Ezra 6:14
So the Jewish elders built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.
Sermons
The New Temple and its WorshipAlexander MaclarenEzra 6:14
Overthrow and UpbuildingW. Clarkson Ezra 6:12-15
The Successful IssueJ.A. Macdonald Ezra 6:13-15
The Temple FinishedA. Mackennal Ezra 6:14-16
Dedicating the TempleMonday Club SermonsEzra 6:14-22
Dedicating the TempleD. J. Burrell, D. D.Ezra 6:14-22
God Requires Men to WorkEzra 6:14-22
Prophets and BuildersJ. Parker, D. DEzra 6:14-22
The Building of God's TempleGeorge S. Merrian.Ezra 6:14-22
The Dedication of the Second TempleC. Clemance, D. D.Ezra 6:14-22
The Dedication of the Temple was Characterised ByWilliam Jones.Ezra 6:14-22
The Erection of ChurchHomilistEzra 6:14-22
The Joy of Dedicating a House for the LordG. B. Brand.Ezra 6:14-22
The Second TempleE. B. Mason.Ezra 6:14-22
The True Pulpit the Best Promoter of Honest IndustryHomilistEzra 6:14-22


The building of the temple was finished in about four years after the work was resumed. This was a short time for a work so vast, when compared with the resources of the Jews. It was carried through without intermission; the zeal of the people was not suffered to become languid through delay. The fact illustrates both the propitious character of external circumstances and the wisdom of the Jewish leaders. When the building was completed it was dedicated, and the worship of the LORD was re-established with solemnity and with joy. Here arc two themes, distinct and yet united - first, the rebuilding of the temple; and secondly, its dedication.

I. THE REBUILDING. The accession of Darius appeared to Haggai and Zechariah the sign that the Lord had again visited his people. The last monarch had been a Magian, "opposed to belief in a personal God," and "not approving of temples." Darius was in sympathy with the work of Cyrus, having faith in the God of heaven, and regarding the Jewish nation with special favour (vers. 10, 12). Darius was the great organiser of the Persian kingdom. He made each province feel itself under the protection of the central authority, and by his system of "posts" brought each province into immediate communication with himself. A strong central authority is the best protection against the tyranny of provincial governments, with their petty jealousies and miserable intrigues. Modern as well as ancient Oriental history illustrates how heavily anarchy may press on a people like the Jews, too steadfast in religious convictions to join in prevailing heathenism and immorality, too feeble to enforce their claims. The change in the method of administration of which general history informs us is indicated in the sacred history (cf. the title "governor" given to Tatnai, Ezra 5:3, with the titles "chancellor" and "scribe" given to Rehum and Shimshai, Ezra 4:9). Tatnai's personal character, moreover, appears in favourable contrast with the characters of the "adversaries of Judah and Benjamin" whose letter is recorded Ezra 4:7-16. He writes no "accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem;" he simply reports the case for the decision of Darius (Ezra 5:6-17). Nor is his a one-sided report; fairly enough he states the pleading of the elders, referring definitely to the decree of Cyrus under which they acted, and asks that search may be made for it. And when the answer of Darius comes to him, he loyally endeavours to fulfil it. Tatnai's doing, and doing speedily, "according to that which Darius the king had sent," is mentioned in connection with the "prospering" of the elders of the Jews. The wisdom of the leaders of the Jews is seen in their hurrying forward the work. The zeal of the people might flag; changes might occur in the monarchy; they must take advantage of the favouring circumstances. The work was a great one; not all was accomplished when the temple walls were built; the mention of Artaxerxes in conjunction with Cyrus and Darius shows that they were in the middle, not at the end, of their labours. But this at least they could do - make sure their steps as they proceeded; the temple once erected was not destroyed;it stood a point of vantage for the carrying out of further projects. Their wisdom appears again in their refusal to relax their efforts while the appeal to Darius was being made (Ezra 5:5). They knew the character of Tatnai; they acted in confidence either that he would not desire or would not venture on his own authority to disallow their appeal to the decree of Cyrus. Their boldness was the truest prudence; it would keep up the hearts of their own people; it would overawe the "adversaries." The basis of their wisdom was piety; they knew that "the eye of their God was upon them." They not only confided in the general providence of God; the prophets Haggai and Zechariah urged the Jews to remember his special commission to them: he had brought them back. from captivity to do this work; his blessing would crown their fidelity with success; his curse would fall on their negligence. Haggai spoke to the people, pledging the fidelity of the Lord to them (Haggai 2:10-19). Zechariah appealed to the sense of Divine inspiration in Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6-10), and strengthened Jeshua the high priest by lofty assertions that he and his purpose and his trials were near the heart of God (Zechariah 3.). Special tokens of the Divine favour encouraged the people in their labour. The closing Psalms of the Psalter are assigned to this period of Jewish history; Psalm 146-148, are entitled in the Septuagint version "of Haggai and Zechariah;" and they speak of deliverance out of trouble, and prosperity after distress. Haggai's pledge on behalf of God was fulfilled: for drought they had flowing waters; instead of fruitless labour they had "food for the hungry," and "the finest of the wheat" (cf. Psalm 146:5-10; Psalm 147:3, 8, 13-20, with Haggai, passim). In almost all great histories of deliverance and progress these two elements are found united - favouring circumstance and human character. One-sidedness must be avoided in our interpretation of history. It is not wise to overlook the force of propitious events; we break human hearts if we teach that everything depends on our own fidelity, our own skill; not only so, we thus obscure men's faith in the providence of God. On the other hand, no times are propitious to those who are not ready to serve God. God's providence does not supersede our service, nor render needless his choicest gift of men. Inability to read "the signs of the times" is declared by Christ to be a mark of insincerity (Luke 12:54-57); the highest service man can render man is to be an "interpreter" of God's purpose, a prophet calling for the fulfilment of God's will.

II. THE DEDICATION. The festival of the dedication contrasts strikingly with Solomon's festival. "The holy of holies was empty. The ark, the cherubim, the tables of stone, the pot of manna, the rod of Aaron were gone. The golden shields had vanished. Even the high priest, though he had recovered his official dress, had not been able to resume the breastplate with the oracular stones." (Cf. 1 Kings 8. and 2 Chronicles 6. with Ezra 6:17, and Psalm 136, with Psalm 146 150) It is the contrast of youth, flushed with prosperity and of an exultant tone of piety, with experienced and saddened manhood. The barbaric munificence of Solomon's offering, 22,000 bullocks and 120,000 sheep, contrasts also with the 100 bullocks, 200 rams, and 400 lambs of the second sacrifice. But one touch of pathos appears here wanting in the first - the offering of twelve he-goats, a sin offering for each of the tribes. The sin offering, for sins of ignorance and negligence, was a confession that all had been heedless; they knew not, with all they had learnt, the full extent of their remissness, they felt "the sin that mingled with their holy things." We are touched by the record; the appeal went to the heart of God. "Thou desirest not sacrifice." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit." With the dedication was associated the first passover, about a month after. The true consecration of a house of prayer is not the august ceremonial which attends its opening, but the habitual service offered in it. Note the carefulness to follow the law which is characteristic of this period (vers. 18-20). Negligence had been their undoing; the sin offering confessed that; but the true repentance is amendment of the evil habit. There was a forward look in this arrangement of the priests and Levites; it was provision for a long future of Divine service. And with this was combined hope for the ingathering of all the nation. All the tribes, the children of the captivity, the children of the dispersion, and the undistinguished remnant left behind by the king of Assyria were regarded as one. Their hearts - like that of Paul (Romans 9 - 11.) - could not endure the thought of losing any. The family is not complete until all are gathered; humbler members, its very prodigals, as well as the virtuous and the prosperous. A nation, a Church, includes the weakly and the "less comely" members as well as those which are honourable. Among those who "had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land to seek the Lord God of Israel" may have been heathen proselytes. The "court of the Gentiles" appears for the first time in the temple of Zerubbabel. The true separation, it was recognised with increasing clearness, was separation from the sins of heathenism, not national exclusiveness. The joyousness of the festival is twice noticed (vers. 16, 22). It is remarkable how much is said of joy in the Divine service in these books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Perhaps we are never fully conscious of joy till we have been sobered by sorrow. And it is a religious duty to encourage hope and gladness in the depressed. We must learn how to treat the various experiences with which we have to deal; not only weeping with them that weep, but doing all we can to win them to smiles. Elevating influences are most needed by the depressed. It was to slaves Paul told Titus to speak of "adorning, making beautiful, the doctrine of God our Saviour." To the prosperous we may speak of sobriety; we may remind him who lives many years, and rejoices in them all, of the "days of darkness," which shall be many. But those who have seen affliction, and who have arduous labour and adverse times before them, require that their religious services should be made as joyous and as bright as possible. - M.









And they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai.
Homilist.
It —

I. QUICKENS THE POWER OF THOUGHT. He quickens public thought most who presents the most startling subjects with the highest enthusiasm. The true pulpit does this. The subjects it presents are the most vital to man's interests, the most stimulating to his inquiry. They involve the sublimest facts of nature and the grandest truths of inspiration, the highest interests of man now and for ever. Hence there is no power equal to the power of the true pulpit to break the monotony of mind and set the wheels of intellect ageing. This being so, the attendant on a true ministry will be —

1. The more qualified to form a good plan of action.

2. The more practical sagacity he will have to adapt means to ends.

3. The more solicitous he will be to execute his plan.

II. SUPPLIES THE TIMID WITH MOTIVE FOR ACTION. The man who has been made thoughtful by the power of the pulpit is made to feel that the more successful he is in his business —

1. The more useful he is as a citizen.

2. The more useful as a religionist.

(Homilist.)

The prophet and the builder must always go hand in hand. It is noticeable that the builder seldom or never goes first, but invariably succeeds the intelligent and ardent speaker. This is only another way of saying that thought precedes action. When men think deeply they are preparing the way for laying massive foundations by persons who could not themselves have entered into such intellectual strife. The one must not despise the other. Haggai built nothing, nor did Zechariah probably lay stone upon stone; on the other hand, Zerubbabel may not have been a man of active thought, and Jeshua may not have been gifted with eloquence; but they all worked together — the first man, seeing the truth of God and feeling the burden of the zeal of heaven, excited the sentiment of the two, that they might proceed to give practical and visible effect to the noble prophecies dictated by the Spirit. It is in vain for hearers to complain of preachers when they themselves are not prepared to carry out the word of the Lord.

(J. Parker, D. D)

God puts the oak in the forest, and the pine on its sand and rock, and says to men, "There are your houses, go hew, saw, frame, build, make." God builds the trees; men must build the house. God supplies the timber; men must construct the ship. God buries the iron in the heart of the earth; men must dig it, and smelt it, and fashion it. Clay and rock are given us, not brick and square stones. What is useful for the body, and, still more, what is useful for the mind, is to be had only by exertion — exertion that will work men more than iron is wrought, and will shape men more than timber is shaped. Again, in the spiritual world God requires men to work. He gives them certain things, and then says, "Go, work." He requires them to work in building up His spiritual temple as much as He required the Jews, in days of old, to work in building up His earthly temple.

Men are like workmen set each by the architect upon some single bit of carving. One has given him to fashion a fragment where incompleteness breaks a promise of beauty. Another has set him only level lines and surfaces of blank monotony. To one it falls to carve a head without a body; to another, a lovely face; to many, patterns seemingly of little grace or meaning. But the task of each demands long labour and utmost care. At last the various blocks are put together, and, lo! there rises a glorious cathedral, filling eye and heart with its majesty and loveliness, destined to draw to it and shelter within itself one generation after another of devout worshippers. So, the temple of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, is building through the ages. Whoever, in high place or in low, is living the life of fidelity and love, is carving a stone for the fabric.

(George S. Merrian.)

Homilist.
There is no book that throws more light upon the obligation of building temples for God, and the spirit that should ever inspire it, than that of Ezra.

I. IN BUILDING A CHRISTIAN TEMPLE WE EXPRESS OUR FELT CONNECTION WITH THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. All building may be regarded as the expression of some sentiment, instinct, or wish of human nature. Markets, senate-houses, theatres, hotels, have all risen as the effects, embodiments, and realisations of some principle in our common nature. But these are all for our material wants and interests. In building a house for God we declare that we have other relations than those that connect us with this material system, other wants than those of the body, other interests than the secular and the physical. We thus attest our connection with the spiritual universe, our relation to eternity, our moral obligation to the Infinite, our desire for communion with God.

II. IN BUILDING A CHRISTIAN TEMPLE WE EXPRESS THE IDEA THAT WE REQUIRE SPECIAL MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD. In the temple of nature God is portrayed in every object and proclaimed in every sound. But we feel that some other manifestation is required. In nature we can only see Him as the Almighty Creator and Absolute Sovereign; we want Him to appear in another relationship, one more suited to our fallen condition; we want Him to appear to us a redeeming God — one mighty to save. Had we not sinned we should need no such manifestations of God as we seek in the erection of temples. The temple of nature would suffice. There is no temple in heaven; God is seen in all, loved in all, worshipped in all.

III. IN BUILDING A CHRISTIAN TEMPLE WE ATTEST OUR FAITH IN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

1. As a revelation from God intended and adapted to meet the condition of sinners.

2. As necessary to all men, through all times. We feel that while coming generations may not require our systems of philosophy, our ecclesiastical polities, our schemes of government, our codes of laws, they will require the gospel; and hence we rear a temple for its proclamation.

IV. IN BUILDING A CHRISTIAN TEMPLE WE EXPRESS OUR PHILANTHROPY. We are not building merely for ourselves, but for others; not even for our contemporaries, but for posterity. A Christian temple true to its mission is the greatest blessing to society. There the most soul-elevating ideas are proclaimed. Of all ideas to which men are subject none are so important as the religious. Other ideas will arouse certain faculties — some the intellect, some the imagination, some the emotions — but this the entire man. Other ideas act upon human nature as the rays of winter upon the soil; under its influence only a few germs will be evolved and a few plants will grow; but this, like the glowing beams of the vernal sun, will penetrate the deepest depths with its quickening energy, cause every seed-bud to burst into life and expand into fruitfulness. The mystic rod of Moses was not so mighty as the instrument the religious teacher wields. He lives nearest the heart of the world; he is up at the head springs, out of which proceed the issues of life. True religious ideas wherever proclaimed are the chief blessings of the world. In Christian temples such ideas are brought to bear with all their force upon the human mind; by them men are made to feel their obligations to be truthful, virtuous, benevolent, and Godlike; evil is subdued, hearts are changed, and souls are saved by these ideas. Christian temples are to society what tides are to the ocean, what the winds are to the atmosphere; they stir the mass and keep it pure.

V. IN BUILDING A CHRISTIAN TEMPLE WE EXPRESS THE IDEA THAT PUBLIC WORSHIP IS TO BE PERPETUATED BY HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY. We have reason to thank God that He has left such work as the building of temples to us. Had the necessaries of life sprung from the earth, so as to require no labour, the physical energies of man would never have been developed. Had knowledge come into our mind without the exercise of our faculties, we should never have known anything of intellectual force. In like manner, had everything in religion been done for us, so that no demand would have been made upon our benevolent sympathies, we should have been beings of morbid religious sentiment, and without any force or greatness of character.

(Homilist.)

From this subject we learn —

1. That man in this world needs a sanctuary, in which he may call on the name of the Lord his God. We are closely bound to the material globe, and the holiest affections. The most spiritual exercises naturally cling round some sacred spot where we have been accustomed to meet with God and with His people. Speaking of an old village church, Washington Irving says, "For my part, there are feelings that visit me in a country church, amid the beautiful serenity of nature, which I experience nowhere else; and, if not a more religious, I think I am a better man on Sunday than on any other day of the seven." This principle lies deep in human nature. Among the most sacred memories of life are the childhood recollections which carry us back to the old familiar church, which then seemed so grand and impressive, where with father and mother we reverently worshipped God.

2. We learn that toil and sacrifice enter into the building of these sanctuaries. God does not ask for that which costs us nothing. Sacrifice may not be needed by Him, but it is necessary for us, and without it human nature cannot attain its highest and best.

3. We learn not to neglect the sanctuary.

(E. B. Mason.)

Kept the dedication of this house of God with Joy
Monday Club Sermons.
I. THE BUILDING OF GOD'S HOUSE WAS CARRIED ON IN FACE OF OBSTACLES. Every important work has its hindrances. No great results have been achieved without meeting obstacles. But men have always been found qualified for the hard tasks. A clear brain, boundless energy, and unflinching will are hidden away in the right man, ready to be revealed at the right time. The tremendous barriers that stand before the waiting and needed reform chill the courage of the many, while they also arouse the energy and provoke the will of the true leader. Haggai had counted the cost, and knew exactly what he had to contend against. There was the cry of procrastination. "The time is not come — the time that the Lord's house should be built." "The time is not ripe" is a phrase that might often be interpreted to mean, "the people are not ready." When any reform is pressing, you hear a clamour for delay. There are some who take counsel of their fears rather than of their faith. When Lincoln read his Proclamation of Emancipation to Seward, the Secretary of State counselled delay, until at last the President took the matter into his own hands and sent the message of liberty ringing through the land. Haggai understood the reason for delay, the people were filled with self-love and desire for display.

II. THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE HAD A MORAL AND SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE ON THE PEOPLE. At the dedication they offered a sin offering of "twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel." When once the temple was furnished, and the people saw all the appointments complete and an altar standing before them and in use, their sense of sin was aroused. The first sacrifice on that new altar was for their sins. With their new house they began a new life. The house of God in a community stands for a spiritual idea. The school-house and college stand for the intellectual needs of man. The moral and spiritual side finds its exponent in the church. These silent memorials of God's grace compel us for a moment to think of duty and the hereafter, and they are suggestive of the rest that "remaineth." A reverential soul can worship God anywhere, but a house dedicated to Him is an aid to such worship. While there we are released for the time from the distracting sights and sounds of outside life, and under the singing of hymns and the uplifting influence of prayer the mind becomes calmed for the consideration of truth.

III. THE HOUSE OF GOD IS THE HOME OF JOY. The Oriental expressed his feelings in most demonstrative ways. He shouted, clapped his hands, and danced when happy, and these extravagances were carried into his religious worship. Worship with the Jew was a natural channel for the display of feeling, while the Occidental suppresses his emotion in worship. We need more naturalness in the house of God. We come before God to express ourselves, not to suppress ourselves. The very truth proclaimed in God's house is fitted to produce the liveliest emotions. Mankind ought to be induced to come to the house of God because of the abundance of peace to be found there. The view of God should be the one fitted to draw all hearts to Him. A young man, homeless and lonely, wandered through the streets of one of our cities. He could get no work, and had had no food for some time. Despair had seized his soul, and in that frame of mind he entered a church and dropped into a back seat. The sermon was being delivered, and it presented such a view of God and emphasised certain elements of truth that it deepened his despair, and he rushed from the church and threw himself into the river. This ought not to have been. There are stem truths in the gospel, yet to give them undue prominence, and make them overshadow the obvious intent of the gospel is to deprive it of its essential quality of hopefulness. The house of God stands for the best and brightest and cheeriest in human life.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

We are here advised as to the accessories by which the builders of the temple were enabled to succeed.

I. GOD WAS WITH THEM. All along He had been predisposed in their behalf. We also are exhorted to work out our own salvation because it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do.

II. GOD WAS PLEASED TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEM THROUGH HIS ORDAINED SERVANTS. Haggai was an old man whose strength lay largely in admonition. Zechariah was younger, more inclined to the dreaming of hopeful dreams and the seeing of bright visions.

III. THEY WERE ENCOURAGED BY THE FAVOURABLE ATTITUDE OF TEMPORAL PRINCES. The dedication took place in the month Adar, "the month of splendour," so called because of the brightness of its suns and the beauty of its flowers.

1. A hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs were offered in sacrifice; "and for a sin offering, twelve he goats for all Israel." There is something pathetic in the mention of these he goats. Ten of the twelve tribes, having out themselves loose from their brethren, had little or no part in the building of this temple, but they were remembered, and a place in the sin offering was Sacredly reserved for them. It was as when mothers set vacant chairs for their absent, wayward sons on thanksgiving day. Whatever might happen, the religious unity of Israel must be preserved. In like manner the Church of Christ, however parted asunder by the controversies of the past, should be at one in the work of the kingdom and in the rejoicings of the triumph of Christ.

2. At this dedication the ancient order of service was restored. The assignments of the priests and Levites date back to the time of Moses (Numbers 3:6-10). It does not follow that because a custom is old it is obsolete. Prayer is as old as human want, like the air we breathe, and time can make no improvement upon it. It should be observed that the Feast of Passover was among the venerable customs which were revived at this dedication. It was a foreshadowing of the atonement of Christ, without which all other pomp and circumstance of service are a dumb show.

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

I. WE OBSERVE IN GENERAL THAT THE JOY WITH WHICH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, ETC. KEPT THE DEDICATION OF THE HOUSE OF GOD AROSE —

1. Because of the consideration of its being now completely finished.

2. Of their regarding it as a token of God for good, a demonstration at once of His faithfulness and favour towards them and of the delightful prospect which it held out to them of their enjoying with comfort and with advantage the public ordinances of religion.

II. BUT MORE PARTICULARLY THIS JOY AROSE —

1. From the consideration of their having been honoured and enabled to build a house to the Lord their God.

2. From the consideration of its being a means of promoting the glory of God.

3. From its being a means of securing the observance and extending the benefits of religious ordinances to future and succeeding generations.

(G. B. Brand.)

I. THE OCCASION WAS ONE OF JOY. Hebrew and Christian worship are joyful, because believers worship a revealed God of salvation. Heathen worship is a straining or groping of man after God (1 Kings 18:26-29).

II. THE SERVICE WAS ONE FOR WHICH ALL WHO HAD TO TAKE PART IN IT HAD PREVIOUSLY PURIFIED THEMSELVES.

III. THERE WERE BURNT OFFERINGS AS A TOKEN OF THE CONSECRATION OF THE PEOPLE HEART AND SOUL AFRESH TO GOD.

IV. THERE WERE SIN OFFERINGS. In Divine worship there should always be a recognition of sin, and of Christ's having "put away sin" by the sacrifice of Himself.

V. THERE WAS THE OBSERVANCE OF THE PASSOVER. They loved God because God loved them; this is the order now, and we cannot reverse it (1 John 4:19).

VI. THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD WAS KEPT JOYFULLY FOR SEVEN DAYS.

1. In token of national unity and fellowship.

2. In token of their desire to cultivate purity.

VII. The new national life thus inaugurated had far less of pomp and show about it than were seen in the days of Solomon. But there was more of spiritual power (Haggai 2:9).

(C. Clemance, D. D.)

I. RELIGIOUS REJOICING. The reasons for this were —

1. Protracted labours brought to a close.

2. The honour offered to Jehovah their God.

3. The benefits which were likely to accrue to men through their sacred edifice and its worship.

II. DEVOUT GRATITUDE.

III. DEEP HUMILITY.

IV. APPROPRIATE ARRANGEMENTS FOR ITS FUTURE USE.

(William Jones.)

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