Scripture text: Ezra Chapter 4 Preacher: Rev David Sutherland Date: 8 June 2014
This is the fourth of a series of sermons on the theme “Building up the house of God”.
As Ezra Chapter 4 opens, the work of rebuilding the temple had begun, only to run into immediate difficulties. The first obstacle was an offer by the local people (who were not favourably disposed to the return of the exiles) to join with them in the work of rebuilding the temple. Descendants of those who remained in Palestine after the exile to Babylon, and who intermarried with colonists from earlier Assyrian campaigns, these people supposed themselves to be fellow-worshippers of Jehovah. But their beliefs and practices had become so corrupted by other religions that the true believers who had returned from Babylon could not make common cause with them in such a vital spiritual project as the rebuilding of God’s house. Angered by the rejection of their offer, the objectors set about discouraging the building work by threats, by bribing the authorities to hinder it, and finally by influencing the Persian king against the project using a highly libelous letter. As a result the work was temporarily halted for a period of years.
It has been the experience of God’s people down through the ages, and continues to be today, that the work of building the church is constantly hindered. However, the sermon draws attention to a surprising omission from Ezra Chapter 4, which may possibly account for the failure of the exiles to go on with the work. In the entire chapter there is no mention of the people seeking God’s help in prayer. Since it was His will that the temple be rebuilt, would it not be reasonable to assume that His help in carrying it out would have been forthcoming if only the people had asked for it? But it seems they didn’t ask! The sermon then applies this lesson to the present-day church and its need to grow.