Completion and Dedication of the Temple (Ezra 6:13 – 22)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 6:13 – 22

With the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah, the work of the temple goes forward to completion in the year 516 BC. Even though this new sanctuary lacks the splendor Solomon’s temple, the people nevertheless greet the day of completion with joyous celebration.

1. What project was years in the making for you? How did you celebrate? With whom?

2. Who oversees the work on the temple (verses 13 – 18)? Who else is involved? How so? Whose authority seems to prevail? Who gets credit without being on the scene?

3. How does this temple dedication service compare with the previous one (verses 16 – 18; 2 Chronicles 7:1 – 10)? How do you account for this rather poor showing? Second time around is no big deal? A small temple deserves a token sacrifice? Israel is impoverished by a prolonged building project?

4. Priests, Levites, the exiles, and converts all celebrate the Passover (verses 19 – 22). What must each do to participate (see Exodus 12:43 – 50; Numbers 9:1 – 14)?

5. What half-done project does God want you to carry out with diligence? Why not get on with it?

6. How does an outsider get to celebrate the sacraments in your church tradition?

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The Decree of King Darius (Ezra 6:1 – 12)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 6:1 – 12

 

1. What might be the oldest document in your family archives? Your birth certificate? Grandpa’s journal? Someone’s high school yearbook? Why has it been kept so long?

2. What court order, parents’ ruling or umpire’s decision recently went your way in some contested case? How did you feel about that?

3. Compare this Aramaic memo of Cyrus’ decree with the Hebrew version in chapter 1:2 – 4. What additional details do you see here? Why would they have been added?

4. How does Darius’ decree (verses 6 – 12) expand on that earlier memo? What is his “punch line”? Why might this rub Tattenai the wrong way?

5. When have you invoked God’s authority as your own? Where do you draw the line and dare someone to cross over or defy your authority? What defiance (by your children, partners or subordinates) would trip your trigger and bring them into conflict with you?

6.What sacrifices and prayers are you offering on behalf of those in authority over you (verse 10; see 1 Timothy 2:1ff)?

7. Persian kings made a policy of restoring the religious institutions of native peoples (chapter 6:1 – 12). If this policy were practiced where you live, what native religions might flourish?

8. What restoration projects are you, like Darius, supporting with your money, as well as your mouth?

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Tattenai’s Letter To Darius (Ezra 5)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 5

1. Are you a “pack-rat” selective saver or a toss-it-all person? How far back do you keep letters? Christmas cards? Email? Bills? Taxes?

2. In what way do the events of verses 1 and 2 represent a new start (see chapter 4:24; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1)?

3. Why does the author retrace the rebuilding effort to Shealtiel (verse 2; see 1 Chronicles 3:17 – 19)?

4. “At that time” (verse 3) can be dated to the period from August 29 to December 18, 520 BC, one year after the Babylonians failed in their revolt against Persia (November, 521 BC). How does that help account for what’s going on in verses 3 – 5?

5. What about this episode is seen as a blessing from God? Why?

6. How is God’s hand of blessing evident in Tattenai’s letter to Darius (verses 6 – 17)? What human instruments has God evidently been using to bless and discipline His people?

7. What is the status of this re-building project to date? Who is to be credited (or blamed) for the “rapid progress” (verse 8)? How about for the “unfinished task” (verse 16)?

8. In 536 BC Sheshbezzar presided over laying the temple foundation (verses 14 – 16), and in 520 BC Zerubbabel presided over laying a second foundation (see Haggai 1:14, 15). How do you account for that 16-year delay (see Zechariah 4:6 – 10)? Explain your answer. (Note: Some believe Sheshbezzar [verse 14] was the Babylonian name for Zerubbabel, meaning the two were the same person.)

  • Israel suffers from strong opposition?
  • From lack of legal authority?
  • From lack of spiritual power?
  • From internal lethargy?
  • Good things, done right, take time?

9. In your life, what has taken many years to get right? How do you account for the delay?

10. In the work God has given you to do, when is His hand of blessing obvious to you?

  • In warding off opponents, as in chapter 5:5?
  • In “making rapid progress,” as in chapter 5:8?
  • Often in construction delays?
  • Only in the project’s completion, as in chapter 6:15 – 17?