OK, we are popping back over to Ezra. Here is an easy way to remember this: The Exile happened in 3 waves, right? (Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah points of view) well the release happened in 3 waves too. Zerubbabel (which we read about in the first part of Ezra (Priests returning), well now it is Ezra leading them and the third wave will be Nehemiah. SO here we are in wave 2. Between the two waves was the story of Esther, so we read it chronologically how it occurred, so there was about 80 years between the first return and the second.
Chapter 7. Did you skim the names chickies? because if you did…you missed some blasts from the past! look at verse 3-6. Remember when Aaron became High priest and then his sons broughT unauthorized fire to the tabernacle and theN blew up, so Eleazar, son number 3 became High priest. Then Phinehas! I know the name sounds familiar…click here to read the story, he was the priest THAT got really mad when the Israelite brought the Moab woman into the camp to have a pagan ritual of sex in front of the others so Phineas stabbed them both at the same time in the act.
Anyway, didn’t mean to memory lane you….the point is Ezra came not just from the Levites but the Line of Aaron, the High Priest line. Therefore it makes sense why he was well versed in the law of Moses. In Chapter 7 you had to just smile. Through the prophets God said there will be restoration after punishment, well look at what is going on. King Artaxerxes, releases them, protects them, untill the Law for them, even as far as knowing that the Levites were to be supported by the people so there would be taxes (wow, remember all that from Leviticus). WOW. And then of course the census. We know this is important to the Jewish people and it still is today. Jews must always be able to trace back their family heritage.
Chapter 8. The return to Jerusalem. I just want to be able to picture what it may feel like. They pick up their life, old and young and go by foot 900 miles (Nashville to NJ) while carrying 650 talents of God’s treasures that Nebuchadnezzar had taken when he raided the temple the first time. Ummmm that is about 65 tons in our weights. SO you can see why Ezra would not rely on them physically but on God through fasting and prayer.
Chapter 9. (I am soo sorry the blog is so long, I just can’t help it. Great read today.) Let’s go way back to Deuteronomy 7.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.
SO you can see why Ezra, a man of the Word, is so grieved when he was told they intermarried YET when he prayed he equated himself equally as a sinner. (Like Daniel)
That was my kind of read!
(It is really hard to NOT preach life application on this read…good grief! God had such a Word with me this week about obstacles when I am doing the Lord’s work. I can tell you I totally default to “Well, God closed that door for me so He must have something different in store for me coming up” and NO that might not be it at all. I need to check my motive on WHY I take that default so easily. Lazy? Tired? Bored? Need something new to do? Hmmmm anyway, here we go….
OK,this is a great read but this might frustrate you a little: they are out of order a bit. SO let’s just take it one chapter at a time but I think this will help you as you read, there were 4 Persian Kings in Ezra’s days
- Cyrus, we are familiar with him because he is the one that made the decree to free the Jews. He sent Zerubbabel to Jerusalem, funded the project, and returned all the treasure to the Holy Land that Nebuchadnezzar had so rudely taken and used.
- Darius, Supported the construction of the temple
- Xerxes also called Ahasuerus, (Esther’s husband) allowed the Jews to protect themselves
- Artaxerxes (Nehemiah was this kings cupbearer)
OK, so now as you read these chapters you will be able to place the order in which they should be (did you just say “yeah right”)
Chapter 4. Very interesting. As we can see the love for money has always motivated decisions. The temple stopped construction for 15 years here. Uggggg.
In 5 and 6 King Darius supported the temple construction and God used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (we will read Haggai tomorrow) as instruments to give the message from the Lord. The Last part of the reading really touched me. The temple was completed at the time the Feast fo Unleavened Bread would be celebrated. How fitting! This feast is to remember Israel’s deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus. God has now fully delivered them from Babylon.
DO NOT walk away from this reading and so “Ohhh, the temple is rebuilt”. Think of how HARD it was for them to complete what God asked them to do. DO you know how many years we just read?? Good Grief I give up wayyyyy to fast when an obstacle is in my way!
THis is why we are reading Chronologically! Imagine reading the Bible cover to cover. See, Ezra is a HISTORY BOOK so we put it in the Bible with the other history books. So could we have read this before the Prophecy of the captivity? no! So we now pick up in History. HIS STORY.
Before you start go back one page in your Bible and look at the last verse of 2 Chronicles. You will see we are picking up right where we left off before we read the Prophet books. Ezra was the author of the Chronicles, Ezra, possibly Nehemiah and a Psalm. OK, since we KNOW the scriptures, we can take the Prophets words now and apply them. Look at Isaiah 44 written 200 years before this event
who carries out the words of his servants
and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be built,’
and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry,
and I will dry up your streams,’
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd
and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” ‘
So now we know, because the Lord says. So the first group will be led from captivity by Zerubbabel (fun to say). We also know from the scriptures that Cyrus would be from Medio-Persia (think of statue in Daniel). Cyrus’s decree went out to all 12 tribes but from the list created in chapter 2 in Ezra we see only Judah and Benjamin tribes are returning. Dust off your memory from months back, we know that these are the priests, and the temple caretakers.
In 2:63 write a note that he is Zerubbabel.
Chapter 3. You need to think about God’s character and lesson here. God took the ones He loved after warning them for hundreds of years to turn to His ways and they didn’t listen. Sooooo he had no choice but to create a circumstance of captivity and exile for a period of time in their life and now we see the other side. Look at how discipline works, we know this if we have children, right after punishment is when they are on the best behavior. So as we read Chapter 3 we will go all the way back to Leviticus! Feasts and offerings, worshipping the Lord as we were called to do. Can I get an AMEN! The captivity worked!
Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible. They give and account for one of the most important events in history…the return from exile. Both books have a lot in common, they both cover about 100 years of history, they both begin in Persia but end in Jerusalem, they begin with a king’s decree, both books include a prayer, and both books end with the purification of their people. An important chapter to reread would be Jeremiah 29 (my favorite!)
This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
We all read Exodus, this is the second Exodus. Time to exit Babylon instead of Egypt. This time Ezra is the instrument for God instead of Moses. Ezra was a priest, the great grandson of the priest who found the lost scrolls in the deserted temple that brought them to King Josiah that began a revival (Jeremiah’s dad)! Now it is Ezra’s turn to be used by the Lord.