God Gives His People Joy

Ezra 6:1-22

Paragraph 2, Declaration of Independence, begins:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

An expectation of or even a right to happiness is assumed by many in our fair nation. Countless brave men and women have given their lives to ensure our freedom to pursue the American dream. Yet in the big scheme of things, the American dream will not ultimately satisfy. And it’s because happiness is dependent on our circumstances; circumstances change, we’re no longer happy; they change again, we’re happy again.

Compare happiness and joy according to Webster 1828:

Happiness: The agreeable sensations which spring from the enjoyment of good; that state of being in which desires are gratified, by the enjoyment of pleasure without pain. Perfect happiness, or pleasure unalloyed with pain, is not attainable in this life.

Joy: The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune,the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire. Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good.

#1 example of how joy works: the Lord Jesus, Hebrews 12:2:

“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” LEB

#2 example: the Apostle Paul, Phil. 2:17-18:

“But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.”

Joy looks beyond present circumstances and focuses on the assurance that we will someday possess a good. For Jesus, the good of which he was assured was the complete redemption and reconciliation of his people. For Paul, the good that brought him joy was the assurance he would benefit from that complete redemption. In both cases, as well as for us, the joy the Lord Jesus experienced and that of the Apostle Paul had their source in God. God the Father divided the spoils of victory with his Servant (Isa. 53:12); it will be the Lord Jesus, the righteous Judge, who awards the crown of righteousness to Paul on “that Day”.

If we are to have genuine joy now, it must be founded on a genuine assurance of a genuine future good in which we will participate, all of which can only come from God. It is God who gives the encouragement to be joyful, who provides opportunities for joy, and who has given ways in which to express that joy.

A. Provided the encouragement to be joyful

I. turned heart of Assyrian king Darius to help the people

a. God turned the heart – v.1-5,22

We are in words of Paul to “rejoice in the Lord alway”, an exhortation he repeated 2x in Phil. 4:4. Sometimes it’s tough to do, God in wise Fatherly care alters circumstances to encourage joy.

Darius not inclined at first to act favorably toward Jews; perhaps feared another threat to his right of rulership. Ordered search of archives, did Cyrus in fact issue decree in first year in power to rebuild temple? Not obligated to terms of predecessor’s edict but wanted to know if it existed.

Found memorandum with some details of original decree at Cyrus’ summer palace, Ecbatana, about 1/2 way from Tehran to Baghdad. Cyrus’ intent – a temple twice as high, three times as wide as Solomon’s, paid for out of king’s treasury, a structure that would bring glory to himself as well as (condescendingly) give the Jews a place to worship.

Darius, follower of Zoroastrianism and worshipper of god Ahura-Mazda, figured couldn’t hurt to be on good side of another local deity. Figured also a significant building project associated with his name would be good for reputation. OK, let’s help them out. Darius may have been most powerful king on earth but he was following orders: see verse 22 – “the Lord …turned the heart of the king”. All the rest that happened – result of God changing Darius’ heart.

II. people encouraged by tangible assistance of pagan leaders v.6–12

a. issuing a decree of “non-interference” – v.6-7

here’s what you won’t do – interfere in any way

keep your distance

don’t interfere even from a distance

let the Jewish people build as they see fit

b. financial & material aid – v.8-10

and, here’s what you will do

cover the costs for whatever is needed to

keep construction going

conduct worship according to their rules

make sure the king and his successor is prayed for regularly

c. teeth to the edict – v.11-12

consequences for interference

death penalty

called down a curse from God

III. prospered the work to completion v.13–15

governor & aides responded speedily, diligently

the Jews built, they finished it, brought to completion

prospered

through prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah

according to command of God

God used prophets to get people back to work

God used king to provide supplies to accomplish the work

ultimately God working out his plan through human agents

B. Provided opportunity to be joyful

I. dedication of the house of God v.16

project completed, ready to be set apart for sacred use

inauguration again of worship

looked beyond comparison of present structure with Solomon’s temple

recognized that what took place there had greater significance than details of the building

elements of the building had their significance and function

important, but only as they served greater purpose of worship

II. one step closer to the perfect worship of heaven

sanctuary – distinct from the world

separate from the impurities of the world v. 21

foreshadowing of the feasts of heaven – fellowship with God and with one another

C. Provided the way to express joy

I. purification v.20a, 21

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? …He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Psa. 24:3-4

only those who are forgiven, cleansed can enter God’s presence with joy; He has provided way of cleansing

II. sacrifice v.20b

which prefigured Christ the true Passover – see 1 Cor. 5:7

only those who are reconciled to God can enter his presence with safety; He has provided for our redemption and reconciliation

III. feasting v.22

joy of deliverance

from exile/captivity

exile in Babylon

more importantly exile from God, captivity in sin

All of this in anticipation of our full and final deliverance from sin and its corruption, our safe arrival home and completed redemption – heaven and our Savior in all his glory. The good we have anticipated with joy finally in our possession, all because God turned our hearts to him and made us his children.

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