What you do with the Bible will determine what God will do with you
Ezra was the second of three Hebrew leaders to leave Babylon for the reconstruction of Jerusalem. (1) Zerubbabel reconstructed the temple (Ezra 3:8), (2) Nehemiah rebuilt the walls (Book of Nehemiah), and (3) Ezra restored the worship.
Ezra condemned mixed marriages and encouraged Jews to divorce and banish their foreign wives.
Ezra renewed the celebration of festivals, the rededication of the temple and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall.
Ezra 7:10 describes a shaping of nation in accordance with the Scriptures.
Ezra’s ministry included teaching the Word of God, initiating reforms, restoring worship, and leading spiritual revival in Jerusalem.
Ezra wondered what must the world think of God’s people with dilapidated city walls?
What would distinguish God’s people who were guilty of intermarriage with those not in proper covenant relationship with the one true God?
Ezra was an encouragement to God’s people to magnify worship as their top priority, to use God’s Word as the only authoritative rule for living, and to be concerned about the image God’s people show to the world.
Ezra came back from captivity in Babylon expecting to find the people serving the Lord with gladness, but upon his return to Jerusalem, he found the opposite.
He was frustrated and sorrowful. His heart ached, but he still trusted the Lord.
He wanted the Lord to change the situation and blamed himself for not being able to change the people’s hearts.
He wanted the people to know how important and essential the Word of God was.
Nothing must supersede worship of God, and obedience is not optional.
God looks over and protects His children, always keeping His promises and providing encouragement through those He sends (Ezra 5:1–2).
Even when God’s plan seems to be derailed ~ as with the rebuilding of Jerusalem ~ God steps in at the appropriate time to continue His plan.
Big Idea: The Book of Ezra (450 B.C.) records people of God coming home after the 70 years in Babylonian captivity and the restoration of the place of worship
REMEMBER: Haggai was the main prophet in the day of Ezra ~ and Zechariah was the prophet in the day of Nehemiah.
Overview: The book of Ezra has 10 chapters and breaks down into 2 main sections: Part #1: chapters 1-6 records the first Jews returning to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel; Part #2: chapters 7-10 record the second return of Jews from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem under Ezra.
Key Verse: 7:10 “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel”
Israel went from a strong united kingdom under King David ~ into a scattered group of people in exile.
But in the next three books, we’re going to look at what happened after the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
Ezra and Nehemiah are treated as a single work in the Hebrew tradition, while Christians separate them into two different books.
This division makes a good deal of sense from a readership perspective: Ezra focuses on rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem and rededication to the Torah.
Nehemiah turns its focus to the city of Jerusalem as a whole ~ we will study that next week.
Ezra introduces two more very important characters in the Bible’s story: Zerubbabel and (another) Joshua.
Zerubbabel is a descendant of the bloodline of David, and the first political leader of the Israelites after the exile, inheriting a throne that no longer existed.
Joshua is a descendant of Aaron, inheriting a priesthood in a temple that no longer existed.
Both of these men are tasked with re-establishing Israel in Jerusalem and reinstating worship of God in a new temple.
Summary of Ezra
The book of Ezra falls into two main sections: the first focuses on rebuilding the temple of God, and the second on Ezra’s mission to reinstate God’s Law among the people of Israel.
#1. Rebuilding the temple (chapters 1–6)
The first portion of Ezra is concerned with the physical construction of the second temple in Jerusalem.
The book opens with Cyrus’ decree allowing the Israelites return to Jerusalem and erect a temple to worship their God.
Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest lead a group of exiles back to the land and begin working on the new temple.
However, construction does not go smoothly.
Zerubbabel and Joshua are opposed by some of the surrounding people (along with internal conflict that is detailed in the Minor Prophets).
This brings temple construction to a standstill, until two prophets speak up.
These prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, motivate the leaders and the people to complete the temple.
The temple is rededicated, and the Levite priests once again lead worship in Jerusalem.
The Jews celebrate the Passover.
#2. Rededication to the Law (chapters 6–10)
A priest named Ezra (who is a descendant of Aaron) moves to Jerusalem from Babylon to realign the people to the Law of Moses.
He begins teaching the people the Scriptures, but soon discovers that many of the Israelites have intermarried with unbelieving spouses who worship other gods.
Ezra sees this as a big problem, and has the Jews begin a process of cutting those ties.
Practical Application: The Book of Ezra highlights God providing hope and restoration for a broken and defeated nation.
The return of the Israelites to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple ~ are repeated in the life of every Christian who returns from the captivity of sin and rebellion against God ~ and finds God willing and able to forgive and restore.
God is willing to show us how to rebuild our lives and resurrect our hearts ~ the temple of the Holy Spirit.
As with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, God superintends the work of rededicating our lives to His service after a season of rebellion and defeat.
The opposition to the rebuilding of the temple displays a pattern that is typical of that of the enemy of our souls.
Satan uses those who would appear to be in sync with God’s purposes to deceive us and attempt to thwart God’s plans.
Ezra 4:2 describes the deceptive speech of those who claim to worship Christ but whose real intent is to tear down, not to build up.
We are to be on guard against such deceivers, respond to them as the Israelites did, and refuse to be fooled by their smooth words and false professions of faith.