Prophecy withstands opposition - Ezra 4 - 6.
Opposition to the Israelites temporary halts the work of rebuilding Jerusalem. The enemy will always oppose the counsel of God. Two prophets, named Haggai and Zechariah, appear on the scene. Their ministry revives the work and the temple is completed. Prophecy should bring clarity of God's will for our lives. When God speaks clearly the enemy has no way of resisting.
1. Read Ezra 4: 1-24. What was the first step the enemies of Judah took in an attempt to hinder their work verses 1-4.
2. How could the enemy use a similar tactic against the Christian today? Hint 2 Corinthians 6:13-15. Give some practical examples.
3. What was the next line of attack the Israelites faced? Ezra 4:4 - 5
4. What other attacks does the enemy bring against the Christian and our faith? Hint Luke 8:11-15
5. Ezra 4: 6-24 describes the letter written to king Artaxerxes and the disastrous effect it had on the work in Jerusalem. With this letter the adversaries of the Israelites succeeded in halting the work being done in Jerusalem.
Summarise the contents of the letter?
Have you ever received a bad report that has put you off your stride?
Read Ezra 5:1-2. God sent two prophets to the Israelites. Their ministry would contribute to the resumption of the work in Jerusalem.
Has a prophetic word ever helped you before?
Can you share this with the group?
Remember, God's written word, the Bible, contains promises that can become prophetic to you when you receive them by faith and act as if you believe them.
The Prophet Haggai
6. The book of Haggai - open it in your Bible and take a glance. It is second only to Obadiah in terms of brevity of the Old Testament books. It contains the words that the prophet Haggai brought to the Israelites in the book of Ezra. This prophet was sent to the Israelites after the work on the Temple had ceased. By the time Haggai arrived on the scene the Israelites had long forgotten about building God's Temple and were content with building their houses and running their businesses.
All zeal for God's work had faded away. Haggai brought four powerful messages from the Lord to the Israelites.
7. Read Haggai 1:1-15 (First message).
What did Haggai identify as the cause of poverty among the Israelites?
8. Was God not aware that opposition had forced His people to cease the work on His Temple? If He was, why do you think He was so harsh on them for abandoning the project?
9. What effect did this prophecy have on the Israelites?
10. What does this teach us about prophecy?
11. Read Haggai 2:1 - 9 (Second message).
What did God say He would do with the Temple they were rebuilding? How could this apply to us? Hint John 1:16, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
12. Read Haggai 2: 10-19 (Third message).
Here the prophet is telling the Israelites that God will bless them if they provide for His work verses 18 - 19.
Apart from finance, how can we provide for the work of the Lord today?
Have you any testimony to share on how God blessed you when you gave to his work?
13. Read Haggai 2: 20-23 (Fourth message).
This prophecy was probably a reference to those opposing the work on the Temple. Nevertheless, in ways only God can accomplish, these prophecies have more than one application. God's Holy Spirit takes these same words today and makes them relevant to our life.
We shall see more of this in the prophecies that Zechariah gave.
He was the other prophet God sent to the Israelites with Haggai. Open the book of Zechariah in your Bible now and take a glance at it.
This prophet is second only to prophet Isaiah in giving double-barrelled prophecies that have implications and applications to Christ.
14. Read Zechariah 11:13. What does it remind you of? Can you find any corresponding scripture in the New Testament? Hint - Matthew 27:3-5.
15. Also read Zechariah 9:9-10 and compare it with Mark 11: 1-11? What can you deduct?
16. You must have noticed by now that the two main leaders of the Israelites were Zerubbabel and Jeshua (sometimes spelt as Joshua) - Ezra 5:1-2. Notice the word given to Joshua in Zechariah 3: 1-10. What application do these same words have for us today? Hint Ephesians 4:24, 1 John 1:9
17. Read Zechariah 4: 1-10. These words with given to Zerubbabel. These promises were actually fulfilled in Zerubbabel's days. He actually finished building the Temple within four years of the two prophets ministry.
Have you ever applied the promises of Zechariah 4:6-7.
Prophecy is an exciting topic to study in the Bible. Many times not even the prophets themselves knew the full implications of the words they were speaking. Many of their prophecies had double applications.
The same is true of prophecies today. Do not always expect the person prophesying to fully understand the words he or she is saying. This is another reason why we should not be discouraged when prophecies are not fulfilled in the exact way we expect. God has the bigger picture in mind.
18. Ezra 6: 1- 22 goes on to describe how the work of the temple was completed. No small thanks to the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah.
Lets try and put the story so far into a concise form.
The Israelites arrived back from exile with Zerubbabel and Jeshua leading them. The practise of feasts and offerings is restored in Jerusalem and work on the Temple is commenced. The foundation of the Temple is laid. The enemies of the Israelites then intervened and for fifteen years the work on the Temple is halted.
God sends Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people with prophetic words that still have relevance for us today. Within four years of Haggai and Zechariah appearing on the scene the Temple is rebuilt.
Notice that up to this point there is no mention of Ezra.
The tide of revival is not yet in full flow but the stream of events seems to be going like this
a. God moves the heart of King and people alike to rebuild Jerusalem
b. Leaders arise and people rally round them to do the work
c. Everyone gets involved in encouraging and contributing to the work
d. The proper practise of worship is restored. Daily reading of the word is observed. Prayer plays an essential role.
e. The enemy tries to oppose the work and temporary brings it to a halt or go-slow.
f. God raises up prophetic voices to strengthen, encourage and comfort the people
g. The work is resumed and progresses at a much faster rate.
h. The stage is now set for a greater ministry of the Word of God. This is necessary for the work of God to move forward.