Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Ezra & Haggai - "Rebuilding the Temple"|
Chapter: Ezra 7
Passage: Ezra 7:1-10
A. Find Out:
1. Who was Ezra descended from? v.5
2. What also was he? v.6a
3. What had he obviously done? v.6b
4. How long did his journey take? v.9
5. Why was the Lord's hand on him? v.9c,10
1. What were Ezra's qualifications?
2. How was the Lord seen to be moving?
3. Why do you think the Lord now wants him to go to Jerusalem ?
The temple of the Lord in Jerusalem has now been finished and the Passover celebrated. The first stage of reinstating the people back in Israel has been completed. What will be the next stage? We start to see it today in this summary of what was to follow.
Ezra is first of all a priest, descended from the family of Aaron. The writer of this book is careful to show us that his ‘pedigree' is perfect for the job. Second, he is a teacher who knows the Law of Moses. In what he is going to do, that is also important. Third, he has sought the Lord earnestly about His Laws. BECAUSE of that, the Lord's hand is now upon him to bring him to Jerusalem where He will use him. This man is chosen because a) he is part of the right family (to prove he was a Jew and a priest was important), b) because he has right knowledge and c) because he has a right heart.
We also see that obviously he has asked the king if he can return to Israel and the king, at the Lord's prompting, has granted him that request. We'll start to see tomorrow some of the detail of how Ezra went to Jerusalem . This is all very much part of God's plan to restore His people.
Chapter: Ezra 7
Passage: Ezra 7:11-28
A. Find Out:
1. How is Ezra described? v.11,12
2. Why was he being sent? v.14,25
3. What was he to do with all the money he had received? v.17,20
4. What did the king order the area treasurers to do? v.21-23/v.24
5. What was the king seeking to do? v.27
1. How would you describe the overall purpose of Ezra's trip?
2. How was the king providing materially for them?
3. What is obviously on the king's heart?
In this remarkable letter from the king we see him giving two sets of instructions.
First of all he instructs Ezra himself (v.13-20) to go and establish the Law of God at Jerusalem again. He seems to understand that the Temple should be the centre of a God-fearing people, a people who are ordered by the Law of God, and he is sending Ezra to see that that comes about. Ezra is to see that the people of Israel come under the Law of God again, in every area of their lives, and to ensure this happens he is also to establish judges and magistrates to administer justice under the Law.
Second, the king instructs the treasurers in the local government set-up (v.21-24), in the area of Israel that is under his control, to provide financially for all their needs in respect of the Temple, and not to tax them. Most kings wanted more and more taxes but this king is wholehearted in his desire to bless the people at Jerusalem. How did all this come about? Why was the king so helpful? We aren't told. All we know is that this royal court had been influenced by Daniel and now the king is completely for the Jews and for the re-establishing of the temple and the people in Israel. Surely the hand of God!
Chapter: Ezra 8
Passage: Ezra 8:15-20
A. Find Out:
1. Who was missing first of all? v.15
2. How many men were sent looking? v.16
3. Who were they to bring? v.17
4. Why were they successful? v.18
5. How many did they find from Levi? v.18,19
6. How many registered servants did they bring? v.20
2. Why do you think he sent so many men looking for them?
Our tendency might be to ignore this apparently insignificant passage but it is very important! Remember, ALL Scripture is useful for teaching ( 2 Tim 3:16 )
Ezra, who knows all about the Law of God, realises that there are special men for special jobs in God's economy - and no one else will do! The Levites were appointed by God to look after the Temple, so Levites must be found in the ordered society of the captivity. The picture in the Old Testament is a foreshadowing of what was to come in the church in the New Testament. It is God who gifts and calls people to specific tasks (Rom 12:6, Eph 2:10).
We also see the importance Ezra (note in passing the pronoun ‘me' in 8:1 - it is now him writing) places on the task of finding Levites as he sends a large team of leaders looking. Others must also realise how important it is that they come. Then we see specific names mentioned. Individuals are important in God's eyes. We should thank God that we are important to Him and He has specific tasks for us as individuals to do in the life of the kingdom of God .
1. God has gifted me for service. Am I using my gifting?
2. I'm not called to do other people's work, just my own.
Chapter: Ezra 8
Passage: Ezra 8:21-36
A. Find Out:
1. What did they do before they left? v.21
2. Why hadn't they soldiers for protection? v.22
3. What did Ezra do next? v.24-30
4. How did the journey go? v.31
5. What did they do after they had rested? v.33-34
6. What did the people then do? v.35
7. What final thing did they do? v.36
1. What was their overall fear as they travelled?
We see Ezra first of all having to live with the consequences of his faith. Having told the king boldly in testimony that God will look after them, he's now going to have to live with that. His big fear is for the gold and silver they have been given to take back to Jerusalem . Probably it is widely known that they have been given it and anyone could attack to steal it. His way of dealing with this fear?
First he calls them all to fast and pray. They place their reliance fully upon God. Do we do that? Second, after seeking God's help, they divide the wealth up between the priests who are sacred and so few people would consider attacking them. Not only that, if they are attacked, the wealth is spread over a number of people and is less likely to be lost. When they arrive in Jerusalem it is all safely weighed out into the Temple with no loss. They then restore their relationships with God through the sacrifices. That is the most important thing to them, to be at peace with God, doing what he has instructed. Then can come establishing life for society. So too for us?
1. Faith means we rely upon God. Do we do that?
2. For practical matters faith needs to come with wisdom!
Chapter: Ezra 9
Passage: Ezra 9:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. Then what was Ezra told and by whom? v.1,2
2. What did he do? v.3
3. Who gathered with him? v.4a
4. How long did he sit there and in what state? v.4b
5. What did he eventually do? v.5,6a
1. How would you summarise the news that was given to Ezra?
2. How would you describe his response?
3. Why do you think that was?
Ezra has just arrived and presumably indicates why he has come, and enquires from the leaders already there of the state of the people. He is told that the people there have settled with the people of the land and intermarried with them. This is not just the ordinary people, this is also the priests and Levites and the leaders as well. Having gone back to the land, they have been casual about who they were. The Law of God had decreed that they were to be a separate and distinct people who did not marry others. Deut 7:1-4 had been very clear about this and the reason given was that their hearts would be turned away from God by the foreign idols. Tragically this people disdained their heritage and were casual about who they were. Are we fully appreciative of who we are, the holy children of God?
Ezra's reaction is one of total dismay. His tearing his clothes and pulling out his hair was a cultural sign of utter distress. So much did this dismay him that he just sat there, unable to do anything for hours. Why was he so moved? He was a man of God who is steeped in the word of God. The more the word fills us the more we understand it and the more we feel with God. Ezra understood the awfulness of what had happened. Potentially this was the end of the holy people. He prays.
1. Are we fully appreciative of who we are “in Christ”?
Chapter: Ezra 9
Passage: Ezra 9:6-15
A. Find Out:
1. What does Ezra acknowledge to start with? v.6
2. How does he enlarge on that? v.7
3. Yet how is the present a time of hope? v.8,9
4. But what does he confess? v.10-12
5. What does he acknowledge? v.13
6. How does he conclude his prayer? v.14,15
1. How does Ezra cover the sin of Israel in his prayer?
2. What element of hope if there however?
3. How is the prayer more an acknowledgement than a plea?
Having sat for some time in a state of miserable shock, Ezra now prays. His prayer is not so much a plea for forgiveness as rather a simply acknowledgement of their sin. Ezra knows that here is a situation where words are inadequate, and it will require action before he can ask forgiveness. We need to learn this lesson: sometimes we need to show our repentance by a change of action before we come running to God asking for forgiveness. He is more concerned with what we do than with our mere words. Let's consider the prayer.
First Ezra acknowledges their present sinfulness in general, recognising that that was how it had been throughout Israel 's history. From the time of the judges on, Israel had fallen into sin and then, as a result, fell under the domination of others. God had come again and again and given them deliverers when they had cried out in repentance. From this he recognises there is a ray of hope in that the fact that they are back in the land is a sign of God's grace and mercy. But having said that he recognises they are in a place of sin where they, as a people, have disregarded God's commands in respect of staying holy and distinct. At the end of his prayer it seems he can't bring himself to ask for forgiveness, he can only acknowledge their state. Action is needed.
1. Repentance is best shown by a change of action.
2. Sometimes words should be few and actions many!
A. Find Out:
1. What was Ezra doing? v.1a
2. Who joined him? v.1b
3. What did Shecaniah suggest they do? v.3
4. What did he go on to say they would do? v.4
5. Who made an oath? v.5
6. What did Ezra then do? v.6
3. What does it say about the Jews' feelings towards the Lord?
First we observe Ezra's wholehearted expression of repentance. He clearly does not care what people may think. He is more concerned with what God thinks. He is an example here, for all of us who would consider ourselves to be leaders. Leaders lead - in all ways!
Second, we see the response of the people around him who catch something of the awfulness of the situation, by the way Ezra is acting, and they too start to weep.
Third, we see they covenant to put right what is wrong. It is all very well being sorry, it is another thing to put things right. It may cost a lot! In this case many of them are going to lose their wives and children.
That may appear terrible but that merely means we do not appreciate the full significance of being out of relationship with the Lord. (Of course we don't know here how they were going to care for the families being put away). The commitment of this people is beyond question. Read Mt 10:37
1. When God calls us to be holy, He means it!
A. Find Out:
1. How was the seriousness of the call shown? v.7,8
2. For what 2 reasons were the people distressed? v.9
3. What 2 things were the people told to do? v.11
4. What 2 problems were there in doing this? v.13
5. How did they decide to resolve it? v.14
6. How long did it take to do? v.16,17
1. What had they considered they would incur? v.14
3. What does it show about them?
First of all we see the leaders making a call for all the exiles who have returned to the land to come to Jerusalem. Failure to come would mean they loose everything. That was how serious it was!
Second we see that their gathering was in the rainy season, and there was no putting it off until the weather got better. They were in real earnest. There is a real commitment here!
Third, we see Ezra calling for repentance which involves BOTH confession AND putting things right, and the people responding to his call. We must not take this response casually, for this is a very costly decision, yet the people do respond and are willing to do this thing. Finally we see that they do it town by town, so they can continue dealing with the large numbers despite the rainy season. As awful as this scene may be, of families breaking up, they realise that obedience to God is more important and they must put their wrong right if they are to continue with God. This is perhaps one of the most costly acts of obedience by a large group of people seen in the Bible. We perhaps need to realise that in those days the family unit was very strong, and so it was bad news to split the family, yet the foreign wives would have been able to go back into the care of their original families.
1. Putting wrongs right are often quite painful.
RECAP - "Re-establishing" - Ezra 7-10
In this third group of 8 studies we have seen:
It is perhaps hard for us to realise the enormity of what was taking place. First there is Ezra's return with royal resources, then there is recognition of how far they have strayed from being the special people of God, and finally there is the activity to restore their status before God.
1. We are called a people of faith, and have to live by faith.
2. Faith has practical out-workings.
3. We are called to be a holy people, different from the world.
4. Failure to be that requires repentance & restoration.
Thank the Lord that we are a holy people. Dare to ask Him to show you where you fall short of that.
PART 4 : "Haggai"
In this next Part we will move into the book of Haggai, almost as a separate study, to see the spiritual dynamics of the Lord challenging and encouraging through the prophetic word when the Temple rebuilding was languishing. It was this that re-motivated the people to restart the building.
SUMMARY for Ezra
1. "Return & Rebuilding" Ezra 1-3
2. "Countering Opposition " Ezra 4-6
3. "Re-Establishing" Ezra 7-10