With All Who Had Separated Themselves

Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together (the Passover) with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel (Ezra 6:21).

Imagine how awesome and exciting it must have been for the Jewish exiles to come home to Jerusalem from captivity! Even more so, now the temple has been rebuilt, and they are keeping the Passover feast. What a joyous time of celebration. The Passover feast was a memorial feast that served as a reminder of how God delivered them from Egyptian bondage.

Please take note in the above passage, it was not just the Jews who ate the Passover. There were apparently Gentiles who became proselytes to the Jewish faith and sought the God of Israel. They “separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel.” If you think about it, that is such an encouraging and powerful statement. These Gentiles left their pagan ways, they saw their ways as “filth” and wanted to get as far away from it as possible. They repented. God became first in their lives. If you go back to Moses’ law, it also required that the Gentile males had to be circumcised before keeping the Passover (Exodus 12:47-49). Now they are eating “together” with the Jews in this feast.

This is like the book of Ephesians. Jews and Gentiles both are united under one Lord. Together (Ephesians 1:10; 2:5,6,21,22; 4:16 – New King James Version).

In order to be together, both Jews and Gentiles had to separate themselves from the filth of the world. Here is a point about influence, men. The Gentiles were led to God because the Jews were living for God. The Jews had first left behind the ways of the world and the filth of the nations, and it became an example and a light for the Gentiles to follow.

We see other examples in Ezra and Nehemiah of God’s people doing the exact opposite. Instead of separating from the filth of the nations, they married into that filth and raised kids in it. Their kids became pagan instead of godly (Nehemiah 13). So here in Ezra 6 is a positive and powerful witness of what your influence can do for God. But you must first separate from the dirty-ness of the world.

Your friends and co-workers will see that change. Pray that they like these Gentiles will also want to come and seek the Lord God. May they be united and together with us at Christ’s table as we celebrate Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

 

And the prophets of God were with them

Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them (Ezra 5:1-2).

So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (Ezra 6:14)

When the Jewish exiles began their first wave of return from Babylonian/Persian captivity, they were led by Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the priest. Their mission was to come back and rebuild the temple of God. They laid the foundation, but then strong opposition came and the work on the temple ceased (Ezra 4:24). All the men just went to working on their own homes and neglected the house of God for years (see Haggai 1).

Then two prophets were sent by God, Haggai and Zechariah, to stir up the people to complete what God called them to do. It is encouraging to me to see that both the leadership (Zerubbabel and Jeshua) and the people all listened to the prophets and got busy again doing God’s work.

Notice the second passage above. It says “they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai…and Zechariah.” The first passage above says “the prophets of God were with them, helping them.”

And the prophets of God were with them

Today, I first of all encourage the men to be a Haggai and a Zechariah. Help stir up someone with encouragement from God’s word to fulfill the work God has called them to do. It may be a fellow dad. It might be one of your kids as they are going to work and school. Your spiritual leaders at church might need some encouragement to rise up and build. Maybe your wife needs some extra encouragement today from God’s word. You see the work on the temple was successful and prospered because God’s prophets were there encouraging and teaching with God’s word. It is both powerful and effective!

Secondly, be a Zerubbabel or a Jeshua. If someone comes to you with God’s word and seeks to encourage you to rise up and build and fulfill the purpose to which God has called you, then listen to it! This work on the house of God wouldn’t have gotten started unless the leadership and people actually listened to the prophets were were trying to encourage them. Be that Zerubbabel today. Say “thank you for that encouragement, I do need to step up, rise up and build.” Have the humility to listen and to accept that maybe there are some areas in which you need some encouraging or teaching. But also have the courage to stand up and make those changes.