Ezra 3 has Jeshua and Zerubbabel stepping up to lead the charge to “built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it”. Scripture tells us it happened in the seventh month. This was an important month on the spiritual calendar of Israel. In the seventh month they celebrated the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Feast of Tabernacles. “The people gathered as one man to Jerusalem”. This was an encouraging sign of obedience among the returned exiles. In a time of small resources and great work to be done, they took the time and money to observe the commands to gather in Jerusalem for the major feasts.
Jeshua and Zerubbabel were the two main leaders in this rebuilding project, beginning their work with building the altar that stood outside the temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem. “The foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid”. Long before they could rebuild the temple, they wisely started with building the altar for burnt offerings and other sacrifices. But once that was in place, they began to work on the temple itself.
- They built the altar first because it something they could do relatively quickly and easily.
- They built the altar first because they understood its spiritual significance.
- They built the altar first because it was an act of obedience to do so.
“So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea”. Once the work of restoration began at the altar of sacrifice, they followed through by assembling and hiring the workers they needed to build the temple. This shows that they used Gentile money to purchase the supplies (from Gentile Lebanon) to build the second temple. Cyrus not only authorized the building but also helped fund it as well.
“They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord”. This was a full team effort. All hands on deck were needed as it was a huge task. They made progress and as they did, they didn’t forget to stop and worship the Lord. “They sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever”. It was a joyful occasion. Since the destruction of the temple under the Babylonian conquest there had been no proper place for sacrifice and worship for the people of Israel. They shouted praise to God for His goodness and blessing!