Sunday, January 6, 2008

Are You Sure You Want to Study EZRA?

That is a very good question!

This is not the book of Acts! Not the Gospel of Luke. Not really like any of Paul’s or Peter’s letters. This one is different BUT it can be understood.  

This book of Ezra is only ten chapters long. It has a long list of names of Jewish head’s of households. It is a number of personal letters and open general letters from both head’s of state and local men. There are a number of characters yet the main ones do not run thru the whole book.

The key verse, Ezra 7:10 stands out among the 280 verses.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, / 
and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.  (NASB)
He put his heart to know the Law of God.  This is a very good place to be.  Have you ever set your heart on something?  It is worth all the work and effort.  And Ezra also did more than just study the Law: he did it with action.  To practice it means he put feet on the study.  Many today feel that it must take three or more years to become a Believer.  I do not agree with that at all!  Once a person understands that God loves them and that Jesus died for their sins, he or she can be ready to believe.  It takes simple faith--that of a child.

But now that one believes, act on that belief.  Put it into practice.  You know full well that if you learn something and you have to teach it to someone, you know it better PLUS the other person learns well too!  Ezra knew the Law and he also knew how to put it into a life experience.  We should be so lucky!

Also, if the book is divided into two sections, the first deals with the reestablishment of the Temple worship, Ezra 6:16 would be the key verse. 
Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—
celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy.

The second half deals with the need to return to obeying God’s Law regarding separation from evil. The key verse here would be Ezra 9: 10 
"But now, O our God, what can we say after this? 
For we have disregarded the commands..."


The Book of Ezra was formerly associated with the Book of Nehemiah. Some times, both books were treated as one book. They give an account of the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylonia to Jerusalem. They tell of the re-establishment of the Temple, their worship, and national life in their original homeland. Ezra, whose name means "help", was a wonderful priest who led the people home. He wrote a very simple history and did not give much direct teaching. He made no effort to tell a continuous story. In fact, between Ezr.6 and Ezr.7 almost sixty years passed.

You should read the companion Book of Esther to discover what was happening elsewhere during this general time period. It would also be helpful to read the Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who lived and preached during this restoration age. The two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, were closely connected with the first return of Zerubbabel in 536 B.C. God encouraged the Jews to complete His temple through these men, despite much opposition. Actually, there were three groups which returned to Palestine. They were led respectively by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Ezra's group went in 457 B.C., taking four months for travel. It is not known whether any women or children made the trip. Nehemiah came later as governor in 444 B.C. The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther cover about 100 years (536-432 B.C.).

Oh, I love history!  (His Story!)

The main message of Ezra is that God uses whomever suits His purpose, whether Cyrus and Artaxerxes, or Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah. God empowered His chosen people to overcome all opposition, even against impossible odds.

Let’s start our study of this small book of reforms and restoration. A few items to fill our bag with:

Purpose of Ezra: 
A record of the events of the first and second return from exile in Babylon by a REMNANT of Jews who survived the captivity AND to show by means of history how THIS people group in the believing community can conduct their lives in a way the brings pleasure to the Lord.

Special Features: 
Documentary of historical facts and with detailed precision, this letter or book uses first-person documents (the king’s decree in 7:11-26, and also a section in which the author writes in a first-person or “I” format. 7:27-9:15.

1. Long ago historical events,
   a. hard not to get involved in fast action historical events
2. Whole sections that consist only of names,
   b. Once the literal facts are understood, you can extract general principles.
3. How to interpret the wholesale divorces undertaken by Jewish men who married foreign wives.
   c. A graphic way to understand the need to separate from evil and to protect the covenant.

Outline of Ezra
1 Preparations for the return      2 List of those who return
                          1 & 2 First return

3 Rebuilding the Temple begun    4-5 Rebuilding halted by Hostile challenge    6 Rebuilding permitted and finished
                          3-6 Rebuilding the Temple
                   1-6 the Restoration under Zerubbabel

7 Royal permission for Remnant to return    8 Return of the Remnant
                         Second Return under Ezra

9-10 Ezra’s decisiveness concerning intermarriage
                        Reforming the life of the community
                        7-9 Reform under Ezra

The Covenant--The Covenant People--The Covenant Community--The Covenant God

This Covenant God has a master plan for Community. It started back before there was time. Let’s look at this Master Plan of Redemption…
God Spoke #1 in Genesis
Noah  (the Flood
12 sons
    Joseph -sold into slavery by bothers(!)
Egypt  for 400 years until Moses took them out!
God Spoke #2 time and gave ...
Wanderings for 40 years because of sin in the Camp
Joshua -took the nation into the Promised Land
(Saul) - People want a King like all the other countries ...  Not God's Man
Temple - was built
10 Tribes went to the North  (Evil)
2 South stayed in the South Capital city with Temple 
“A ”  Assyria
Daniel's Book
“B” Babylon
“C”   Cyrus
70 in captivity (predicted to last 70 years)
Return to Jerusalem -set up the Temple again!
400 Years of silence from God
God Spoke #3 for the LAST time in the Person of Jesus!
The LIGHT Comes
Acts 1:8
Until the time you heard.  Now, the message needs to be brought to others beyond your country, people and nations-being faithful to spread the Word of God to others!
*(If you want a copy of the chart, please request one from ICCSJAPAN@AOL.COM.  Thank you.)

2 Tim 2:15 
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, 
a workman who does not need to be ashamed 
and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Next week, we want to dig a little deeper.  Join us at 10:30 at ICCS.