Old Testament: Ezra 3:1-4:23
Ezra 3:1-4:23 Attacked!
It’s a shame that it takes a disaster to wake God’s people up to do what they should. After our one hundred thirty year-old church building burnt down (I had recently warned them to install better security), everyone was happy to get back to worshipping together in our own building. The very first business meeting in the new building though, a group was assembled to oust me as pastor after I had brought them through the trauma of the burning and the rebuilding process. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I survived. I think Ezra and Nehemiah endured similar attacks. Satan never wants to waste a good opportunity. As we shall see, the revival that occurred stirred up opposition.
When the people had moved back into their towns, they came to Jerusalem in unity (v. 3). They began to celebrate all the feasts that had been neglected without even waiting till the entire edifice had been erected. They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles which speaks of Christ’s millennial reign. The first day of the seventh month was coincidentally the day of the Feast of Trumpets (v. 2, cf. Num. 29:1-6) celebrating the Israelites coming back into the land in the end times. What a coinkydink.
The Day of Atonement was celebrated on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 6, Lev. 23:26-32). The burnt offerings symbolized Christ. The people were, in essence, coming back to Christ.
Notice, as always, the revival began with a return to God’s Word. The elders who remembered the first Temple (v. 12), presumably were upset at seeing the new Temple. But others (v. 12b), presumably, the younger people were ecstatic. Some commentators use this to call for older Christians to be more tolerant of contemporary worship. However, “contemporary” is not the problem. I would love to preach sometime with Petra as the worship band. That would be fine with me. The problem is the newer music that has such insipid and vapid lyrics (look them up! that’s what dictionary.com is for!). I don’t care how loud it is!
Next comes the opposition from Satan. Enemies of Judah and Benjamin offered their “help” in re-building the Temple. With “friends” like those, you don’t need the Enemy.
Zerubbabel, who headed up the re-building, said in essence, “Uh, . . . that’s OK. We’re good.” Their enemies then bribed government officials to harass the Jews during the entire reigns of Cyrus and Dairus, kings of Persia (v. 5).
The enemies wrote a letter to the new king, Xerxes, warning him that if the re-building project succeeded that the Jews would not pay taxes to him. Further the letter they sent to the king accused the Jews of “sedition” and rebellion (v. 15) which is why the city had been destroyed in the first place. As a result of the letter, the king commanded the rebuilding to stop (v. 23).
New Testament: 1 Cor. 2:6-3:4
1 Cor. 2:6-3:4 The Third Man
Paul begins by quoting Isaiah 64:4 to show that it is not with the eye or ear that God shows believers all that God has for them. He proceeds to explain one of the one more important aspects of the Christian life.
Paul tells us that when we were saved (cf. Rom. 8:9) we received the Holy Spirit so that God can communicate to us better. Of course, we receive the things of God through the Word but the Holy Spirit also helps us (“Illumination” is the name of the doctrine whereby the Holy Spirit helps explain the Word to us, cf. 1 John 2:27).
Paul explains that there are three kinds of people.
First, there are natural people (v. 14). They do not “accept the things of the Spirit” (v. 14) because they do not have the Holy Spirit and spiritual things have to be “spiritually appraised” (v. 14).
Secondly, there are “men of the flesh” (1 Cor. 3:3b). The King James renders them “carnal” which means “fleshly” so the theological term has stuck, “carnal.” They are saved but they are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit. They are not spiritual people. In fact, and this is very important, they are acting as if they are unsaved! They are acting just like the world and not constantly checking in with God through the Spirit.
Thirdly, there are saved people that are spiritually sensitive. Paul refers to them as “spiritual men” (v. 3a). Paul expects all Christians to be “spiritual” but he recognizes that they are not. That is why he is exhorting them to be “spiritual.”
Paul makes a very important point. Of course, there is a difference between being saved or not. But within the category of saved, it is possible to be sensitive to the Spirit and thus understand the Word (see “illumination” above) or be spiritual and understand the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 2:12). Interpretation of the word is not according to personal whim or desire (2 Pet. 1:20-21). One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to show us the right interpretation of Scripture.
The reason Paul is explaining all this to the Corinthians is to try to get them on the same page in the church. They are divided, following different leaders, Paul, Apollos, etc. Paul is telling them that when they are divided like that, they are acting like “carnal” or “fleshly” Christians (“mere men,” v. 3).
Paul wants to feed them “solid food,” the deeper things of the Word, but they weren’t ready. Peter tells new Christians that they need to feed on the “milk” of the Word. Paul expects Christians to move on. There is so much to learn in God’s Word! Let’s get with it!