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This chapter opens with an account of the zeal of the fathers and the people to begin the temple. They set up the altar; renew their offerings; and the foundation of the temple is laid.
This seventh month was probably at the time of gathering in their summer fruits. What the country had produced of them is not said. But it was a fit season for assembling upon the great purpose they had in view. I would not have the Reader, methinks, overlook the unanimity which subsisted among them; for we are told they gathered themselves together as one man. Reader! it is this sweet feature of Jesus's gospel which makes both him and his blessed cause so dear. Oneness with him will be sure to make the same with his members. If I love him I must love my brother that is part of him.
I must beg the Reader very particularly to mark this verse. Here we find that before they begun, or even had power to begin, the foundation for the temple, the altar was set up. Was not this typical of Jesus? Is he not, and was he not ever, the Altar, the Sacrifice, and Priest? What a precious allusion then was this to him, in whom all sacrifices had their substance, and to whom they all referred.
Observe the morning and evening sacrifice. Here again remember, Reader, as this was according to the law of Moses, the lamb of the morning and evening sacrifice was offered. And what could more fully shadow forth the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world? Observe what is said of the fear of the people. They were surrounded with foes ready to take advantage of their present defenseless state. But yet in the midst, the Lord's services shall not be neglected. Recollect, Reader, how it is said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon them, in inclining their hearts to the business. It is always profitable to eye the Holy Ghost in his gracious ministry.
The assistance they obtained from Tyre and Zidon in building the temple, suggests to us once more how the Lord had a continued reference to the poor Gentiles of the earth. They shall have somewhat to do with Jesus even before they know the Lord Jesus, or are conscious of their want of him. For the Lord Jehovah, our Father, had given the ends of the earth to his dear Son from the moment he set him up as King in Zion. This the Lord Jesus assured the church of when he said, I will declare the decree. Psalms 2:6-8 .
If the Reader will peruse with this account what Haggai hath recorded concerning the building of the temple, the one scripture will, as it is designed, throw great light upon the other. And this will be comparing spiritual things with spiritual, 1 Corinthians 2:13 .
There is an uncommon degree of sweetness in this account. The mercy of God endureth forever. Surely this mercy is Jesus. And did not the Israelites consider it so when they sung the hymn? Jesus is the firstborn in the womb of mercy. He is emphatically called mercy; even the mercy promised. Luke 1:72 . And as all mercies are folded up in him, and can only be opened from him, and by him; this makes the song sweet indeed, and may well be sung everlastingly, for this mercy of Jehovah in Jesus endureth forever. It endured even while in Babylon; for the efficacy of redemption by him was as great in that season as in any other. Reader! shall not you and I join the song, and shout aloud in praises from the same cause, Jesus, the mercy of Jehovah, endureth forever.
This account affords an interesting moment of history, and furnisheth out as beautiful a representation of the love and zeal of both characters. It must have been a striking sight to have beheld those who were clamorous with holy joy, as well as those who were grieved with holy sorrow. The prophet Haggai was commissioned to quiet the minds of the afflicted ones with that precious promise; that notwithstanding all outward splendor was wanting in this second temple, compared to the first, yet the glory of the latter should be greater than the glory of the former. And was it not so, when in after ages the Lord Jesus came, in the substance of our flesh, into it? Haggai 2:9 . Precious promise then to quiet the minds of the afflicted. And oh! how infinitely more precious now, who have lived to see it fulfilled. Blessed be the Lord, who hath come to his temple, even the messenger of the Covenant, whom we delight in. Malachi 3:1 .
SEE, my soul, in those perilous, poor times of the church, yet amidst all their poverty, the altar was set up, and the foundation of the temple laid. But thine Altar is forever established, and thy foundation from everlasting laid; even Jesus, who is the sum and substance of every altar, sacrifice, and priesthood, and the whole of the temple, foundation, and top-stone, brought forth with shoutings of grace, grace unto it. Yes! thou dear Redeemer, in the secret and mysterious nature of thy person, work, and office, thy blood and righteousness, do thy people find the Altar, on which all offerings can alone be offered. On thee, and in thee, and by thee, all the presentations of thy people's persons and prayers come up with acceptance. And thou art the foundation on which is built their life, safety, happiness, and comfort, both in time and eternity. And, Lord, grant that in the view of thee and thy finished work, I may lose sight of all outward things; for neither the splendor of Solomon's temple, nor the want of splendor in the second temple, is anything, for thou art All, and in all.
Where thou art, blessed Jesus, thou givest glory indeed, to the service, to the offering, in the church, in the heart of all thy people; and without thee what is all the outward adorning, or inward parade of church or worship? My soul therefore will weep like those men if thou art not present, and shout for joy when thou art with me. Everywhere, and in all things, be thou my portion; and then in all things my happiness will be complete. Thou art my dwelling place, my church, my temple, my altar, my sacrifice: for how full of all things art thou to supply every spiritual necessity? And while my soul is sweetly solacing herself in thee and on thee; while Christ is my home, my house, my habitation; his flesh my food; his blood my drink; his righteousness my covering; and all that belongs to Jesus my treasure; angels will be my ministering spirits; and Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, my companions both here and forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezra 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter