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God’s Call to Revival
Book of Ezra
This morning we’ll be looking at the first of a two part series, “God’s Call to Revival.” Today we’re looking at the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, and God’s tremendous call that necessitated an encounter with Him.
A little historical background, however, is necessary so we can get a feel for what they were encountering at this time.
Approximately 70 years earlier, Babylon took the people of Judah captive and destroying Jerusalem leaving the entire area of Judah practically vacant. After the Medes and Persians defeated Babylon, God moved Cyrus, the Persian king, to issue a proclamation allowing the Jews to return and rebuild the temple.
Before we begin, however, let’s take a look at what the Lord told Jeremiah prior to their captivity.
“If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me.” (Jeremiah 15:19a NLT)
What I’d like to share with you are some interesting insights found in the Book of Ezra concerning this event that we can apply to our lives today.
The first thing we see in God’s call to revival is
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:2-4)
The first step in this return was for them to leave the familiar ground of Babylon, the place where they grew up. Few who were taken in captivity 70 years prior would have been alive at this time. Babylon was essentially their home, and they had no real memory of Israel.
So they had to leave their familiar surroundings of Babylon and take a 700-mile trek to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s prophecy and calling.
God’s call to revival tells us to do the same. We need to leave the familiar and what’s holding us back from moving into God’s fullness, and His calling upon our lives.
This involves church as well, because it has become way to familiar. People come to church on Sunday, sing some songs, drop some money into the offering bags, glad hand a few folks, listen to the message, and then they’re off doing their own thing the rest of the week.
God’s call is for us to step out of the familiar and begin to stretch our faith. We need to grow our faith so we can walk in God’s truth.
If we want to experience revival then we must be willing to step away from the familiar and then step deeper into our service and commitment to God. We need to move out of our comfort zones and move by faith into the unknown to accomplish what the Spirit of God desires. But how?
It can only happen when the Holy Spirit moves upon our hearts. Look at this next verse.
“Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:5 NKJV)
Notice it says God moved their spirits. Their spirits got all stirred up inside them. They received a stirring of the Holy Spirit to leave their familiar ground and begin to do what God had called them to do.
This is the same thing that we need if we’re ever going to move by faith from the familiar into a new level of spiritual maturity and activity.
After ten years God called me out of pastoring the church in Las Vegas, a church I helped start some 40 years ago, a church that had been my home and where I grew up spiritually. He placed a stirring in my heart to leave telling me that I could go back and still pastor the church in Las Vegas, but His Spirit wouldn’t be there for me any longer, and that once I put my hand to the plow and looked back, I would never draw a straight line for Him again.
The Holy Spirit was preparing Michaela and myself to move from our familiar ground of Las Vegas and Hallelujah Christian Fellowship to Mesquite and a whole new calling.
What we need to do is to ask God to stir up our spirits and arouse our sleepy lethargic hearts to do what He has called for us to do, which just may be to leave the familiar behind and join in with the Holy Spirit and experience the ride of our lives as He takes us places we’ve never been before, and shows us things we’ve never seen before.
The second thing we see in God’s call to revival is
“And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.” (Ezra 3:1-2)
We need to start identifying and setting priorities. Most of us, however, wonder how we’ll even know. The people knew because they went to God’s word. Note what Ezra said, “as it is written in the Law of Moses.”
Donald Whitney in his book, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life,” said,
“No spiritual discipline is more important than the intake of God’s word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of milk and meat of Scriptures.”
To determine what’s important and to see if we’re doing God’s will, we need to go to and get into God’s word, and let God’s word get into us.
For those returning to Jerusalem the priority was to build an altar. The altar was where they offered their sacrifices to God. This was the place where their sins were forgiven and where they got themselves right with God.
The altar today is that place within our hearts that’s built through repentance. We see this in David’s cry after his sin with Bathsheba.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NKJV)
Such a heart and altar can only be constructed through the type of sacrifices David says God is looking for within our hearts and spirits.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart– These, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 NKJV)
We build God’s altar inside our hearts through godly repentance.
And so this second step in God’s call to revival is to identify God’s priorities in our lives and to get our hearts right before God through confession and repentance.
The third thing we see in God’s call to revival is
“They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day … From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, although the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid.” (Ezra 3:4, 6)
The feast of Tabernacles was a two-fold feast. First it was a memorial to commemorate how God kept the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. The second part was to celebrate the harvest in the land God had given to them.
It’s this second part I’d like to focus on, because they celebrated what had not yet occurred. There was no harvest to celebrate, instead they had a vision for the future and by faith celebrated what had not yet occurred.
Further, the temple’s foundation had not yet been laid, but here they are celebrating by faith its completion.
It’s this type of faith that God requires from us.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)
We must believe what God will do in accordance with His word, even though at the present nothing seems to indicate that we should. By faith we must visualize Gods’ promise if we ever want to arise and move into a new and greater level of faith.
And so the third thing we see in God’s call to revival is a call to greater faith.
The fourth thing we see is
“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: ‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.’ Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” (Ezra 3:10-11)
Foundation building isn’t glamorous, whether it be in the natural world, such as laying the foundation for a house, or in the spiritual realm, which is what I like to think of as building up the house of God within each person. And while it might not be glamorous, it’s absolutely necessary if we want to be able to stand when the storms of life hit.
“He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” (Luke 6:48 NKJV)
To lay this foundation is to first come into that saving relationship with Jesus Christ, making Him both our Savior and Lord. It also involves building our lives upon that foundation through God’s word and being empowered through the Holy Spirit.
Without a solid foundation there’s no spiritual growth or revival. And if we’ll start now laying this foundation then when the problems and trials come, and they will come, we’ll not be blown away, or come crashing down.
The fifth thing involved in God’s call to revival is
“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses.” (Ezra 4:1-2a)
When God begins to move, Satan intensifies his efforts against us in different ways.
The first way we see is that they tried to join in. They said, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” (Ezra 4:2b)
But Zerubbabel was having nothing to do with and said, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the Lord God of Israel.” (Ezra 4:3)
Satan first tries to join in by bringing in non-biblical practices and teachings to dilute our worship of God, and like Zerubbabel we need to have nothing to do with these practices and teachings. If they’re not clearly taught in God’s word, we must discard them.
Next they’ll start doing and saying things against us to dissuade and discourage us.
“Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose.” (Ezra 4:4-5a)
Satan’s aim is to destroy God’s work in us and through us in any way he possibly can, but when we reject his advances and turn to Jesus, then we’ll have an abundant life.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
And so in this call to revival there will be spiritual warfare, as Satan will do everything and anything he can to prevent a revival from beginning.
The sixth thing we see now that spiritual warfare is involved is that God’s call to revival is
“Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:24)
They had just finished laying the foundation when the enemy succeeded in stopping the work for 16 years.
Now, for most of us this would make us lose hope. And when hope is lost or deferred it makes us sick inside. But when we can restore hope it will become like a tree in full bloom.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 NKJV)
It’s during these down times that our faith is tested. God is testing our hearts to see if we’ll believe more in Him and His promises than in our present circumstances. God is also cleaning out all the junk and pride when we accomplish great things for Him. You see we have a tendency to think that it’s all about our ability and capability rather than in His grace, mercy, power, and might.
It’s where we realize it’s not by our might or power, but by and through the Holy Spirit.
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV)
And so we’re called to persevere and to endure through the power of the Holy Spirit, and finally, God’s call to revival is
We’ll look more into this next week, but for now let’s look at their prophetic insight.
“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)
The prophetic insight they received was not to pay attention to what others were saying, but rather to what the Lord said, which was to build His temple.
We’re no different. We have to stop worrying about what others may say or think, and move forward with God’s calling upon our lives and upon the church.
Continuing in what the Lord told to Jeremiah that we looked at in the beginning of our time, the Lord said,
“You must influence them; do not let them influence you!” (Jeremiah 15:19b NLT)
What the Lord tells us is that we are to have a holy influence over the society. And what we need to realize is that it’s the Holy Spirit who will draw the people to us, but we’re not to return to their ways, or the old ways.
And so let’s move forward by faith and expect God to do a miracle, expect God to revive us again.
It’s God’s desire to pour out His Spirit and to fill us. What we need to do is to ask God.
Jesus said that if we as sinful people know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our heavenly Father give to those who ask the Holy Spirit, Luke 11:13.
Today, ask the God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and to send a Holy Spirit inspired revival.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study