Book 15 of the OT, has 10 chapters. The author of this historical book was probably Ezra. It records events from 538 to 450 BC, and follows 2 Chronicles telling the history of the Jews’ return after the captivity and showing God’s faithfulness in restoring His people to their land. Time to read: 40 mins.
Key people include: Ezra, Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah,
Outline. King Cyrus of Persia (who had conquered Babylon – the original captors of the Jews) gave permission for any Jews who wished to return home to rebuild the temple. However only some from the 2 Southern kingdom tribes returned – they had been in captivity 48 years. The other 10 tribes from the Northern kingdom had been captives for 284 years up to this time and didn’t grasp the vision of rebuilding the temple. The first group of exiles (up to 50,000), led by Zerubbabel, returned to their homeland to rebuild the temple but faced strong opposition. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged them and so 20 years later it was completed. From the time of capture in 586 BC until the completion of the rebuilding of the temple, the focal point of the nation was 70 years.
Some 80 years after the first exiles returned another group of 2,000 men and their families lead by Ezra made the journey. Although the temple was complete the lives of many of the people were in shambles – marrying into heathen races opposed to God and so once again, the spiritual future of the nation was under threat. This was repented of and the matter was dealt with.
Main lesson. The people started on the rebuilding but met with opposition and were so discouraged the work stopped – what work for God doesn’t have opposition! After being encouraged it was recommenced and finally completed. For our goals to be reached, persistence and determination is required to counter what would come against us.
Key verses and thoughts: * “The Lord moved the king’s heart... He has appointed me” (Ezra 1:1,2). Although not a Jew or believer Cyrus was used by God to help the Jews return to their homeland and assisted with the reconstruction (Ezra 9:9). Darius and Artaxerxes were other heathen rulers who not only gave approval to, they even assisted the Jews in their reconstruction. God is able to use anyone to bring about his purposes.
* Those that don’t go, should help provide for those who do go (Ezra 1:4,6). This was a huge undertaking and required a united effort to accomplish. Coordinated teamwork is essential for significant ventures to be successfully completed. Am I contributing to God’s Kingdom in a meaningful way and in partnership with those with a similar goal? This is the basis of missionary endeavours. David’s directive was for an equal sharing in the reward for all those involved in an undertaking (1 Sam 30:24).
* Our whole history has been one of sin...again we have disregarded your commands and married those who practice what you have said is detestable (Ezra 9:7,10,14). Ezra addressed the issue of intermarriage with heathen races whereby idolatry infiltrated and weakened their commitment to God. He first prayed, and then his confrontations moved the people to such an extent that they realized the seriousness of the sin and were prepared to send away their heathen wives and children. After praying and confessing do I follow through on the burden of my prayers, if it is within my power to do so?