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Read Ezra 3

Rebuilding the Altar

When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices. Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred festivals of the Lord, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the Lord. On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid.

Rebuilding the Temple

Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and olive oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus king of Persia.

In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord. Joshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers—all Levites—joined together in supervising those working on the house of God.

10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:

“He is good;
    his love toward Israel endures forever.”

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

Go Deeper

In this chapter, we see Zerubbabel leading the rebuilding of the temple. Over 42,000 Israelites returned to Jerusalem with him, and they immediately began work on the altar and the temple foundations. However, we see in verses 12 and 13 that this work was met with very different reactions. Those who had seen the original temple, the older priests and Levites, wept at the sight of the new foundation. Those helping to rebuild shouted for joy. Verse 13 tells us that the sounds of both were so loud you couldn’t distinguish one from the other.

Isn’t it interesting that the same event would bring such polar opposite emotions? The shouts of joy are easy to understand. This sight was a symbol of obedience, a promise of hope, and the beginning of a new future. Even though this new temple was not going to be as elaborate or ornate as the original built by Solomon, it was a reminder of God’s protection and promises. 

But for those who had lived through the years of disobedience and punishment, who had seen the destruction of Solomon’s temple, this new building elicited weeping and conviction. The original temple was surrounded by a thriving empire, while Zerubbabel’s temple was surrounded by ruins. For those who had lived through the destruction and fall of the original temple, the sight of this rebuild was a physical reminder of God’s correction and discipline – a reminder of their failures and shortcomings. It is no wonder there was such a range of emotions. Their individual responses had a direct correlation to whether their work was destroyed by sin or whether their work was a result of obedience. 

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3 that we are now God’s temple, and just like the Israelites, our work will be tested on judgment day. Just as the new temple was built on the original foundation built by Solomon, we are now charged with building God’s kingdom upon the foundation of Jesus. Our work will be evaluated and either rewarded or discounted. 

When that day comes and our kingdom work is looked upon, will we weep or will we shout for joy? Will the sight of it be a reminder of our sins or will it be a symbol of our obedience and God’s faithfulness? If we are honest, there will probably be some of both. Thankfully by God’s grace, we will be saved. Let’s get to work today building something that lasts, starting with a firm foundation in Jesus and continuing with materials that pass the test – obedience, love, and faithfulness to the God who has saved us. 


  1. Do you think you will look back at your life and weep, or will you shout for joy?
  2. If you take an honest look at your life, have you established a firm foundation in Jesus?
  3. Spend some time praying and asking God what He is wanting you to do to build His kingdom. What specific step is He asking you to take in obedience? If you feel Him prompting you, consider sharing that with someone who will help hold you accountable.

By the Way

Haggai addressed those who were weeping in Ezra 3 and comforted them by prophesying that the glory of this new temple would exceed the glory of the former, because Jesus was going to come and fill it with His glory! See Haggai 2:7, written around 520 B.C.

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10 thoughts on “Ezra 3”

  1. There is such a clear picture of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us in this chapter. While sometimes it seems difficult to find time to spend with Jesus each day, the access we have to God through Jesus is incredible compared to what the Israelites had to do. I am moved by their faithfulness to the Lord, even when the requirements were intense, and thankful for a personal relationship with the God of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ.

  2. I’m reminded of Jesus’ vivid words in Mark 2 where he cleanses the temple and then declares “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days (v19). Christ was speaking of his own body that would be destroyed and then resurrected. Now and forevermore he became the new place where everyone may meet and fellowship with God. In Matthew 12:6 he declares “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” He meant himself! Authentic worship isn’t attached to a place, it’s in a person, Jesus!

  3. Wow, as I look in my rear view mirror, I now know why there is such a strong mix of emotions from my past disobedience towards God and the miraculous way in which He broke me and saved me to bring me back to Him. It is a profound mixture of the shouts of JOY for His grace and mercy towards me…a sinner destined to destruction; and weeping for the arrogant disobedience I walked in for so many years blind deaf and dumb. But alas, God cannot be mocked – you reap what you sow! (Galatians 6:7-8) Hallelujah to the God who saves – to the God who loved me while I was yet a sinner ( Romans 5:8) To the God who set me free from my bondage and restored my sight (Isaiah 61:1)

  4. “Do you think you will look back on your life and weep, or will you shout for joy?”
    That question will slap the taste out of your mouth.
    It leads me to think about all the places I’ve been and all the times that sin has been served up for me to devour like an animal.
    For so many years I thought I was finding joy in place hat I was doing (sin).
    But it wasn’t, it was simply dopamine, a natural response to a stimulus.
    I never would have thought that true joy is found in obedience, but it is.
    I have destroyed the temple of God so many times they cannot be numbered. In this current time, I simply desire to be obedient to His call and rebuild what I have broken.
    I am eternally grateful for a God that longs for relationship with me. I am grateful that He has placed me, in this time and space, amongst people that have a far greater maturity than I, that I can learn from.
    As I read this, and thought about my life, my sin, my faith, or absence of,
    He reminded me that my faith is like a mustard seed, and that obedience is where that will grow. May my heart be open to hear Him call.

    1. The weeping and shouting for joy spoke to me also. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the things that make us look back and weep and remember to shout for joy!

  5. 3 Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

    I love the faithfulness shown here! They feared the people around them, but carried on with what they were supposed to do anyway.

  6. God spoke this through Haggai: “‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’”
    ‭‭Haggai‬ ‭2:4-5‬ ‭NIV‬

    How kind that God saw these returning Israelites in their pain & spoke this encouragement to them?! He encourages them to be strong and work because He is with them. His presence hasn’t ever left them. They didn’t realize it at the time, but the temple just symbolized his presence with them. So even though the temple wasn’t built yet, God is reminding them that He is still with them! He hasn’t left. He never will. And it just gets better because His spirit now lives within us! We have access all the time. What a gift. Today I’m thankful for the encouragement that God’s constant presence is in my life & praying I allow Him full reign in my life today.

  7. “Do you think you will look back at your life and weep, or will you shout for joy?” What a deep question. There are so many seasons and years of my life that I look back upon with sadness, realizing how many years I wasted chasing joy and happiness from things and people, finding myself more and more empty. Although I was saved as a young child, I have not always walked the path of obedience. There have been so many wasted years that I could have spent serving God, but instead, I served my flesh. However, these years of wandering and struggling have given me a better understanding of God’s grace. I know where I was and what God has rescued me from. I am reminded of Laura Story’s song, “Blessings”.

    “‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
    What if Your healing comes through tears
    What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
    What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”

    Looking back on the seasons of darkness in my life gives me such a greater appreciation for the joy that I have found in the Lord. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, set my feet upon a rock, and has put a new song in my mouth! Praise God for His goodness, His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His grace!

    “I waited patiently for the Lord;
        he inclined to me and heard my cry.
    He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
        out of the miry bog,
    and set my feet upon a rock,
        making my steps secure.

    He put a new song in my mouth,
        a song of praise to our God.
    Many will see and fear,
        and put their trust in the Lord.”

    Psalm 40:1-3

  8. Building a temple takes labor, time and so much effort… now, it’s so insanely easy to spread Gods word. Why don’t we do it? These people labored, WORKED to build a temple to glorify God, and yet we can’t simply set out phones down or whatever is distracting you, to Glorify God. We don’t even have to work to spread his word and glorify him. But there definitely things we can do and we can work For. If these people can do it, you absolutely can to, I can to. Loving in this time is also a blessing with how much more easily we can do Gods work.

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