Ezra: The Book of Restoration and Reconciliation (1:1-11, 7:10)
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Ezra is the Book of Restoration
1:1-11, 7:10 (Pastor Heo)
Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return
1:1-3pp — 2Ch 36:22-23
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ ” 5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites–everyone whose heart God had moved–prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. 8 Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 This was the inventory:
- gold dishes, 30
- silver dishes, 1,000
- silver pans, 29
- 10 gold bowls, 30
- matching silver bowls, 410
- other articles, 1,000
11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.
7:10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
In our Bible survey study, last time we studied 2 Chronicles. Today, Ezra.
Ezra is the name of the book and the person who (probably) wrote this book.
Who is he? “Ezra” means “help” or “the LORD helps.” Do you need help from the LORD? He was a priest and scribe – an expert in the Law of the LORD – he was a direct priestly descendant of Aaron. He studied, practiced and taught the Word of God as an educated scribe. He was godly, and had strong trust in God, moral integrity, sorrow over sin. He was a contemporary of Nehemiah (next Sunday). They lived at the same time in the OT.
Before the study of Ezra, I want to give a brief chronological history of the Bible to review.
- Era 1: Creation (Genesis 1:1 – BC 2000) + the Fall, the Flood of Noah, the Tower of Babel
- Era 2: Patriarchs (360 years) Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph
- Era 3: Slavery (430 years) in Egypt
- Era 4: Wilderness (40 years) with Moses
- Era 5: Conquest (60 years) with Joshua in the Promised Land
- Era 6: Judges (350 years)
- Era 7: United Kingdom (began in BC 1500 – 120 years) with Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon (each king 40 years)
- Era 8: Divided Kingdom (Assyria 721 BC destroyed northern – 586 BC Babylonian destruction of southern kingdom)
- Era 9: Captivity (70 years)
- Era 10: Return (up to BC 400) = Ezra
- Era 11: Intermediate Period (God is silent for 400 years – between the end of the OT and the beginning of the NT – Jesus birth introduced the New Testament Era)
- Era 12: New Testament era (ushered in by Jesus’ birth)
Ezra is a continuation of 2 Chronicles (in the Era of Return) showing the return of the Israelites to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple – and shows the restoration of their spirits.
- Some return to Jerusalem
- temple rebuilt, worship restored
- 80 years later (second group returned under the leadership of Ezra)
In 2 Chron, no story of northern kingdom, just the story of the southern kingdom through the line of David. In BC 586, Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, all the palaces and the temple. Everything was taken captive to Babylonia. The wall of Jerusalem was destroyed and broken down. But God promised and he is faithful “You will return from Babylon to Jerusalem after 70 years captivity” – through Jeremiah (even the name of the king – Cyrus – was prophesied).
- Jeremiah 25:11 “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland and these nations will serve the king of Babylon 70 years.”
- Jeremiah 29:10 “This is what the LORD says, ‘When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.’”
The last 2 verses of 2 Chron ends with this prophecy of Jeremiah. Also the first 2 verses of Ezra begins with this prophecy. These 2 verses are almost identical.
2 Chron last 2 verses
36:22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you–may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.’ “
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.
3 Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.
The book Ezra continues the narrative of 2 Chron by revealing how God faithfully fulfills his promise for his people to return to the Land of Promise after 70 years of exile in Babylon. To reach the final destruction in Babylon, there were 3 deportations.
- BC 606,
- BC 597
- BC 586
After this, again, there were 3 times to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, restore their relationship with God. (reminds me of Peter’s 3 denials, and 3 forgivenesses)
- first return = BC 538 under Jerubabbel – direct descendant of King David
- second return = BC 457 under Ezra – direct descendant of Aaron (Ezra was written after this point)
- third return = under Nehemiah
The THEME of Ezra
= restoration of the temple + the spiritual, moral restoration of the people under the leadership of these two men.
People are purified, God’s goodness is seen clearly in the way He sovereignly protects His people even in exile (they prospered in exile) and He raised up pagan kings who were sympathetic and sent them home to restore their relationship with him. He also provided enthusiastic and zealous leaders who led the people to return and rebuild and restore.
God keeps his promise – and he is SO faithful to keep his promise.
14 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.”
The survey of Ezra
= 10 chapters covers 80 years – it can be divided into 2 parts
- chp 1-6
- chp 7-10
Part 1: chp 1-6 (first return under Jerubabbel)
As we know, the southern kingdom was destroyed by Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar – in 539 BC Cyrus, the first king of Persia overthrew Babylonia. At that time, Babylonia was the most powerful empire in the world at that time. But when Persia overcame it, Cyrus became the most powerful man in the world. Then, he issued the decree to send the Persian servants (the Israelites) home to rebuild their temple. It was started with the help of Cyrus, but finished under a later king Darius.
- Chp 1: the first king of Persia (Cyrus) issued a decree to return and rebuild
- Chp 2: the list of exiles who returned
- Chp 3: they gathered in Jerusalem and offered regular sacrifices and worshiped and gathered materials needed
- Chp 4: hindrance to rebuilding by their enemies
- Chp 5: Jerubabbel tried continually to rebuild, Darius became king and they sent him a letter to remind him that the previous king had allowed them to rebuild
- Chp 6: Darius sent help to rebuild (v. 16 “They celebrated the dedication of the temple with joy and they celebrated the Passover.”)
Chp 1-6 = 20 years, rebuilding the temple = 20 years, between chp 6 to 7, there is a 60 year (58 years) gap. During this period, the story of ESTHER happened.
Part 2: chp 7-10
- Chp 7: new King Xerxes (Artaxerxes) and Ezra received authority from that king to bring his people and contributions to the temple in Jerusalem (God protects)
- In first return with Jerubabbel – 50,000 people joined. In this second return with Ezra – less than 2,000 people joined. Their primary task was to rebuild their spiritual and moral relationship with God.
- Chp 7: After 60 years, Ezra came to Jerusalem with the permission of Xerxes
- Chp 8: list of the family heads who returned with Ezra
- Chp 9: Ezra’s prayer – when he discovered that the people and priests had intermarried with pagan women, he offered a great repentant prayer (with crying and weeping) – the people responded by agreeing to put away their pagan wives and live in relationship with God. This brought about a GREAT revival and restoration (esp from the sin of intermarrying with pagan women).
- Chp 10: The people’s confession (v. 1 “While Ezra was weeping and throwing himself down before the temple, a large crowd of Israelites gathered around him. They too, wept bitterly.”)
- What else can you see in the last chapter? A list of those who intermarried with pagan women. The last verse of the last chapter (10:44 “All these had married foreign (spiritually) women and some of them had children by these wives.”)
In Ezra we can see God’s sovereignty and faithfulness.
The exercise of his supremacy = the evidence of his sovereignty. He is the MOST High – subject to none, Lord of Heaven and Earth – absolutely independent, influenced by none, God is God in FACT, in NAME – none can prevent him, nor hinder his will. He is doing all the time only, always, as he pleases. He is working ALL things together according to the counsel of his own will.
He is in control of all human beings, all human history, every nation, every leader, every individual.
In Ezra, we see 3 pagan kings (Cyrus, Darius, Artaxerxes) – they did not know God personally – they had no personal relationship with God, so HOW was it possible for them to issue a decree in order to fulfill the prophecy of God (from 70 years prior)? “God moved the heart of Cyrus” to do this. (God stirred, God prompted the heart of Cyrus). This shows that God is absolutely a sovereign God.
God is an absolutely faithful God. = he will ALWAYS do what he has said, what he has promised.
He is always good in disciplining, glorifying, sanctifying, forgiving, providing for, protecting his children. He is perfect in fulfilling his promise.
Matthew 24 “The heavens and the earth will pass away but my Word will never pass away.” Not one dot or stroke of the Word will be changed.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Ezra is about the restoration and reformation of our hearts and our lives.
How is this restoration possible? 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW Creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” God reconciled us to HIM and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
This is the FIRST task we are given (Rom 5:10-11) “If when we were enemies with God, we were saved through the death of Jesus, how much more should we be so through his life?” We have received reconciliation through Christ.
Bless your neighbor, be blessed through Jesus Christ to be reconciled to God.