Bible Study : H. E. Alexander, 1950_03_02 translated from French
Revival in Jerusalem with Ezra
1 King Cyrus of Persia received direction from God in heaven.
Isaiah, naming this monarch in advance in his prophecy, calls him from the Lord: my shepherd, my anointed (cf. 44:28 and 45:1).
So God uses a pagan king to carry out his will when his people are no longer able to understand it: “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16 ).
As God awakened the spirit of Cyrus in the past, he wants to do the same today so that we listen to his call to us: to go before the world and its great distress to bring it the Word of life.
Despair and destruction reign in many places, and from the midst of the ruins rises a cry: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20 ). In the midst of the dissolving spirit of this century, men seek what is immutable.
The present events are of such a nature that all the people of God should understand that they must act while they can. In the world there is a gigantic spiritual struggle between the powers of heaven and those of hell, the divine Word warns us of the designs of Satan: the crushing of the nations and their seduction. The current upheavals tend towards a double climax: the fall and the judgment of Satan, the victory and the reign of Christ here below. Let us therefore wake up to present reality! Let us know how to pray so that God still grants a time of freedom for the dissemination of his Word and the salvation of a multitude of people. God wants to answer the prayers rising from the hearts of his children. Only a deep spiritual awakening among the people of God can bring a remedy to the distressed world. The circumstances of our time are crying out from the rooftops. Will we hear? Will we act?
2 Cyrus undertook construction work.
When the antediluvian world was heading towards ruin, God instructed Noah to build the ark. This work is being accomplished despite everyone’s incomprehension (cf. Hebrews 11:7 ).
Moses was instructed to build the Tabernacle “in this great and awful wilderness,” according to Deuteronomy 8:15 . If Solomon built the Temple in a time of peace, Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt it under threats, ridicule and intrigue. Thus the divine plan of redemption is accomplished despite the decline and the opposition of men.
No Christian with an open heart and an awakened conscience can remain passive before the millions of men and women who ignore the Savior and his Gospel; he must arise and labor to build the spiritual edifice formed by the redeemed.
Readers, he wants to employ you. In Jerusalem the walls were destroyed and the gates of the city were consumed by fire. Rise to raise up the walls of testimony; may the world again see the gates of truth, enter them to find salvation! Many are the breaches in a wall, which make people believe that souls can enter by another door (cf. John 10:1 ) than Jesus Christ!
Let us give men the Word of God by which they can approach him. In the midst of the destruction, let us advance in the work of construction. The order and the means are given to us: “Who among you is of his people? May his God be with him, and may he go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel!” (Ezra 1:3 ). And now, let’s take a close look at those who responded to that call.
Who are they ?
“The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, all whose spirits God awakened, arose to go and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:5 ). In the first verse of this same chapter we read that the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, and now those whose spirit God has revived obey the proclamation. Often the world is ready for revival, but the Church is not because of the weakness of its testimony. Are we ready for the awakening of our spirit by God? The answer to this question can have important consequences. It is an operation that only the Holy Spirit can perform, a deep and individual work that affects the heart and the conscience. This revival leads back to a right notion of God and of oneself; this awakening frees us from deadly routines, stagnant ruts. Our way of living, working and speaking must be reviewed under the light of the Holy Spirit so that it can bring about the necessary transformations.
“I know your works. I know that you pass for being alive, and you are dead” (Revelation 3:1 ). God makes us lucid about our spiritual state: the absence of conversions for a long period will worry us; we will be disturbed and we will no longer excuse the mediocrity of our testimony, the low level of our churches.
When God awakens our spirit, the result is suffering that brings us before him and prompts us to pray until he intervenes with those around us who are entrusted to our care. Christians who accept that God shakes them in this way recognize in this grace the price of revival. The text tells us that those whose spirits God awakened belonged to the three tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Two prophetic passages describe them to us:
a) the prophecy of Jacob (cf. Genesis 49 ), and
b)the blessing of Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 33 ).
Jacob predicts that the scepter will not depart from the hand of Judah until he who is to reign comes victorious in battle (cf. Genesis 49:10 ). Moses’ blessing further provides that Judah will always find the ear of the Lord open to hear and to help (cf. Deuteronomy 33:7 ).
As for Benjamin, it is predicted that he will be a skilled warrior despite his smallness. This will earn him a special blessing (cf. Deuteronomy 33:12 ).
Jacob describes Levi as cruel and wicked by nature; but the blessing of Moses reveals what the grace of God has made of it: Levi is separated from men, consecrated to God who entrusts him with the priesthood (cf. Deuteronomy 33: 8-11 ). The words written about these three patriarchs also characterize the one who allows himself to be touched by God: he has the spiritual vision of a glorious future, he lives at the source of the Lord’s abundance and in the fight, however weak- he, he is helped by God who protects him from enemies. Those who undertook the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem experienced it (cf. Nehemiah 4 ).
“Then the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem” (Ezra 3:1 ). This is the result of a profound work of God, a profound manifestation of revival! Let us note here that the Holy Spirit accomplishes what men cannot produce despite all their desires and efforts.
The first phase of revival is marked by spiritual unity. This bringing together of hearts is so different from the superficial cordiality with which we are often satisfied without having true communion! Outward cordiality, while ulterior motives persist, and the past remains paved with the memory of actions and words that belie any true unity. We save appearances, we invent artificial comparisons, such is not the work of the Holy Spirit.
The second phase of revival begins when people reconcile in truth. Believers open up to each other: we see ourselves in a new light, we stop imagining false things or taking inaccurate reports seriously. We begin to think just the opposite and we discover that men and the devil have done their work of division by spreading false rumors that separated what God wanted to unite. Nothing saddens the Holy Spirit more than the reluctance that persists in our mutual relationships. However, the powerful flow of Calvary flowing in hearts purifies and finally delivers from this murderous poison.
The third phase of revival prompts troubled consciences to confess to the brother or sister the evil said about him (cf. Matthew 5:23-24 ). We will go even further, the wrongs committed will be repaired, personal ties restored, otherwise all talk on this subject will be empty words and our prayers one form of piety added to another.
What are they doing ?
“And they restored the altar to its foundations…and they offered burnt offerings thereon to the Lord, both morning and evening burnt offerings” (Ezra 3:3 ). This is where you have to start. Have we restored the altar to its foundation in our lives?
We have listened to sermons on the cross, we have talked about the cross, we have sung hymns on the cross, but this does not necessarily mean that it is effective at the center of our being. The cross… two beams that intersect, one horizontal, the other vertical, and in the middle is the One who gives his life for us. The Holy Spirit wants to conquer our hearts in order to set up there the liberating cross from the power of the flesh. The latter – capable of evading everything and deceiving everyone – can no longer escape it. At the cross, divine will intersects with rebellious human will, and divine thoughts oppose proud human thoughts. On the cross, Jesus Christ identifies us with him and his victory becomes ours. Let us restore the altar to its foundation: God waits to give grace and deliver.
“All their neighbors gave them silver, gold, effects, cattle, and precious things, besides all freewill offerings” (Ezra 1:6 ). Those who left Jerusalem for Babylon offered themselves voluntarily, and those who remained helped those who left with their gifts and liberality. This, in all its simplicity and effectiveness, is God’s plan for the working Church.
The revival is not intended to fill the meeting rooms in the first place. Its purpose is to send messengers of the cross far away. If he visits us, it will result in vocations and departures. That’s the hallmark of all true revival. This is also the reason why many do not really want it. A lady said to me some time ago, “I would gladly send my child to the youth group, but I am afraid that you will make him a missionary!” When the Holy Spirit does his work in the lives of Christians, they spontaneously give themselves for the lost world. What a contrast with the selfishness that reigns in the religious world!
“All those around them encouraged them…” (Ezra 1:6 ). It sometimes seems that Christians make it their task to discourage each other, to interrupt each other’s work, to harm each other’s activities, to oppose or boycott them…
Let us learn from the various stages of revival in Jerusalem and encourage one another. We will be led to change our methods, our attitudes, to avoid duplicity, hidden antagonism and the search for personal interests. The Spirit of God is a spirit of life, holiness, joy and peace. It melts hearts into one, it unites minds that henceforth vibrate in accordance with the will of God.
The divine Word describes the results: “They sang, celebrating and praising the Lord with these words: For he is good, for his mercy to Israel endures forever! And all the people shouted with great joy in praise to the Lord, because the foundations of the house of the Lord were being laid. But many of the priests and of the Levites, and of the aged heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud while the foundations of this house were being laid before their eyes. Many others made their joy burst out with cries, so that the sound of shouts of joy could not be distinguished from the sound of weeping among the people, for the people uttered loud cries, the sound of which was heard in the distance” (Ezra 3:1 1-13).
We can easily imagine this scene. A revival cannot occur without rejoicing, without an abundance of praise and prayer. Hearts are united, tongues are loosed to sing the praises of God and testify to his power and his love. Do we encounter certain dangers? Yes, but the One who creates this movement of life also knows how to control it and the leaders receive the gentleness and delicacy that go hand in hand with spiritual discernment. If they let themselves be warned by the Word, if they are nourished by it, it will be their safeguard because it is the lack of biblical teaching that causes certain abuses and deviations that allow foreign spirits to burst into the Church. . He who sends the revival is ready to give vigilance to those who allow themselves to be torn from sleep: “I am persuaded that he who began this good work in you will make it perfect for the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1: 6 ).
Such was the revival that God gave to his people in the days of Ezra. Times, circumstances, places may change, but the spiritual laws are the same and the practical teaching has lost none of its freshness.
Which of you is his people? May he respond, may he dedicate himself to this task and may his God be with him! Let him go up… let him build!
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