The affairs of the Church put on a better aspect than in the foregoing chapter. Haggai and Zechariah encourage the people to resume the building, and Zerubbabel and Joshua are animated to the work.
We shall do well to compare the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah with this part of the history; for both scriptures will mutually explain each other. How beautiful it is when the Lord at any time stirreth up his people. And how important a part it must be of a gospel-ministry, to stir up the minds of the saints of God by way of remembrance. And how doubly beautiful is it, when the church is supported by the civil power, as was the case here; when Zerubbabel the governor, as well as Joshua, put their shoulders to the work. It should seem, by what the prophet Haggai said, that there were some that concluded the time was not come to build the temple, by which the minds of others were discouraged. Haggai 1:2-8.
I think it an object of considerable moment to remark on this part of the history, that the enemies of Israel made no interruption to their building houses for themselves, though this was contrary to the king's commandment; but no sooner were their hands engaged to the work of the Lord's house, than the adversaries came forth to oppose them. Ezra 4:21. And is it not exactly the same now, and in all ages particularly concerning the chief features of the gospel. Satan never rages at the preaching of a flimsy morality, for he well knows that this never did nor ever will, make a man moral, or form the foundation even for morality in the heart. It is by the Spirit only that sinners can mortify the deeds of the body and live. Romans 8:13. But the moment the cross of Christ is held up, and atonement by the blood of Jesus is declared to be the only salvation for a poor sinner, all hell is up in arms to interrupt the spiritual building.
The Lord had certainly softened the minds of those men, that though they sent an accusation against the people to the king, yet the Lord overruled the inditing of it. When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7. But I beg the Reader to observe further what confidence the people had taken from the consciousness that the eye of the Lord their God was upon them. No doubt the Lord blessed the words of his servants the prophets unto them. I cannot sufficiently praise the firmness and zeal of the people in stating their just pretensions to prosecute the work; not only because Cyrus the king had tolerated, but from an infinitely higher cause, that the king of kings, even the God of heaven and earth, they were servants to. And they had suffered his displeasure in the captivity they were lately brought out of, for neglecting what they now were determined to engage in. Oh! how precious it is to find souls faithful to God and Christ, and determined to persevere in his service, be the consequence what it may. Reader! make your just observations upon the same characters, as they appeared in the foregoing chapter and in this. There through fear of man, which bringeth a snare, they ceased from the work. Here, through fear and love of God, which giveth confidence, they set up their banners. But Reader! do not fail at the same time to put down this different conduct to the right cause. Left to themselves in the former instance, we see what human strength is. Aided and encouraged by the Lord's prophets, and more especially the Lord's grace, in this latter instance, we see what man can do, the Lord helping. Precious Jesus! I can do nothing by myself except to sin and forget thee. But I can do all things when thou art by and guidest me on, and enablest me.
BLESSED Jesus! do I not behold thee even in this chapter, when I perceive thy servants stirring up the minds of thy people to thy cause. Surely thou art the Lord God of the prophets, and when thou didst influence the several characters in thy church, both ministers and people, was it not a plain manifestation that thou wast speaking in them and by them in procuring peace to the prosecution the work of thy temple. Indeed, from everlasting thou, and thou alone, art the peace, and the peace maker, in all cases, and upon all occasions. Thou hast made our peace with God by thy blood. Thou hast made our peace with ourselves, and with our own consciences. All nature, and all things, by the fall were at enmity with man; and all the inferior orders instantly arose in rebellion against him, because he had rebelled against God. But when Jesus came he restored all things: To God his glory - to man his peace - to all creation order and regularity. And as thou hast purchased our peace by thy blood; so by thy continual advocacy thou livest to render it effectual. And now in thy blessed gospel thou comest to preach peace to them that are afar off, and to them that are nigh. Hail! glorious, almighty, blessed Prince of peace! Lord, in thy peace make me to go on in defiance of the opposition of hell and the world, in building thine house; and being myself built up in my most holy faith. And let devils assault, or the enemies of God and of his Christ fail; yet, Lord, speak but thy peace to my soul, and all shall be well. Say unto me as thou didst to thy disciples; Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but in me ye shall have peace.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezra 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany