Home » Various Sermons » Ezra 3.1-13 Return of Correct Worship

Ezra 3.1-13 Return of Correct Worship

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord.” – 1-5 The Rebuilding of the Altar and worship

3.1 There has now been a gap of time, between the return and the beginning of this chapter, although Ezra does not list a specific date.[2] It was likely during this gap that the people focused on rebuilding their homes and clearing away rubble of all sort.[3]

Only, it is now the seventh month. (Most scholars, think it is within the first year of the Exile’s return that this happened, roughly 537 BC).[4] The seventh month, called Tisri, fell around the time of October, and was considered “the most sacred of all the months.”[5] The month began with a “holy convocation” that is gathering, and on the tenth the Day of Atonement was celebrated and from the 15th through the 22nd, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths was celebrated.[6] It would certainly have been a month which would have pushed the people’s thoughts toward worshipping.

By this point, the people have indeed begun to the inhabit the various towns of the of the land and not simply Jerusalem, their moving in, like the rebuilding of the temple, would not have endeared them to their neighbors, thus, leaving their homes was an act of faith.[7]

At the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, the people decided to come together to worship it in Jerusalem.[8] One should perhaps wonder, how often, if ever, were such things practiced in the Exile.[9] Finally, there was a certain sense of unity among the people, once they had reached Jerusalem, this unity would have been needed on the return, would be needed in future problems.[10]

3.2 Jeshua and Zerubbable, both stand up together to speak to the people, here we have the religious and secular leaders of the land coming together to set an example.[11] The first leader to stand up is Jeshua, the son of Jozadak. Jeshua, as noted previous is the same name as Joshua and Jesus, moreover that Jeshua was the high priest.[12] Jeshua’s act here in helping to build the altar pointed him as a man who was faithful, ready, and fearless; for he stood up ready and on faith built the altar despite what may come.[13]

It is likely that a makeshift altar had been built, but the people knew that they must have one according to the direction given by Moses.[14] They have to build the altar, sometimes, worship does not come easy to a congregation and some digging and building is needed to get things rolling.[15]

What is done is done in accordance with the Law, the word of God. As Ironside wrote, “There was no thought of substituting human expediency foe what God had spoke through Moses in the distant past. No one was called on for ideas or suggestions as to the most suitable way to act in these their adverse circumstances…. They simply searched the Scriptures, and when “they had found it written,” that was the end of controversy.”[16]

3.3 The altar is built on the foundation, that is, the foundations of Solomon’s temple, and it is likely they had to destroyed an old altar (cf. Jeremiah 41.5), to build this new one.[17] This in itself, might have caused some controversy among the other peoples of the land.[18] Their desire to worship and honor God was mixed with fear, fear of their various enemies that surrounded them, who had a long and sordid history with them and who would stall several projects.[19]

This rebuild altar, brought with a restoration to the sacrificial system begun under the law of Moses, and so the morning and evening sacrifices are mentioned once again.[20]

3.4 As in the building of the altar, here, the people strove to follow God in their worship of scared festivals, according to the commands he had given, as in everything “they worshiped according to the Word.”[21] Following all of this, the Feast of the Tabernacles took place.

3.5 The people are willing to offer to the Lord, not only the required sacrifices, but also a freewill; in worship we ought to be men and women who are willing to worship, and willing to serve God, to not just do it because have told, but instead to do have a desire, out of “devotion, interest, and affection.”[22]

Comment – The people here, show a willingness to worship, beginning with a work it took to return to Jerusalem and the work it took to replace and create an altar in the way in which Moses had directed the people. Moreover, the people’s desire and willingness to worship is tempered by the word of God, the way in which he had directed the sacrificial system. We need to men and women who come to church with a willingness to worship.

A desire to sing the praises to God for the various things he has done. Not ot just be here, because of some obligation, because we have to be here, but instead to see the many reasons that we have to come and worship God. To worship him through song, through the scripture, with lessons and sermons, through prayer and all the other manners in which we can worship God. To seek him with a heart directed toward him and not see this as merely some routine.

“From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia.  Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers.” – 6-9 Desire to build the temple

3.6 Verse six, clearly indicates that all the sacrifices began with the setting up of the altar on the first of the month and later the Feast’s sacrifices took place, all of which was done according to God’s commands.[23] But, and the writer is points this out, that despite all of this stuff, the temple does not yet exist.[24]

Despite having done some initial steps, the temple’s foundations had not been laid, moreover it had been a number of months since they had returned, and no work had been done on the temple.[25] It was during this delay that the part of the ministry of Haggai took place. The people, here, like many, had a desire to finish first their own problems and left spiritual matters in a secondary place.

3.7 Despite, the neglect in building the temple, when it came to donating, the people quickly did their part, and gathered was needed. [26] The wood came from Lebanon, which produced a better wood, being more arable land.[27]

3.8 The building began in the second month of the second year, the second moth, Iyyar (April-May) was the perfect month for building, no festivals of importance were held it, it was the start of a dry season and after a major harvest.[28] Zerubabbel and Jeshua are mentioned once again as a major part of the building, (Sheshbazar, who surely had some part in it, was likely minor, perhaps due to this age?).[29] They look to those who were twenty and older and so at age that could take responsibility.[30]

3.9 After everything is gathered and then the people are organized, then the work begins and so the foundation is begun.[31]

Comment – The people’s willingness to worship is here directed at getting ready the temple, through giving and organization of work. Sometimes, in worship, it is something that does not come as easily as it ought to. That instead of jumping up ready to worship, we as a congregation lag a little bit. We find ourselves looking toward other matters at first, like the people looking toward houses, instead of doing what we should, like the people should have built the temple.

At other times, a desire to worship is needed to be paired with an understanding of worship, the reason for it, methods used in it. As the people here had a desire, but needed to get the temple created, for the right method as ascribed in the Law Moses had told them to do. As Jeshua and Zerubbable had led this whole proceeding, it is the job the leaders of the Church to help the Congregation move toward the right methods of the worship, to gain the right desire to worship.

If there is a person who is asking why he or she should worship, or what it means, and the ways it can be done, we need to get a foundation ready for them. To say, all right, this is what the Word of God says and this is how it can be translated into your lives. To let them understand and therefore sing praises to God with a more willing heart.

“And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”  And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” – 10-13 Rebuilding of the Temple

3.10-11 The foundation, having been laid, the people turn to celebration, which is led by the priest and Levites.[32] The descendents of Asaph, form a part of the musicians who helped with the praising. Two song types were employed at this time, songs of praise, and songs of thanksgiving.[33] Besides these two songs, there was also loud shouting of praises to Yahweh.[34]

3.12 At looking at this foundation, despite the praise of many, those who had seen Solomon’s temple before its destruction, cannot help but weep, for what was built now did not compare to the previous temple.[35] The Jewish Talmud points to some missing things, the Ark of the Covenant, the Sacred Fire, the Shekinah – The Glory of God, Urim and Thumim.[36] Nevertheless, Zechariah wuold tell the people to “not dspie the day of small things.” (Zechariah 4.8-10)[37] Likely the older people could see simply from the different stones of the foundation how much smaller this temple would be, for Solomon would have used large stones, but here they were small.[38]

The weeping of the older people, is drowned out, however, by the joy and praising of the younger, and outsiders could not tell the difference between the two.[39]

Comment – The people react to different ways to the temple, some see only joy at what the foundation being laid and are happy that the work had begun correctly. Others, like the old men, know that the temple is not going to be what it was. To the outside world, what is heard is only noise directed toward God. Neither understanding the various reaction, nor caring.

When we as a body of believers come together, we come with differetn reasons, on different days, to worship our lord and king. With some it may be that we can find all the reasons to be filled with joy and happiness and as we sing it can be seen easily. For others, life might be a little hard now and we come to God with the cares of the world on our shoulder and as we pick the verses close to our hearts they come from passages in the Bible that seem to share the same story.

And there might in all this be a mix between these two extremes. In whatever the case, what is important is that we are coming before, ready to worship. That we say that in spite of because of, I am here, ready to worship the reason behind all of it. That we do not shy away from this awesome privilege we have to worship, but that we come toward with all willingness.


[1] Fensham, 58.

[2] Ironside, 22.

[3] Barber, 18.

[4] Fensham, 59.

[5] Butler, 19.

[6] Butler, 19.

[7] Butler, 19.

[8] Barber, 19.

[9] Barber, 19.

[10] Butler, 20.

[11] Barber, 20.

[12] Butler, 20.

[13] Butler, 20.

[14] Fensham, 59.

[15] Butler, 21.

[16] Ironside, 22-23.

[17] Fensham, 59.

[18] Fensham, 59.

[19] Barber, 20.

[20] Fensham, 60.

[21] Butler, 22.

[22] Butler, 22.

[23] Fensham, 60.

[24] Fensham, 60.

[25] Butler, 23.

[26] Butler, 23.

[27] Fenshame, 62.

[28] Fensham, 63.

[29] Fensham, 63.

[30] Fensham, 63-64.

[31] Butler, 23-24.

[32] Fensham, 64.

[33] Fensham, 64.

[34] Fensham, 64.

[35] Butler, 25.

[36] Barber, 24.

[37] Barber, 24.

[38] Fensham, 65.

[39] Fensham, 65.


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