Turning Attacks and Discouragement into Victory

Speaker: 
Andrew Fountain
Date: 
Mon, 2019-01-28
  • Whenever we try to draw closer to God, there will be opposition from Satan.
  • In this extraordinary story from the book of Ezra that is exactly what happened.
  • But what is so encouraging for us is the surprising way that God turned defeat into victory.

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Sermon Outline - Turning Attacks and Discouragement into Victory

Goal

  • For us to be encouraged by one of the most amazing stories in Scripture of defeat being turned into victory

Outline

  1. The back-story
  2. Attack and what looks like defeat
  3. Victory

Story of Decline:

  • David
  • Divided Kingdom
  • Destruction
  • Deportation

King David created an empire

King David created an empire

Image source: Wikipedia

King Rehoboam’s stupidity

King Rehoboam's stupidity

Image source: Wikimedia

The worship of Ba’al

The worship of Ba'al

Image source: Wikimedia

Babylonian Siege of Jerusalem

Babylonian Siege of Jerusalem

Image source: Wikimedia

Hosea 11

  1. When Israel was a child, I loved him,
          and out of Egypt I called my son.
  2. But the more I called them,
          the farther they departed from me.
    They sacrificed to the Ba’al idols
          and burned incense to images.
  3. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
          I took them up by their arms,
    but they did not know that I healed them.
  4. I led them with cords of kindness,
          with the bands of love…
  5. My people are obsessed with turning away from me;
          they call to Ba’al, but he will never exalt them!
  6. How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
          How can I hand you over, O Israel?
    How can I make you like Admah?
          How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
    My heart recoils within me;
          my compassion grows warm and tender.
  7. I will not execute my burning anger;
          I will not again destroy Ephraim;
    for I am God and not a man—the Holy One in your midst,
          and I will not come in anger.
  8. They shall follow the LORD;
          he will roar like a lion;
    when he roars,
          his children shall come trembling from the west;
  9. they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
          and like doves from the land of Assyria,
    and I will return them to their homes,
          declares the LORD.

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Jeremiah 31:20–21

  1. Indeed, the people of Israel are my dear children.
          They are my darling children.
    For even though I must often rebuke them,
          I still remember them with fondness.
    Therefore my heart yearns for them
          and will surely have compassion on them.
                I, the LORD, affirm it!

Jeremiah 31:20–21

  1. I will say, “My dear children of Israel, keep in mind
          the road you took when you were carried off.
    Mark off in your minds the landmarks.
          Note telltale signs that mark the way back.
    Return, my dear children of Israel.
          Return to these cities of yours.”

Isaiah 30

  1. For this reason the LORD is ready to show you mercy;
    he sits on his throne, ready to have compassion on you.
    Indeed, the LORD is a just God;
          all who wait for him in faith will be blessed.

The back story part 2

  • What happened was unbelievable

Cyrus the Great of Persia

Cyrus the Great of Persia

Image source: flickr

Ezra 1:1–4

  1. In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the LORD’s message spoken through Jeremiah, the LORD stirred the mind of King Cyrus of Persia. He sent a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom, announcing in a written edict the following:
  2. “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia:
          The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has instructed me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

Ezra 1:1–4

  1. Anyone from his people among you (may his God be with him!) may go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and may build the temple of the LORD God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.
  2. Anyone who survives in any of those places where he is a resident foreigner must be helped by his neighbours with silver, gold, equipment, and animals, along with voluntary offerings for the temple of God which is in Jerusalem.”

Ruins of Lachish

Ruins of Lachish

Image source: Bible Library

Outline

  1. The back-story (in two parts)
  2. Attack and what looks like defeat
  3. Victory

Opposition and attacks

  • Ezra 4: The nations try to stop the work
  • Ezra 5: But the Jews know they are doing God’s work
  • Ezra 6: God’s power is greater than Satan’s

Ezra 4-6

Ezra 4: The nations try to stop the work

  1. When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin learned that the former exiles were building a temple for the LORD God of Israel,
  2. they came to Zerubbabel and the leaders and said to them, “Let us help you build, for like you we seek your God and we have been sacrificing to him from the time of King Esarhaddon of Assyria, who brought us here.”
  3. But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the leaders of Israel said to them, “You have no right to help us build the temple of our God. We will build it by ourselves for the LORD God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.”
  4. Then the local people began to discourage the people of Judah and to dishearten them from building.
  5. They were hiring advisers to oppose them, so as to frustrate their plans, throughout the time of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius of Persia.
  6. At the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus they filed an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.…
  7. (This is a copy of the letter they sent to him:)
  • “To King Artaxerxes, from your servants in Trans-Euphrates:
  1. Now let the king be aware that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and odious city. They are completing its walls and repairing its foundations.
  2. Let the king also be aware that if this city is built and its walls are completed, no more tax, custom, or toll will be paid, and the royal treasury will suffer loss.
  3. In light of the fact that we are loyal to the king, and since it does not seem appropriate to us that the king should sustain damage, we are sending the king this information
  4. so that he may initiate a search of the records of his predecessors and discover in those records that this city is rebellious and injurious to both kings and provinces, producing internal revolts from long ago. It is for this very reason that this city was destroyed.
  5. We therefore are informing the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, you will not retain control of this portion of Trans-Euphrates.”
  1. The king sent the following response:
  1. “To Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and other parts of Trans-Euphrates: Greetings!
  2. The letter you sent to us has been translated and read in my presence.
  3. So I gave orders, and it was determined that this city from long ago has been engaging in insurrection against kings. It has continually engaged in rebellion and revolt.
  4. Now give orders that these men cease their work and that this city not be rebuilt until such time as I so instruct.
  5. Exercise appropriate caution so that there is no negligence in this matter. Why should danger increase to the point that kings sustain damage?”
  1. Then, as soon as the copy of the letter from King Artaxerxes was read in the presence of Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their colleagues, they proceeded promptly to the Jews in Jerusalem and stopped them with threat of armed force.
  2. So the work on the temple of God in Jerusalem came to a halt. It remained halted until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.

Ezra 5: But the Jews know they are doing God’s work

  1. Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.
  2. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
  3. At that time Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their colleagues came to them and asked, “Who gave you authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?”
  4. They also asked them, “What are the names of the men who are building this edifice?”
  5. But God was watching over the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped until a report could be dispatched to Darius and a letter could be sent back concerning this.
  6. This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and his colleagues who were the officials of Trans-Euphrates sent to King Darius.
  7. The report they sent to him was written as follows:
  1. “To King Darius: All greetings!
  2. Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the temple of the great God. It is being built with large stones, and timbers are being placed in the walls. This work is being done with all diligence and is prospering in their hands.
  3. We inquired of those elders, asking them, ‘Who gave you the authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?’
  4. We also inquired of their names in order to inform you, so that we might write the names of the men who were their leaders.
  5. They responded to us in the following way: ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the temple which was previously built many years ago. A great king of Israel built it and completed it.
  6. But after our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he delivered them into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon.
  7. But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, King Cyrus enacted a decree to rebuild this temple of God…
  8. Now if the king is so inclined, let a search be conducted in the royal archives there in Babylon in order to determine whether King Cyrus did in fact issue orders for this temple of God to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us a decision concerning this matter.”

Ezra 6: God’s power is greater than Satan’s

  1. So Darius the king issued orders, and they searched in the archives of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon.
  2. A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana which is in the province of Media, and it was inscribed as follows:
    “Memorandum:
  3. In the first year of his reign, King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety feet,
  4. with three layers of large stones and one layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized by the royal treasury.
  5. Furthermore let the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God, which Nebuchadnezzar brought from the temple in Jerusalem and carried to Babylon, be returned and brought to their proper place in the temple in Jerusalem. Let them be deposited in the temple of God.’
  1. “Now Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials of Trans-Euphrates—all of you stay far away from there!
  2. Leave the work on this temple of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this temple of God in its proper place.
  3. “I also hereby issue orders as to what you are to do with those elders of the Jews in order to rebuild this temple of God. From the royal treasury, from the taxes of Trans-Euphrates the complete costs are to be given to these men, so that there may be no interruption of the work.
  4. Whatever is needed—whether oxen or rams or lambs or burnt offerings for the God of heaven or wheat or salt or wine or oil, as required by the priests who are in Jerusalem—must be given to them daily without any neglect,
  5. so that they may be offering incense to the God of heaven and may be praying for the good fortune of the king and his family.
  6. “I hereby give orders that if anyone changes this directive a beam is to be pulled out from his house and he is to be raised up and impaled on it, and his house is to be reduced to a rubbish heap for this indiscretion.
  7. May God who makes his name to reside there overthrow any king or nation who reaches out to cause such change so as to destroy this temple of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have given orders. Let them be carried out with precision!”
  1. Then Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their colleagues acted accordingly—with precision, just as Darius the king had given instructions.
  2. The elders of the Jews continued building and prospering, while at the same time Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo continued prophesying…
  3. They finished this temple on the third day of the month Adar, which is the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
  4. The people of Israel—the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles—observed the dedication of this temple of God with joy…
  5. They observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with joy, for the LORD had given them joy and had changed the opinion of the king of Assyria toward them, so that he assisted them in the work on the temple of God, the God of Israel.

NET Bible + ESV


Reponse of God’s people

  • We are servants of the God of heaven and earth.
  • We are rebuilding the temple which was previously built many years ago!
  • David build the city, but Jesus is building the new city

Temple rebuilt

Temple rebuilt

Image source: eborg3

Updated on 2019-01-28 by Andrew Fountain