With the second temple completed, God gave the people a new start. They responded to God with great obedience. Not long after the temple dedication, they kept the Passover. “And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves” (Ezra 6:19-20). What a time of great emotion this must have been!
Notice verse 20 states that the priests and Levites were “purified together.” If you look up these two words in Strong’s Concordance, you will discover that they mean “unadulteratedly pure as one.” The priests and Levites were strongly unified. Verse 20 states, “all of them were pure.” The people were also unified with the priests. They all kept God’s Passover together. The only way that this kind of purity and unity can be achieved is through government. True unity can only come with God’s government. At this point in Judah’s history, the priests and Levites were truly united.
How much impurity and evil is there in division? Division reveals many sins. The very recent history of the God’s Laodicean church shows us the corruption caused by division. The Laodicean ministers are not unified. Many ministers seriously disagree with the many doctrinal changes. The wcg has split and resplit into several different groups. The members of these Laodicean groups are suffering the most from division. Families have been split apart. Spiritual confusion runs rampant within the membership. People no longer have a clear picture of what the Church teaches or believes.
Unity in Government
Jesus Christ said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). God and Jesus Christ have shared perfect unity for all eternity. Jesus Christ recognized and taught that only God the Father can properly lead the entire Family. When God’s plan for man is complete, Jesus Christ is going to present the whole Family to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Jesus Christ wants His Church to be deeply unified with the Father and Himself. How can the Philadelphia Church of God attain such unity? The ministry must first become unified. Ephesians 4:11-12 show that God’s government is structured from the top down. Since true unity can only come through government, each minister must be sure that he is submitting to God, His law and government. All ministers must remember that there is great strength and beautiful teamwork when the top, middle and bottom are all unified as one. Paul showed the ministers and deacons in Philippi that unity comes directly through the mind of Christ (Philippians 1:1; 2:1-5). We must strive to have more of the mind of Jesus Christ if we are going to achieve a pure unity among the ministry. The people of God must also unify themselves with the ministry. Example is always the best teacher. Members more readily follow government when they see their ministers willingly following authority.
Focus on Headquarters
In addition, if you study your Bible carefully, it is clear that the seat of God’s government is always at some headquarters location. Anciently there was the tabernacle at Shiloh. Then there were the temples at Jerusalem. Even in early New Testament times, Jerusalem was seen as headquarters (Acts 15:1-34). This means that each minister and member must also develop a strong headquarters focus. Division begins once the focus is taken off headquarters.
Unity is made sure through humility and loyalty. Humility and loyalty can only come about through deep conversion. The ministry must also set an example in humility and loyalty. Each minister and member must come to recognize that it will take a lot of humility and loyalty to produce the family unity that God and Christ desire for the pcg. Let’s all realize that division destroys nations and churches.
God was obviously pleased with the Jews because of their unity and their joy over His temple and holy days. Ezra 6:22 shows that He even turned the heart of the king of Assyria to support their efforts. The king strengthened “their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” When the people of God do their part, God will even use carnal people to advance His work. Let’s all work together to build strong family unity in God’s Philadelphia Church.
Ezra—Skilled in the Law
After Darius’s death, Artaxerxes also greatly blessed Ezra and the Jews. Why? “This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him” (Ezra 7:6). This verse says that Ezra was a “ready scribe in the law of Moses.” The Revised Standard Version translates ready as skilled. Ezra was highly skilled in the law. This is the reason the king granted Ezra “all his request.” God opened great doors for Ezra because he was so skilled in the law. What an incredible example for us to follow.
Where are those who are skilled in the law today? This is the big issue for God’s people in this end time. Who is skilled in the law? Is the Worldwide Church? Is the Global Church? The United Church? No! The pcg has the only people of God who are truly skilled in the law! The Laodiceans are no longer skilled in the law. In fact, they are teaching us a very grave lesson—if a converted person is not skilled in the law, then he is deceived! The pcg is not deceived because we keep the law. But we cannot allow ourselves to become self-righteous. We must become even more skilled in the law.
How refined is our understanding of the law? God’s law is a law of love. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). Mr. Armstrong defined love as an outflowing concern for others. Do we deeply love our brethren? Do we mistreat, criticize or gossip about our brothers and sisters in Christ? This is not love. God’s law requires that we actively love each other. For example, God’s law of love requires that ministers pray for their flocks. In fact, the Prophet Samuel stated that it would be a sin for one of God’s leaders to not pray for God’s people (1 Samuel 12:23).
Ezra Established Law
Ezra came to Jerusalem to establish God’s law. Solomon’s temple was destroyed because the people continually broke God’s law. The success of the second temple work depended upon how well the people kept God’s law. God sent Ezra to Jerusalem to make sure that the people recognized the importance of law.
In a similar sense, God used Herbert W. Armstrong to also establish His law in this end time. He headed God’s government as Ezra did anciently. Mr. Armstrong worked very hard all of his life to keep God’s law and government alive in the Church. We must fight to keep that same government in God’s Church today. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The very fact of law presupposes government. Government is the administration and enforcement of law by one in authority. This necessitates authoritative leadership—one in command” (Mystery of the Ages). What good is law if no one will enforce it? Are the Laodiceans enforcing law? No they are not. Look at what the wcg teaches about the law. It no longer believes that Sabbath-keeping is necessary for salvation. Yet Jesus Christ said, “… if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). The Global Church maintains its own brand of government called brotherly government. This is not the form of church government outlined in the Bible! And it’s not the kind of government God taught through Mr. Armstrong. Study Ephesians 4:8-12. There is no mention of brotherly government! Again, what good is law if no one will enforce it?
Jesus Christ and God the Father are not on the Earth at this time. They do expect their chosen ministry to enforce law (Matthew 16:18-19). The Philadelphia Church has God’s law and we will administer God’s law. Why? God requires us to do so! All of the Laodicean groups are seriously in error relative to the law and government. Remember what Mr. Armstrong taught—the fact that there is law requires someone to enforce it!
Ezra Loved God’s Law
God highly favored Ezra because of his attitude toward the law. “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10). He loved God’s law. He “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord.” The rsv translates the word “prepared” as set. Ezra set his heart, or mind, to seek God’s law. Ezra loved God’s law just like King David, who said, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalms 119:97). We also must learn to love God’s law in this manner. Have we set our hearts to love God’s law?
Ezra not only set his mind to seek the law, but he personally planned “to do it” and to teach it to all of Israel. What commitment! All Philadelphians should have a similar dedication. We all must set our hearts to do and teach God’s law. Not only for today, but for the future as well. We must remember that God’s Church is in training now to teach God’s law during the Millennium.
We should all set personal goals to be more like Ezra. We all must continually set our minds to grasp law—God’s law and government. This does require much study and a lot of hard work. We must know the law so well that we can teach statutes and judgments.
We should also study and understand the judgments made by Mr. Armstrong, God’s end-time Elijah. Do we fully understand the Bible principles behind the judgments made by Mr. Armstrong? The Laodiceans do not or they would never have rejected them. Because the Laodiceans have virtually rewritten doctrine, the Philadelphia Church has now become God’s college. We are a college of law! And all of the individuals in God’s Church, whether lay member or minister, are being judged on how well they know, follow and teach the law! Ezra came to show the Jews that a temple can only be truly built with God’s law. We must understand this same lesson. God’s Church can only be built upon law. Let’s be sure we obey and teach the law. Only then will we be qualified to teach it in the World Tomorrow.
Scribe of the God of Heaven
Ezra was well known for his skill with God’s law not only in Judah, but in Babylon as well. “Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel. Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time” (Ezra 7:11-12). Artaxerxes deeply respected Ezra. This great king recognized Ezra’s true title. Ezra was the “scribe of the law of the God of heaven.” Several commentaries show that this was Ezra’s official title! Isn’t it amazing that a carnal king could come to such understanding? He fully recognized that Ezra represented the great God of the entire universe. Artaxerxes knew who Ezra was—he knew that he came with exalted credentials!
Many question the authority and credentials of the Philadelphia ministry. Some ask, “Where does Mr. Flurry get his authority to do the work?” Do you realize that the pcg ministers share Ezra’s title? The pcg ministers are scribes “of the law of the God of heaven.” The great God of the universe gives us credentials. Why? We are the only ministers willing to set our minds to do and teach God’s law! The Laodicean ministers have become ashamed of God’s law. In essence, they teach that it is “contemptible” (Malachi 1:7). Yet God’s law is a law of love, compassion and kindness. It represents a way of life that will always produce good results. It is the only thing that will bring this world true peace and wonderful abundance.
Common Names—Uncommon Job
You should realize that God’s people are now in training to share Ezra’s title in the World Tomorrow. We will be priests of the law of the God of heaven. What a job we will have! Our focus must be that the law we keep and teach has come from the God of the universe. As a Philadelphian member, you also represent this great God! We must never forget who we are and whom we represent. You also have credentials of the highest order.
It is interesting to study into the names of the people who returned to Jerusalem with Ezra. The family names of those who committed to “the work” are outlined for us in Ezra 8. The Interpreter’s Bible Commentary shows that these are names of the common people. These people did not have impressive genealogies! In other words, people from the well-known, outstanding families remained in Babylon. They did not return to Jerusalem. This is so similar to the pcg today. The well-known ministers are not with us! The outstanding, well-known families are not with us. But just as in Ezra’s time, God is using people with common names to do an uncommon job! We all share the best of genealogies—God’s!
There is a key lesson that God wants all human beings to learn with regard to doing His work. God is not interested in just talent and ability. God wants people who will work according to His law. Remember, Satan was the epitome of talent. He had the ability to produce great good on this Earth and throughout the universe. But all of his great talent went to his head. He fell victim to his own vanity. He developed one great, catastrophic flaw—he rebelled against God’s law and government. All of his talent is now being directed toward rebellion and destruction. This tragic history is recorded for us in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.
Talent and ability have their place in God’s work. But we must acknowledge that talent and ability take a back seat to being close to God. Can the Laodiceans really do God’s work? No. Even though they talk much about God, love and spirituality, they are far away from God. In Revelation 11:2, God says they are in the outer court. The Gentile political powers are going to trample them for 31/2 years because they have rejected God and His laws.
The pcg is in God’s inner court. We may not have the greatest talent and ability. But we are willing to do things as God pleases. In reality, it takes much humility to do God’s work. “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). In fact, God will only work through humble people. Our humility and willingness to please God makes it easier for Him to work through us. God is doing this pcg work!
Some may accuse us of vanity when we say that the pcg is God’s inner court. This is not a vain statement. It is the truth. It is a great honor to be in God’s inner court. This fact should not make us spiritually smug. It should inspire us to see this work through to the end. We must never lose sight of who we are. Zerubbabel, Ezra and the Jews knew who they were. Even Artaxerxes knew who Ezra was. This knowledge motivated all of them to do the work more quickly! However, there were many people who did not know.
“And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure house. And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily” (Ezra 7:20-21). These verses give us a vital lesson. As soon as the people of God recognize who they are—as soon as God’s people recognize that God is behind them—they become highly motivated to do the work. Even Artaxerxes wanted to support Ezra as quickly as he could. Because of the time in which we live, the pcg ministry and members are going to have to work more speedily.
The prophecies show that the pcg is moving into more difficult times. The times are going to require that we all have a more refined sense of government and authority. We must not forget that we are in a war with Satan and wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The time coming is going to require that orders be completed speedily. When an army is in the heat of battle—under intense fire—there is not a lot of time for negotiating and debate! Soldiers who want to debate and negotiate while in a fight become casualties.
God requires that we prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). But He also forbids us to get involved in fruitless strife and debate (1 Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:16-18). At times, some few members want to engage the ministry in senseless debate. Our work demands that we work quickly and efficiently. There is not much time left for us to complete our job. Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). This fact does produce a certain amount of pressure on the ministry. We cannot waste time! Dealing with strife and debate can be a waste of time. We all must be careful that we are not wasting time with unimportant Bible questions, debates or controversies.
Let’s all devote our study and thinking time on the main issues facing the pcg in this end of the end time. Let’s sharpen our focus in our prayer and studies. How do we know where to place our focus? We must let the Trumpet, the Key of David broadcast and all of the pcg literature guide our focus. You should diligently prove that our message is based on God’s Word. When we all get the proper focus, God will do great things for us.
Ezra and the Jews gained a sharp focus on the work. This pleased God very much. God richly blessed them by even inspiring Artaxerxes to help beautify the temple. “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem: And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellers, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me” (Ezra 7:27-28). Mr. Armstrong always taught that when our ways please God, He blesses our efforts. Verse 27 and 28 prove this to be so.
Notice in verse 28 that Ezra was greatly strengthened by Artaxerxes’ support. Why? Was the gold important to Ezra? No. He gained strength because he knew the king’s giving was inspired by God. We must see that all of the great beauty in the pcg, our literature and television program, has been inspired by God. This beauty should greatly strengthen us to finish the work.
Dangers in the Way
The people who returned to Jerusalem with Ezra had great courage. Although they had the backing of the king, they still had to face grave dangers. Chapter 8 reveals that the Jews returned to Jerusalem with a great offering of gold and silver. They knew they would have to face enemies along the way. It is deeply inspiring to see how Ezra handled this life-threatening situation.
“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us” (Ezra 8:21-23). Along the way, Ezra stopped and led the people in a fast. What great leadership! He and his fellow workers petitioned God to reveal a “right way” for all of the adults, their little ones, and substance. Oh, how we all need to learn to do this more.
Ezra was truly a man of God. He recognized that only God could lead them and protect them. Verse 22 shows that he would have been “ashamed” to ask for help from the king of Babylon. He recognized that he was doing God’s work and God would see to their protection. He very wisely took the time to fast to get God’s attention. What an incredible example of faith!
Where is this kind of faith today? The Laodiceans do not have such faith. Their great spiritual flaw is that they rely on riches and their own selves (Revelation 3:17). They will pay a heavy price for slipping into this degenerate condition. They and all of their “little ones” are being led into wrong ways. They and all of their little children are going to have to suffer the great horror of the Tribulation. Most of the Laodiceans no longer believe in a place of protection (Revelation 12:14). Because of their lack of belief and faith they will find none. God does promise His faithful people a place of safety.
We must learn to follow Ezra’s example in faith. Because of Ezra’s faith, God did give him and the Jews His full attention.
Ezra 8 does not record attacks of any consequence on this small band of ex-captives. Ezra could have gotten a bodyguard from the king. He did not. He chose to completely rely on God. He and the people faced their enemies with God’s help. They made it through with flying colors. Verse 32 shows that the people made it safely to Jerusalem and completed the work.
In the coming months and years, the pcg is going to face enemies along the way. We are going to need God’s protection. We are going to be tested in our faith. But when we fast and petition God, we will get His attention. God will fully protect us—and we will complete our marvelous commission!