Walking Thru The Bible

Old Testament -- Ezra

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           Walking Thru The Bible
               The book of Ezra belongs to the period of Jewish history
          following the Babylonian Captivity.  As there were three stages to the
          deportation of Judah into captivity so also there were three stages to
          their "return" from Babylon.   Ezra records two of the "returns" from
          Babylon and Nehemiah records the third "return."

                 Return #1    led by Zerubbabel   Ezra 1:1- 6:22
                 Return #2    led by Ezra      Ezra 7:1- 10:44
                 Return #3    led by Nehemiah  Nehemiah 1-13
               An easy way to remember their tasks is to remember that all three
          were rebuilders following the time of captivity.  Zerubbabel rebuilt
          the temple;  Ezra was a priest who rebuilt the people;  and Nehemiah
          rebuilt Jerusalem's walls.
          1.   RETURN  (Ch. 1-3)
               Chapter 1.  The policy of the Babylonian kings had been to
          destroy the national spirit of the people they conquered by deporting
          them to different. But the Medo-Persians under Cyrus repatriate the
          exiled people to their homelands.

               1:5-11 records the preparations of a group of Jews to return. 
          Those returning received enthusiastic support from the rest of the
          Jewish community.  They were given gold, silver, and beasts of
          burden for the journey.

               Chapter 2  registers that some 42,360 Israelites, plus their 7,337
          servants, returned to rebuild the temple well supplied.  The leader of
          the first group was Zerubbabel (or Sheshbazzar 5:16).       

               Chapter 3.  First, they erected an altar and reinstated the
          sacrifices that God had prescribed and began to lay the foundation of
          the new temple.

               As soon as the foundation was finished they called the people
          together to celebrate.  The Bible says that "with praise and
          thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: 'He is good: His love to Israel
          endures forever'" (3:11).

               These shouts of joy were mingled with tears, as the older men
          remembered the glory of Solomon's temple.  But the shouts of joy and
          tears could not really be distinguished; the celebration was so great
          that only triumph rang through. 
          2.  REQUEST  (4:1-2)

               With only the foundation laid, almost immediately opposition
          arose.  The people then living in the land made request that they be
          allowed to have a part in the rebuilding of the temple.  "Let us help
          you build," they said, "because, like you, we seek your God and have
          been sacrificing to Him since the time of Esarhaddon king of
          Assyria, who brought us here" (v.2).

          3.  REJECTION  (4:2)

               The request by the "people of the land" was flatly refused.  "You
          have no part with us,"  Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the other leaders
          replied.  These were not people of Abraham's line and were not
          children of the covenant. 

          4.  RESISTANCE   (4:4-5)

               The reply angered these Samaritans (a name that these
          "strangers" carried on into the New Testament period).  Their
          opposition was so successful that for 16 years the temple remained no
          more than a foundation!

          5.  RETREAT  (4:24)

               During the years of opposition the Jews built homes for
          themselves and planted fields and laid out vineyards.  But they didn't
          prosper despite all their hard work.  They had permitted opposition to
          divert them from their commitment to God and their initial
          enthusiasm for the Lord had drained from their hearts.

          6.  RESTART  (5:1-2)

               On September 1, 20 BC, the prophet Haggai recalled Judah to the
          task of building the temple.  In their efforts to meet material needs the
          people had forgotten their spiritual values.

               New opposition to the rebuilding is detailed in 6:3-12.  But King
          Darius' search revealed the authorization of Cyrus for the project and
          he ordered the Samaritans to let the work alone (6:7) and for the
          project to be paid for out of state taxes (6:8).

          7.  REBUILT  (6:14-16)

               In a series of jolting exhortations, Haggai, joined by the prophet
          Zechariah, stirred the people of Israel to action.  Once again
          Zerubbabel and Jeshua led the people to build.  Within four years the
          restored temple stood on the site of the temple which had been
          destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.  It was now 516 BC, or
          twenty years after their first return from Babylonian exile.

               The seventy years desolation of Solomon's temple foretold by
          Jeremiah had passed.  With the temple rebuilt, Israel was once again
          officially be worshipping in the Promised Land.
          Interval Activities  The events of the book of Esther occur between
          the 6th and 7th chapters of Ezra. 
          1.  Ezra And the Second Return to Jerusalem - 7:1-10

               Ezra plans his return and establishes his authority as a priest and
          teacher by tracing his lineage back to Aaron (7:10).  He was a "skilled
          scribe" of the Law, a trained teacher who had "set his heart to seek
          the law of God and to do it, and to teach in Israel" the statues and
          ordinances of the Law (v.10).  A fresh start for God's people could be
          found only in a return to God's Word.

          2.  The Circumstances Prompting the Return - 7:11-28

               Ezra and the people praised God "who put such a thing as this
          in the king's heart" and gathered at the departure point on the river
          (or canal) of Ahava.

          3.  The List of Those Returning - 8:1-14

          4.  The Details of the Journey and Arrival - 8:15-36

          REBUILDING THE PEOPLE - Ezra 9-10
               The people returned so they would be able to worship God
          according the Law.  However, many still had the tendency to wander
          away from the words of God written by Moses.

          1.  Sins of Intermarriage Reported 9:1-4

               Within five months of Ezra's return a major problem is uncovered
          regarding the spiritual life of many Jews.  The Jewish leaders report
          that some Israelites had been involved with their pagan neighbors'
          detestable practices brought on by marrying  Gentiles wives.  One of
          God's major prohibitions was that His people were not to marry
          outsiders (Ex.34:11-16; Deut.7:1-4).

               9:3-4  Ezra was appalled because of the people's sin.  He knew
          that it was for such sins that Israel had gone into captivity (v.7).

          2.  Ezra's Prayer to God   9:5-15

               Deeply shaken, Ezra tore his clothing and hair--  went to the
          temple-- fell on his knees to the Lord in prayer.

          3.  The People's Confession of Sin - 10:1-44

               Some felt there was still hope for Israel and called for the people
          to make a covenant before God to divorce the foreign women and
          send them away with their children.  This was to be done "according
          to the Law."  It took three months for all the marriages to be
          examined.  Each case was judged individually so that justice would be
          done.  By this action the community was not saying that divorce was
          good, it was a matter of following God's Law about the need for
          religious purity among God's people. 

               The message of the book of Ezra is clear.  In order for the people
          to be in right fellowship with God, it was absolutely necessary for
          them to have proper temple worship (Ezra 1-6) and to live according
                    to God's Word (Ezra 7-10).

- - - SERMON - - -

	      What To Do With Your Religion
                Ezra 7:10
          1.   One summer a young teenager in Cincinnati was invited to Fort Hill
                         Christian Youth Camp and there he became a Christian.  When he
                         returned he came to see me and said, "I've become a Christian, Now
                         what do I do?"

          2.   That's the same question many people are asking?  When you 'get'
                         religion, What do you do with it?  Some helpful suggestions can be
                         found in Ezra.

          3.   Note Ezra's background. A descent of Aaron; expert instructor in the
                         Scriptures, a godly man.  He enjoyed many blessing, some which went
                         all the back to a godly grandfather!

          4.   Our text reveals three things Ezra did with his Religion:
          I.   HE STUDIED IT
          1.   Ezra 7:10a.  Note the New American Standard Version; "Set his heart
                         to study the Law of the Lord"

          2.   Doctors report how crucial a balanced diet is to good health.  That is
                         true spiritually.  It is important to have some "method" of study and

               a.   One can't learn about God in one day! One doesn't acquire spiritual
                              maturity in one day!

               b.   The key is to spend time with God's Word.

          3.   Three reasons why new Christian fail in their new life.
          II. HE SHOWED IT
          1.   Knowledge is never an end in itself, but must always find practical
                         expression in our lives.

          2.   Ezra "practiced it."  7:10

          3.   Albert Schweitzer explained why he chose to buried his life in Africa,
                         "because I wanted mylife to be an argument for whay I believed in."

          4.   The expression, :If you went on trial for being a Christian, would there
                         be enough evidence to convict you?"
          III. HE SHARED IT
          1.   "Ezra set his heart...to teach His statues and ordinacnes in Israel" 
                         (7:10).   Matthew 28:19

          2.   June, 1981 Frascati Italy; & Texas
               "Mamma, Mamma, when are you coming?"

          3.   The cry of a dying lost world!  

          4.   The Gospel is the "Good News!" Acts 5:42
               a. Good news of Truth and forgiveness!

-- Windell Gann -- Walking Thru the Bible --

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