Ezra 5:1
Later, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.
Sermons
The Inspiration of ProphecyJ.A. Macdonald Ezra 5:1, 2
A Faithful Ministry in the ChurchJ.S. Exell Ezra 5:1-5
Hebrew Prophets in Unfavourable TimesW. F. Adeney, M. A.Ezra 5:1-9
The Great Work ResumedWilliam Jones.Ezra 5:1-9
It is quite true that the building of the house of the Lord ceased in consequence of the opposition of the Samaritans; it is also true that this cessation continued because of their animosity and opposition. Yet this does not express the whole truth. Here, as elsewhere, if not everywhere, different causes combined to produce the one result. The long inactivity on the part of the returned Jews was partly due to their own moral deficiency; there was with them some -

I. SLACKNESS. "Then ceased the work," etc. (ver. 24). We have here the great advantage of being able to compare one book of Scripture with another, and (what is more) a historical with a prophetical book. Comparing Haggai 1. with Ezra 5., we conclude that, under the pressure from without, the first zeal of the liberated captives cooled, and that they allowed themselves to be too much affected by the unfriendliness of their neighbours. If it was really necessary - as perhaps it was - to lay down their weapons at the first, they might have resumed them much sooner than they did. They permitted nearly two years to pass without venturing to take up that which they laid down. Meantime the first ardour abated, and priests and people, taking their tone from the governor and the high priest, settled down into satisfaction when they should have been filled with eagerness and anxiety. A noble aspiration was rapidly giving way to an ignoble contentment. This is but too frequently recurring a page in the history of human goodness. First an all-consuming ardour, an intensity of heat which promises to shine with utmost brilliance and burn up everything which is impure; then, after a while, the light dies down, the spirit cools, and only a few sparks, with a little smoke, are left. First devotion, which thinks the hours of worship all too short; zeal which longs to multiply its labours; consecration which prefers the post of danger and the field of difficulty. Then languor, laziness, love of ease; the hours of worship are too long; the duties too heavy; the perils too great. The sanctuary is passed by, the vineyard deserted, the enterprise abandoned.

II. REPROOF (ver. 1). "Then the prophets... prophesied," etc. How vigorously, after the manner of a Hebrew prophet, Haggai reproved and incited Zerubbabel and Jeshua, we may read in both chapters of that book of prophecy. "Is it time for you to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?" is the burden of the Lord which Haggai delivered. These men of God - for he was joined by Zechariah - must have sought the praise of God rather than that of man; their one care was to be faithful to him in whose name they spoke, and so to "deliver their soul." They did not "prophesy smooth things," but rough, hard, trying things. Not only those whose chief vocation and profession it is to speak for God, but all who fear his name and call themselves his disciples, must be ready, on occasion, to declare the "burden of the Lord," to speak the word which is unpalatable, which wounds and troubles the soul. Sometimes it is our duty, like the Master, to send men away "sorrowful" (Matthew 19:22). Sometimes we must receive in grief rather than anger the reproaches of our friends. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."

III. RECOVERY. "Then rose up Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and began to build" (ver. 2). The Jewish leaders hearkened to the voice of God speaking to them through the prophets, and they regained their lost devotedness. "Then they rose up, and began to build." They heeded the admonitions given, and cheerfully co-operated with those who gave them. They had the wisdom to perceive that they were wrong; they frankly owned it, and they promptly and energetically set themselves to rectify their ways. Here is true manliness as well as wisdom. It is a weak and foolish thing for a man to go on in a false course when he sees that he is in the wrong. There is nothing which more

(1) honours our manhood than to submit at once to the known will of God, whether by pursuing our path, or by returning in our way, or by holding our hand. There is nothing which more

(2) conduces to our own spiritual elevation and dignity. Before honour is humility; if we humble ourselves, when wrong, we begin at once to enter the path which leads to true exaltation. There is nothing which more

(3) conducts to lasting usefulness and joy. If Zerubbabel had rejected the counsel of the Lord, he would certainly have suffered. As it was, he was honoured and enriched of heaven. - C.







Then the prophets, Haggai.
The best commentary on these verses is the first chapter of Haggai.

I. THE INCITERS TO THE WEST.

1. Want of interest in the work is implied.

2. Obligation to perform the work is implied.

3. Exhortations to resume the work were given.

II. THE LEADERS IN THE WORK. "Then rose up Zerubbabel," etc.

1. They resumed the work readily.

2. They led the work appropriately. "Those that are in places of dignity and power, ought with their dignity to put honour upon and with their power to put life into every good work."

3. They led work influentially. The example of those who occupy high stations is —

(1)Most conspicuous.

(2)Most attractive.

III. THE HELPERS IN THE WORK. "The prophets." They assisted by their —

1. Exhortations to vigorous prosecution of the work.

2. Assurances of the presence of God with them.

3. Promises of future blessings from God to them.

IV. THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE OF THE WORK. " The Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel," etc. "All holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed" from Him. "I will build My Church," said our Lord to Peter. All the inspiration, wisdom, etc., of the under-builders come from him. Learn —

1. The insidious nature of worldliness.

2. The value of faithful ministers.

3. The solemn obligation of men in eminent stations.

(William Jones.)

The Hebrew prophets came when the circumstances of society were least favourable. Like painters arising to adorn a dingy city, like poets singing of summer in the winter of discontent, like flowers in the wilderness, like wells in the desert, they brought life and strength and gladness to the helpless and despondent, because they came from God. The literary form of their work reflected the civilisation of their day, but there was on it a light that never shone on sea or shore, and this they knew to be the light of God. We never find a true religious revival springing from the spirit of the age. Such a revival always begins in one or two choice souls — in a Moses, a Samuel, a John the Baptist, a St. Bernard, a Jonathan-Edwards, a Wesley, a Newman.

(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

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