon and the forests of Lebanon were put under contribution. Thus God ever utilises the nations. The Caesars built highways for the propagation of the gospel. Soulless corporations in our time are binding the far corners of the earth together with iron bands and cables, not knowing nor caring that God's kingdom is thus being ushered in.

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

I. RELIGION IS; OR SHOULD BE, A UNITING FORCE.

II. WE NEED NOT, AND SHOULD NOT, WALT BEFORE WE WORSHIP GOD.

III. THERE SHOULD BE SOME REGULARITY IN OUR DEVOTION.

IV. OUR OFFERING MUST COME FROM THE HEART AS WELL AS FROM THE HAND.

V. THE CAUSE OF CHRIST MUST HAVE THE REST SERVICE WE CAN SECURE.

VI. SOME TAKE A HIGHER, SOME A HUMBLER POST IN THE SERVICE OF GOD.

VII. WE DO WELL TO REJOICE WHEN WE LAY THE FOUNDATION OF A USEFUL WORK.

VIII. JOY IS SAFE AND WISE WHEN IT PASSES INTO PRAISE.

IX. SORROW AND JOY BLEND STRANGELY IN THE EVENTS OF LIFE.

(W. Clarkson, B. A.)

Monday Club Sermons.
Notice —

I. THE PEOPLE ARE AGAIN HEARTILY UNITED IN ACTION. They "gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem." These cheering words sound like a reminiscence of the best days of David, Hezekiah, and Josiah. A revival of union was sorely needed. The last three reigns before the captivity had been marked by unnatural discords. The providential cure of this evil was captivity. Two generations at least must pass away, and their feuds be buried with them; the worth of a temple and the blessing of a pure worship must be learned by their loss. This method of cementing nations was not new, and it has been exemplified since in almost countless instances. Every forward movement in society seems to be preceded by seasons of trial, whose hot fires are needed to fuse the heart and will of the people into one.

II. THEY MADE A RIGHT BEGINNING OF THEIR WORK. They began with an altar. Can this be the same people whose closing record seventy years before had been that "they polluted the house of the Lord"? Reverence as well as union had been developed by captivity. They might have begun by clearing away the ruins, but that would have been a second step before the first; not even the rubbish of an unhallowed past may be touched without the blessing of God; they might have held a council to determine what they would do, but this would have been taking their own advice first and afterwards seeking the endorsement of Jehovah; they might have raised the walls around the spot before building the altar upon it, but that would have been asking God to own what He had been allowed no share in directing. On the contrary, with a reverence chastened by long exile they began with the altar itself. Where else would they have begun and not blundered? This order of building has always prospered. Ambitions, plans, hopes even, waited upon praise and supplication, and more than half the first year was devoted to continuous sacrifice and petition. What years of bitter deprival had taught them this dependence! But bitter sweetness let it be called, blessed bondage, to produce this wholesome fruit of reverence.

III. IN THE FORM OF THEIR WORSHIP THEY RETURNED SCRUPULOUSLY TO THE PATTERN ON THE MOUNT. They not only offered burnt-offerings, but they offered them " as it is written." They kept feasts by name not only, but in the way prescribed by the law of Moses. Their new moons and free-will offerings were those only that the Lord had consecrated in days past. This exact respect for the letter of the law shows how truly they appreciated the real cause of the national calamities. Every disaster since the days of Josiah had come from departing from the way of the Lord. A careless liberalism in worship had begotten a wicked license in the court and home life. It is one sign, therefore, that Judah's captivity was not in vain, that the first inquiry of the people after setting up the new altar was this, "How is it written to worship?" and a better sign, that they conformed to the Divine pattern as scrupulously as if it had come but yesterday from the flaming Mount. Many are the evils suspected of a too rigid adherence to the Divine command. But where has a nation or an individual been ruined by a too scrupulous obedience? Not too much conscience, but too little; not strictness, but license is the national danger. Hence great reforms sweeping over the land always drive the people back to the simpler living, the holier thinking, and the minuter obedience of the fathers. The despised writing of the past is reopened, the neglected pattern of the Mount is clothed with a new authority, and so men returning unto God find God returned to them.

IV. THE WORSHIP OF THE PEOPLE WAS ACCOMPANIED WITH THEIR GIFTS. "They gave money also unto the masons and to the carpenters," and their meat and drink and oil they exchanged for the sacred cedars of Lebanon. Surely, if any people might have found excuse for building on credit, they were these poor colonists, who had their burned cities to revive. They were building, too, for the future. Why should not the future share the cost? But these modern apologies for debt were then unknown. They remembered the story of the first tabernacle, the free-will offerings of their fathers and mothers. Something richer than cedar and brick must compose every true temple of worship. If the heart of the people, their love and devotion, are not built into the rising walls, they go up in vain; captivities are not in vain which thus revive the grace of self-sacrifice.

V. THE HOLY JOY WITH WHICH THEY FINALLY LAY THE FIRST STONE. With that stone an undisciplined people would have gone months before, but not these children of the captivity. There are spiritual foundations lower than the cornerstone of any temple, and these we have seen the people had been seven months in laying and seventy years in learning to lay — unity, reverence, obedience, and self-sacrifice. With a just and well-earned joy, therefore, they might lay on these settled foundations their first visible stone. It was not the joy of pride, for to themselves they took no praise. It was a tuneful joy, for they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks to God. It was a hearty joy, for all the people shouted with a great shout. This holy jubilee marked the break of a new day in the history of Israel. Weeping had endured for a long night of seventy years. This was the joy of the morning, and the happy dawn was all the brighter for the shadows that lay behind it. The joy that follows discipline and is earned by repentance and obedience is perhaps the sweetest joy known to men in this world.

VI. THE HEALTHFUL SORROW AND REGRETS THAT TEMPERED THESE OUTBURSTS OF JOY. Undisciplined joy is sure to be giddy, but the joy of these returning exiles has in its sweet a dash of bitter, which saves it from hurtful excess. Many of the old men of the nation had seen the first house. They could not forget its glory. They remembered also, it may be, the impiety of their own days, and possibly of their own hearts, which hastened the nation's shame. Something of self-reproach must mingle with that regret. The new house bids fair to stand, for it is founded for use. No foolish display taints the plan. A mighty hunger after Jehovah impels them to make Him a dwelling-place in their midst. A Church thus rooted in real spiritual want comes near indeed to the true ideal of a spiritual home. Every attitude of the builders also is a propitiation of Jehovah. He will certainly accept their work, for their union is perfect; their reverence is simple, sincere; their obedience unforced; their self-sacrifice ungrudging. Here are the materials of all acceptable sacrifice. An altar built in this spirit will never want fire.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

1. All at work: "The people gathered themselves together."

2. All working in unison: "As one man." A massed force is a winning force.

3. All working obediently: "As it is written in the law." Christian activity not a sentiment but a duty. "To the law and the testimony."

4. All working unceasingly: "As the duty of every day required. The daily performance of Christian duty leaves no arrears.

(Willis S. Hinman.)

And they set the altar upon his bases
I. IN A NEW HOME THE FIRST THING THEY SHOULD DO WHO FEAR GOD IS TO SET UP AN ALTAR THERE.

II. THE SERVICE OF THOSE WHO ARE OF ONE HEART IS WHAT HE TAKES PLEASURE IN (Acts 2:1; Acts 4:32).

III. THE BEST OF DEFENCES IS THE FAVOUR OF GOD, AND SO AN ALTAR MAY BE A STRONGER BULWARK THAN A FORTRESS.

(E. Day.)

I. UNANIMITY AND ZEAL IN DIVINE WORSHIP.

II. SACRIFICE IN DIVINE WORSHIP. This suggests —

1. Man's need of atonement with God.

2. Man's duty of consecration to God.

III. RESPECT FOR PRECEDENT IN DIVINE WORSHIP. There are memories and associations clinging around certain ancient forms and places hallowed by holy uses which greatly stimulate and enrich the devout heart.

IV. CONFORMITY TO SCRIPTURE IN DIVINE WORSHIP.

V. FEAR OF ENEMIES IN DIVINE WORSHIP.

1. The fear of enemies should not intimidate us from the worship of God.

2. The fear of enemies should impel us to worship God.

VI. REGULARITY IN DIVINE WORSHIP. The offering of the daffy sacrifice suggests —

1. Our daily need of atonement with God.

2. Our daily need of renewed consecration.

3. Our daily need of renewed blessings.

(William Jones.)

Sunday School.
When a British vessel comes to an uninhabited country, or one inhabited only by savages, the captain goes on shore with a boat's crew, and, after landing, he unfurls the Union Jack and takes possession of the whole country in the name of Queen Victoria and his native land. He plants the flagstaff, and no foreign nation dare come and knock it down, or pull down the ensign of the power of Britain. So the priest built first the altar of sacrifice to show that the place was sacred to Jehovah, and that they and all the people were His servants.

(Sunday School.)

They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written
I. IT IS ONLY IGNORANT, SELF-SUFFICIENT PEOPLE WHO DESPISE THE EXPERIENCE OF THE PAST TREASURED UP IN HISTORY.

II. IF WE CANNOT HAVE FOR GOD'S WORSHIP ALL THE EXTERNAL PROPRIETIES WE DESIRE, WE ARE NOT TO WAIT TILL WE CAN GET THEM. III. THE EXTERNALS OF WORSHIP ARE NOTHING TO GOD, EXCEPT SO FAR AS THEY INFLUENCE US OR ARE EXPRESSIVE OF SOMETHING IN US.

(E. Day.)

I. THE COMMEMORATION IN DIVINE. WORSHIP OF NATIONAL EXPERIENCES AND BLESSINGS.

1. It was a memorial of the emancipation of Israel from Egypt, teaching us that we should cherish the memory of former mercies (Leviticus 23. 43).

2. It was a memorial of their life in the wilderness, reminding us that our present condition is that of strangers and pilgrims (Leviticus 23. 40-43; Hebrews 13:14).

3. It was a thanksgiving for rest and a settled abode in the promised land, suggesting the certainty and blessedness of the rest which remains for the people of God (Leviticus 23:40; Revelation 7:9).

4. It was a thanksgiving for the completed harvest, teaching us to receive the precious fruits of the earth as the kind gifts of a bountiful Providence (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:39; Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

II. THE CELEBRATION IN RELIGIOUS WORSHIP OF THE NATURAL DIVISIONS OF TIME. "And of the new moons." What was the design of this religious celebration of "the beginning of their months"?

1. To impress them with the value of time.

2. To assist them to form a correct estimate of their life upon earth.

3. To arouse them to make a wise use of the time which remained to them.

III. THE PRESENTATION IN DIVINE WORSHIP OF PERSONAL VOLUNTARY OFFERINGS.

(William Jones.)

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