The Bible | Part 15.2

By now, you probably know the drill. If you are new, this series, as you may have deciphered, is an outline of the entire Bible, book by good ol’ book. If you want to truly know your King, you can follow this link to read all of the current portions to date!

Previously in Ezra… The Israelites were sent back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple by decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, and work began with much excitement and resources. Unfortunately the focus on the work began to wane and further discouragement came at the hands of foreign nations that took issue with the rebuilding of the temple and city. Their issue was to no avail as Darius, king of Persia, upheld the decree of Cyrus (his predecessor), and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah rekindled the Israelites’ efforts.

BEFORE READING MORE – It would be ideal if you read the chapters to be discussed prior to looking through the outline! This week we are covering Ezra 7 – 10.

EZRA – In Ezra we fast forward through 70 years of Babylonian captivity, and we come to the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia and conqueror of Babylon, who, stirred up by the Lord himself, released the people of Judah so they might rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. So the line of David returned to Jerusalem under decree of Cyrus, and they immediately rejoiced. Within the first year, they rebuilt the altar, and the next year they started rebuilding the temple of the Lord. As time passed and the building continued, the surrounding nations took offense and tattled, forcing the Israelites to stop construction. But, guided by the Lord, they soon continued, despite opposition. After this, Ezra the scribe/priest returned to Jerusalem with a second wave of Israelites who were documented in great detail and number as the first. Ezra proceeded to guide the nation in the way of the Law, finding particular issue in unequally yoked marriages.

    1. Ezra 7 | Artaxerxes sent Ezra with a second wave back to Jerusalem – The king decrees the continued support of Israel and the temple: Ezra, the scribe “skilled in the Law of Moses,” whose great [x14] grandfather was none other than Aaron, was sent in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes with royal decree to teach the Law to the Israelites.

      For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. | Ezra 7:9-10

      What a beautiful reminder of all our duty in life—
      To have a heart to know the Lord,
      To follow His commandments (love Him),
      To make disciples.

      Ezra lived his life all out for the Lord thousands of years ago, and the same pattern is required of us to this day. This chapter continues to amaze because we read that the king of Persia seemed to fear the Lord and looked to please Him by upholding “the Law of the God of heaven.” Tragically, it is very clear through his constant reference to “your God” that the law was not his to follow. But still, the Lord’s work through the foreign king was great. Artaxerxes sent all who would join Ezra back to Jerusalem; he sent Ezra with his own counselors to uphold the Law; he sent much riches as an offering to God, “whose dwelling is in Jerusalem”; he instructed the people to buy sacrifices for the altar; he demanded that the surrounding provinces support Ezra and the nation of Israel in whatever was needed; and he tasked Ezra with appointing authorities and with teaching the Law to all. At the end of the chapter, we see the first concrete indication of the author of this book:

      Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem,and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me. | Ezra 7:27-28

    2. Ezra 8 | Ezra documented the full genealogy of those who returned with him – The Levites and temple servants were gathered with the rest to fast and pray – The Levites guarded the Lord’s treasures – The people offered sacrifices upon arrival to Jerusalem: Just as we saw with Zerubabbel and the first wave of Israelites, Ezra documented the genealogies and numbers of those who joined him from Babylon. Interestingly, he found that no Levites were with him—I am not sure why none would come; maybe they didn’t hear the king’s decree? Maybe they forgot their duty to the temple?—but he sent for them and they soon joined. So Ezra and all those departing Babylon gathered just outside the city near the Ahava canal. Ezra proclaimed a fast there for all to seek the Lord for safety and protection in their upcoming journey. He candidly documented that he wanted to prove to King Atarxerxes that God was indeed mighty. So, he asked for no protection from the king against any potential enemies, which Ezra feared might distort the king’s perception of God. Instead, he resorted to fasting and prayer, which completely worked as Ezra and all the people arrived safely in Jerusalem after a 5 month journey. The Levites were tasked with protecting the great wealth during that time, and it was all accounted for upon their arrival. The people immediately got to work by offering sacrifices, appointing officials, and informing the governors beyond the river of the king’s royal decree for their support.
    3. Ezra 9-10 | The people are unequally yoked – Ezra responds in great agony and prays to the Lord – The people reform and put away their foreign wives: The implications of this chapter are vast as it directly relates to purity by way of unequal yoking and idolatry. Up until this point in Jerusalem, Zerubabbel and the initial wave of Israelites had been in the city for about 7-9 decades, and they didn’t have a person quite like Ezra in their midst during that time. When Ezra and his officials returned, it was painfully obvious that the people were unequally yoked through marriage, and that it was an affront to the Law that he cared so deeply about. So Ezra rent his clothing, tore out his hair, fell on his knees and prayed:

      O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens…For we have forsaken your commandments, which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from need to end with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity…’ | Ezra 9: 6,10-12

      So Ezra fell on his knees and fasted and prayed and all of the people came and confessed and repented of their great sin. Ezra made provision for change, and it required the immediate cessation of any and all relation with foreign spouses and children. In chapter 10, we see that the entire nation went through this process of purity over the course of 2 months and every guilty person was documented by name so that they might adequately provide a sacrifice for their sin.

      We know that the same call to not be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) rings true today. It is not productive, and may even be destructive, to yoke two people who are moving in opposite directions. This is true in both our daily relationships (friendship vs. fellowship) and in our habits and pleasures (idolatry). However, it is particularly true and important in marriage, which is why the Law, Ezra, and the people took such drastic actions of repentance. Thankfully during this period of grace that we live in today, although we must strive to avoid relationships and idols that would unequally yoke us, we still show grace and love at times where that doesn’t happen (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).

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