Cue the Confetti! It’s time to begin!!! I am so excited to begin our study of Ezra and Nehemiah with you!
Overview of Ezra~
In the Book of Ezra, we see God’s faithfulness even in times when the children of Israel were unfaithful. God had promised that the exiled would return to their land of promise, and he was faithful to keep his promise.
The Book of Ezra details the events surrounding the return of the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple. While Ezra contains only ten chapters, it covers the return of captives to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and Ezra, as well as over eighty years of events during this very important time in Israel’s history. We see that God sent faithful prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to call them back to their very important task when discouragement led them to halt the reconstruction project.
The name Ezra most likely means, “The Lord Has Helped”, and indeed he helped the children of Israel return to their homeland and rebuild the temple despite opposition. Through all this we see God as a God of hope and restoration. Though we may face consequences for our wrong choices in life, God will never forsake us. In his love, he forgives and restores.
Ezra recalls the events of the first post-exilic return of the children of Israel to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and Ezra, and the rebuilding of the Temple.
The Author: Although the author is anonymous, it is believed that Ezra wrote the book, or at the very least compiled it
Time Period: This book was written around 538-400 BC.
Key Verse: Ezra 3:11
And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.
1. The return of the Children of Israel under Zerubbabel (1-2)
A list of the captives who returned to Jerusalem (2:2-58)
2. The beginning of the restoration of the Temple (3)
3. Opposition to the Temple’s restoration and the work halted (4)
4. Restoration of the Temple resumes (5)
5. The completion and dedication of the Temple (6:13-22)
6. Ezra arrives (7)
7. Genealogy of the captives who returned with Ezra (8:1-14)
8. Ezra addresses sin and brings reform (9-10)
For an even more in-depth Introduction to this week’s reading, watch this video. It is a great explanation of Ezra and Nehemiah!
NOW LET’S GET STARTED!
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 inhabitants of Judah had been carried off to Babylon where they had been exiled for decades. In just the first couple of verses of Ezra, we see three fulfilled prophesies from the books of Daniel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Daniel prophesied that the Medes and Persians would defeat Babylon. Isaiah prophesied the birth and rise to power of King Cyrus and Jeremiah prophesied that after 70 years of captivity, a remnant would return to Jerusalem. This is what we’re reading today!
Cyrus, king of Persia, made a decree that God’s people return to the city of Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the Lord’s house. After years of rebellion against God, Judah had finally pushed God’s hand so far that he allowed Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to come and defeat Judah and take her captive. He raided the temple, took some of the treasure, and then the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. Over the next 70 years it sat desolate until God moved the heart of King Cyrus to call for all those who would be willing to go and begin rebuilding the temple. He gave them the treasures King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple.
We are the temple of God. When you accepted Jesus as your personal savior, the Holy Spirit came inside of you. What is the condition of the temple of the Lord in your heart? Has it been neglected? Are the treasures that were once there gone? Has it sat desolate, waiting for a revival and renewal of the Lord to come?
If you have been neglecting that secret place in your heart lately, take some time today to renew your commitment to Christ, grab those verses that were once so dear to you, and begin cleansing and refurnishing your heart with God’s Word.
Only a small number of those in exile chose to return to Jerusalem to begin the rebuilding project. Ezra lists about 50,000 who were the heads of their families besides women and children. This fulfilled the prophecy in Jeremiah that only a remnant would return to begin rebuilding Jerusalem. An offering was taken to begin rebuilding the house of the Lord, and the people gave as generously as they were able according to their means.
Restoration of the house of the Lord required a sacrifice and investment on the part of the people and it’s the same for us today. If we want to live a life of dedication to the Lord, we must be ready to sacrifice for the Lord. The people gave as they were able. God will not ask you to give what he hasn’t first enabled you to give. Is God laying anything on your heart today that perhaps you need to sacrifice for him? Is it time, finances or giving some extra kindness to someone in your life? Perhaps he is wanting you to give of your talents to serve your church or community. Be bold and step up, take that first step to give back to the Lord in whatever way he is calling you to give.
For seventy years, Jerusalem had become overgrown and in ruins, but the remnant had returned. Before they even began reconstruction on the temple, Zerubbabel, the political leader of the remnant, and Jeshua, the spiritual leader, built an altar on its ancient foundation and began offering sacrifices and keeping the feasts according to the Law. Soon, materials were ordered, and the builders laid the foundation stones for the temple.
It was a moment to celebrate, with the priests wearing their robes and carrying trumpets, and the Levites with their cymbals. They sang and praised the Lord because worship to God was being restored in Jerusalem again. However, there was a mixed response. The old men, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly; perhaps because they realized that the new temple wouldn’t be as luxurious as the one Solomon built.
Is there an area in your life that God is restoring? We can respond to restoration in two ways: we can rejoice and praise him for his wonderful work, or we can weep with regret over what could have been. Looking back with regret prevents us from seeing glory and significance of God’s work in our life now. Are you living in regret over something in your past instead of worshiping God for what he is doing in your life today? Read the last four verses of this chapter again, and purpose in your heart to walk forward in praise and worship and leave your regrets over the past behind.
Work on the temple had begun, and as often happens, the enemy sent a distraction. When Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, they scattered the Jewish people throughout the world and they themselves settled in the land. After some time, they invited priests to teach them the worship of God but continued to worship their own idols as well. These became known as Samaritans in Jesus’ day. These men approached Zerubbabel and Jeshua, offering to help rebuild the temple, but they refused the help, wanting to keep the building of God’s house pure and undefiled.
Having been rejected, these men began an active campaign to discourage the workers and stop the work on the temple. This campaign of resistance stretched even into the time of Nehemiah. Eventually, a letter is sent to King Artaxerxes full of false accusations against the remnant rebuilding Jerusalem and the King replied demanding the work be stopped.
Whenever God begins a great work in our life, we can expect the enemy to revolt. He will do everything he can to prevent God’s work. But we read in the final verse of this chapter that the work on Jerusalem was only stopped for a time. It will eventually resume. What is the enemy doing to prevent God’s work in your life from taking place? Are you discouraged? In Ephesians 6:10-20, we are given armor and weaponry to fight against the enemy and because Christ already won the battle, we fight from a place of victory. Take up your armor and weapons and fight the victorious fight. Don’t let the enemy distract you or discourage you any longer!
The rebuilding of the temple has resumed. However, the remnant encounters yet another roadblock. Tattenai, governor of that region, arrives with a group of men demanding to know who they are and who authorized the building of the temple. Tattenai then sends a letter to King Darius requesting that a search be made for the decree issued by King Cyrus authorizing the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to build the house of God.
When asked by Tattenai who they were, the elders replied, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.” Their identity was “servants of God”. When God calls us to do something great for him, we can expect to meet opposition. Many times, we become discouraged and even question whether or not what we’re doing is really God’s will. The enemy will try to cause us to question our identity and our calling, but when we are secure in who we are, we can stand strong on what we know is true and what God has called us to accomplish for him and his kingdom. Are you discouraged right now? Is the enemy causing you to question your calling and the task God has set before you? Take some time today to remind yourself of who you are in Christ. You are a daughter of the King of kings, and he loves you so much!
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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As we read and study the Book of Ezra, we will see God’s love and faithfulness on display over and over again. When the children of Israel are discouraged and apathetic, he sends his prophets to encourage them to keep going. When they are, once again, unfaithful to him, he remains faithful them.
The same is true for us today. Though at times we are unfaithful to God, he remains faithful to us. His grace, and forgiveness are unending toward us. He loves us so much!
Now, let’s get started! Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite drink and open your Bible and SOAK it in! Be sure to leave at least 15-20 minutes for your reading each day.
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 join me every weekday morning out on Facebook and Instagram!
Keep walking with the King,
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