Monday, January 14, 2008

So, Now you WANT to study Ezra!

Glad to have you with us today!  Please turn to:
Jer 25:11-17  for some background material!

When you study the Bible, ask six questions along the way.

For our framework in our study, we will be using an Inductive Bible Study method.

First, there are three areas we will be dealing with for this study.

Observation: What does it say? We will know more as we go.
Interpretation: What does it mean? As we go along…
Application: How does the meaning apply to me? As we go…

What kind of literature is this Book?
If were Psalms, it is poetry, if 2 Timothy, a letter to a young pastor.  But whenever you look at a book in the Bible, realize this one truth and follow it!

Context is King. In all ways, context rules!  

1. The words, phrases, or passages that come before and after a particular word or passage in a speech or piece of writing and help to explain its full meaning.
2. The circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place.

In other words, this book was written during the return of the Jews to their homeland in Jerusalem.

It is a part of history. It tells of what went on during that time in history. It teaches us some important lessons but it describes the situation but it is not to be followed directly but to look for driving principles.  

There are just some plain rules of literature that needs to be followed. When it is a fact of history, it is fact. When it is poetry, than look at it as poetry. When it is in the form of a metaphor, then work it out as one. But when it is a statement of fact, then if one looks at it as anything else but a statement, then we have a problem.  

Case in point: There are churches not far form this Fellowship that teach a major error.  They teach that  "ALL Scripture can be looked at as symbolic only! It really does not mean what it says—we just need to look for the deeper meaning: as in the Feeding of the 4,000, the Bible really means that God provides for our needs not that He REALLY feed 4,000 people. That would be way out of reality!"  (NOTE: while that is not a direct quote from their teaching, it is what they teach and it is false!  In a major way! ) 

Context is KING!

As disciples and followers of Jesus, I'm sure that you had the experience of seeing words leap off the page as you read Scripture. Suddenly, the Spirit of God highlighted the text, and directed your mind to it with a sense of urgency you had not expected. You become aware of an attitude that needs to be changed; you know the course of action that you should take. God-followers want that kind of revelation in their relationship with God. 

The Psalmist declared: Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your Law (Psalm 119: 18).  Trust in God for His Holy Spirit to guide and direct us.

Prayer has a BIG part in this. Before you ever read a portion of the Word, pray for guidance and protection.
Let’s go before Him now for just that right now! . . . . . . . . . . .(Prayer time.)

Ezra: Not a piece of poetry, but it is, in parts, a letter; it has history but it is not a text book for history; sometimes it resembles a story; other times it resembles the daily newspaper or archived material.  

The timing of the Book is over 60 years. After Babylon had taken Israel into bondage for 70 years, as predicted by the prophets, they would return. 

Examples: A century ½ before-even the name of the ruler Isa 44:28 and in Isa 45:13, God called him His anointed! Also see Jer 25:11-21; 29:10 for the 70-year prediction!  In 539BC, Cyrus took over Babylon- “all his ways smooth”!  Without really any fight, he took over that capital city with ease.

Its importance: God is a God of His Word!

How it fits into History: Remember the CHART of Redemption we handed out last week?  If you need one, come next week for a copy or write for a copy.  Thank you.

May want to start with People in each chapter.
1. Cyrus, king of Persia (Chapter 1).
2. Nebuchadnezzar (2) [gives the time.]
3. Jeshua, priest (3).
4. Zerubbabel, priest (3).
5. Xerxes, King (4).
6. Artaxerxes, King of Persia (4).
7. Rehum, commanding officer of Persia (4).
8. Haggai, the prophet of God (5).
9. Zechariah, a prophet of God (5).
10. Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates (5).
11. Darius, King of Babylon (5).
12. Ezra, grandchild of Aaron, the Chief priest of Levi (7).

Now, Ezra was a priest of the tribe of the Levites and a scribe, a direct descendant of Aaron, through Eleazar (Ezra 7:1-5). His father was Seraiah, the chief priest who was executed at Riblah by direct order of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18-21) at the start of their captivity. What we know about Ezra is found in Ezra chapters 7~10, where he led the second group of exiles that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem.
In Ezra, chapter 7, we learn "that after these things" (v 1) "Ezra arrives in Jerusalem in the fifth month" and that the Hand of God was upon him (vs 9). The reason God's hand was upon him is found in the next verse. "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." (v 10) .

What God needed was a willing teacher to go and teach RIGHT doctrine to the returning Jews. But God also needed someone who could show by example HOW to live such a life under that Right Doctrine.

Righteous Attitude + Righteous Actions = Righteous Accomplishments

Only 70 years have laps since the city of Jerusalem was taken away but the spiritual condition of the people back then was not the best either. God needed someone who knew the Word and was able to teach it to the people. Such a man was Ezra.  

. Are you like him? . Could you do it? . Do you feel you know the Word of God? . Know where certain Books are? . Who wrote Psalms? . Are these the things you know? . It has to go deeper than that but it is deep enough for a Child to understand His Word. . How much is enough to know before one believes? .

Matthew 18:3 
And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and 
become like little children, 
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

A. Major Theological Themes.
Key Doctrines in Ezra.
God is directing events to a favorable conclusion for His Chosen Nation, Israel: Providence.
1. The wisdom, care, and guidance believed to be provided by God.
2. God perceived as a caring force guiding humankind.

Emphasizes the need for God’s People to be spiritually separated from unbelief: Holiness.

The history of God’s Covenant People: Covenant. This was/is a binding agreement or contact with God and His People that they would worship no other gods—among other things. The Land and blessings for the future also was included.

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah relate how God’s covenant people were restored from Babylonian exile to the covenant land as a theocratic (kingdom of God) community even while continuing under Gentile rule. The major theological themes of this account are:

1. The restoration of Israel from exile was God’s doing. 
• He moved the hearts of Persian emperors;
• He moved the hearts of the repatriates (those who were sent back home) and those who supported them;
• He raised up prophets to prod and support the repatriates;
• He protected them on the way and delivered them from their opponents;
• He stirred up Ezra and Nehemiah to perform their separate ministries;
• He prospered the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem so that it would be restored.

2. Even though political independence was not accomplished—the restoration of the covenant community was complete. “All Israel” was repatriated through a representative remnant; the temple was rebuilt and its services (daily sacrifices, priestly ministries, Levitical praise, annual feasts) all revived in accordance with the Law of Moses and the regulations instituted by David; the Law was reestablished as THE GUIDE for the life of the community;
• The “holy city” (Jerusalem) was rebuilt and inhabited;
• The People were purged of their sin;
• The Covenant was renewed.

3. Just as God used the world powers to judge His People Israel, so He used them to restore His People to their land; imperial action and authority directly and indirectly initiated, protected and sustained every aspect of the restoration. Even down to the cost of the rebuilding and protecting the returning Jews. Just like in Egypt with Moses…

4. Israel’s restoration evoked fierce opposition, but that opposition was thwarted at every turn. God’ purposed Will be brought about. What is impossible with man is not impossible with God. It was His Plan to restore His People then as He wants His People today to be restored in their hearts toward Him. Come to Me, Jesus said, and I will forgive you! Come to Me and I will fill you up with My Self! Come to Me and I will cover you with My Hand of Grace. But you must come….

5. The restored community was now a chastened (disciplined) people, (a corrected people) yet they were also in need of frequent rebuke and reformation (or restructuring). Israel remained a wayward people and they continued that way for many years. They still are waiting for the “new covenant” of which Jeremiah had spoken (Jeremiah 31) and the renewal to be effected by God’s Spirit as announced by Joel 1 and in Ezekiel 36. They were waiting for the Messiah and for the most part, missed Him when He came because their hearts were far from Him.

B. How this does work with me? How does this affect my life?
First, we need to examine our walk.  

Are we as close to Him as He would want us to be? Have we been taken away into another land because we have fallen away? Then, be the remnant and return to Him.

Are you in the reforming stage of life? Things are being put right within your life and family but not all things are really there yet? Please don’t be discouraged; His timing is everything. He will work out the details.  

Are you happy with the inner temple of worship that He has worked in your life? Then you may need to sing out and praise Him! In any case, know that He was the one who did it and not something you worked for. It was ours in Christ Jesus when we opened our hearts to Him. That was established before the foundations of the World. All ours in Christ Jesus! Amen!

Any definitions found in this sermon is from the Encarta® World English Dictionary© 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Next week, please come to ICCS and worship with us.  We are all in need of worship because God made us to worship Him.  After the service, we have a Covered Dish or Love Feast!  Great food and a time to get to know each other better.  Covered Dish means: bright some food or cold drinks to share.  A serving for 4-8 would help.  This meal is free.  We provide the plates, cups and the like.  Come for the meal and stay in the Fellowship!