Welcome back to Week 2 in the Book of Ezra!
The daily reflections you have shared out on Instagram and Facebook have been wonderful! They are such an encouragement! If you missed those discussions – I hope you will join us this week. They are so helpful!
Here are the links to last week’s posts on the blog, in case you missed any of them:
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Here’s what mine looked like last week:
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This Week’s Bible Reading Plan:
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This week’s Reflection & Discussion Questions
(Leaders: Copy and paste these into your groups. If you do not have a group, use these for a personal time of reflection.)
The temple is finally built! The people had faced opposition. They had faced tremendous discouragement that caused them to question the timing of the project and focused instead on building their own houses. God sent them the prophet Haggai to rebuke them and encourage them to press on building God’s temple. He and Zechariah encouraged the people to arise from their apathy and depression and complete the work God had called them to do.
The people obeyed the prophets. They repented for building their own comfortable homes while neglecting the house of God. They assigned the priests to their divisions, celebrated the Passover together, and now they are rewarded. The temple of God is completed, and they are joyful.
God’s people were made joyful after they obeyed the voice of the prophets and completed the task God had called them to do. The reward for our obedience is joy in God’s presence. Think of the last time you obeyed something God was asking of you. Did you feel joy? Is there anything God may be asking of you right now but you feel stuck? Move forward and obey him and experience the joy of the Lord once again!
Finally, Ezra comes on the scene. He is returning to Jerusalem from Babylon with a little under 2,000 men, plus women and children. He received a letter from King Artaxerxes allowing all who wished to return to Jerusalem with Ezra to go, as well as providing him everything else he’d requested. God was giving Ezra favor because he had set his heart on studying God’s law. It said he was a skilled scribe and even King Artaxerxes acknowledged that he was filled with God’s wisdom.
When we set our hearts to know the word of God, we gain great wisdom. The Proverbs say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. James says that if we lack wisdom, all we need to do is to ask because God gives wisdom generously. It doesn’t matter if you are a new Christian, have walked with God most of your life, or you’ve been away from God for a season and are just coming back to him, God wants us to seek him in his word. Since you are doing this study, I know that you are doing just that. How has your wisdom grown as a result of seeking God and his word? Having knowledge is good but we must remember to live it out in our daily lives. Keep on going! God loves you so much.
Ezra and all those who chose to return to Jerusalem are setting out on their journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, a trip that will take approximately four months. As they set out, he encounters a problem. They are carrying with them an enormous amount of wealth and valuables that has been given to them. They needed protection on their journey from potential robbers. Because Ezra had shared with the king about God’s power, he felt it would be a bad testimony to then ask for an escort to accompany them for protection. They needed to rely on God to be their protection on this long journey. Ezra divided up the valuables between the Levites and then they set out on their journey. God protected them the entire way and they arrived at Jerusalem safely with all the silver, gold, and valuables that had been given to them.
Ezra had the people humble themselves and fast and pray for protection. Then he proclaimed that the hand of our God is for good on all those who seek him. His words in this chapter echo what Paul said in the book of Romans. Romans 8:28 says that God works all things for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Are you facing a time of uncertainty right now? Perhaps you don’t know what to do. Are you in the middle of a difficult situation where you or a loved one needs protection in an area of their life? Seek God. His hand is for good on those who seek him. His promise is that no matter what we’re facing, or how dire things look right now, he will turn it for good and for his glory.
Ezra’s joy at arriving in Jerusalem quicky dissipates as the leaders come and tell him that the people have broken God’s command to not intermarry with the pagan nations around them. Even the priests and Levites had begun to intermarry. Ezra is devastated and appalled. God had supernaturally delivered them from their captivity, and they had returned to Jerusalem with the full blessing of the king. Despite their hardship, they had rebuilt the temple, and are now rebuilding the city. Ezra has arrived with a second group of Jews, carrying tremendous wealth and valuables. However, despite God’s great victory, they have not remained faithful, but instead are intermarrying with the pagan nations around them.
Not only had the people intermarried with the pagan nations, but they had begun to even embrace some of the idolatry of the nations around them. Less than 100 years have passed, and the people are repeating the same sin that had resulted in them being taken captive. Many times, we are most vulnerable right after a great victory, and the enemy takes this opportunity to lay a trap in our path. Have you been guilty of falling into an old sin from which God had previously delivered you? Do as Ezra did, get down on your knees and repent from that sin, cry out to him for mercy and healing. He promises that when we do, he will hear and restore us.
While Ezra is praying and weeping before God for the sin of his nation, a large number of the people gather and begin weeping with him. The last 26 verses list the names of the many priests who had taken pagan wives, some of whom had children by these wives. Then, one of the men, Shechaniah, stands up and calls the people to repentance and restoration. The people realized that if God was to turn toward them again, they must take radical steps of obedience and purge their land and their homes of the pagan influences they had invited.
Repentance of sin always requires radical obedience to God’s word. Even a little sin left unchecked will eventually spread and infect every area of our lives. When Shechaniah addressed the people, he encouraged them “Arise, be strong, and do it.” Signifying that action and courage would be needed if they were to follow through with what God had already commanded. Is there an area of your life where radical obedience is needed? Be strong and follow through with what you know God is asking of you. If you will arise, be strong, and do it, God will help you.
To print the 23 Reflection and Discussion Questions for Ezra and Nehemiah –> Click Here
This Week’s Verses of the Day:
(Leaders: You can use these images in your groups by using right click and “save as” or screen shoting them.)
Here’s another explanation of the SOAK Bible Study Method and Bible Coloring Chart if you need more guidance:
Here is the SOAK method I refer to in the video:
And the Bible Coloring Bookmark:
Click HERE to Print the full page Coloring Chart
or Click HERE for the Bookmark Coloring Chart
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Remember to leave at least 20 minutes for your reading each day. I am in prayer for you all and asking God to help us understand his word clearly.
Have a wonderful week in God’s Word – I’ll see you back here on the blog this Friday as we go deeper into God’s Word together! (Don’t forget to visit me Monday through Friday over on Facebook and Instagram. )
Keep walking with the King,
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