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Ezra chapters 7 and 8



SCRIPTURE: Ezra chapters 7 and 8
Author:  Jeremy Witt
We shift to phase 2.  Does that sound familiar also?  Since chapter 6, almost 60 years have passed.  It has been 80 years since the first exiles returned back in 2:1.  This is the second wave of exiles returning to Israel.  The events of Esther took place near this time in the reign of Xerxes, who reigned 486-465 BC. Artaxerxes is Xerxes' son came into power in 465 BC,  and Ezra returned to Jerusalem in 458 BC, which was the 7th year of Artaxerxes’ reign.

We read of Ezra’s purpose in returning to Israel in verse 10.  Ezra was returning for studying and teaching of the Law once again in Israel.  The Temple had been rebuilt for about 58 years to this point.  In verse 11 and following, Ezra carried a copy of the letter from the king that enabled Ezra to get supplies to take with him back to Jerusalem along with any Jewish people who wished to return.*  The letter was also important for Ezra to verify what he would later be claiming to do.  Remember how enemies made accusations previously or questioned their authority to rebuild the Temple?  By having this letter, Ezra would be able to prove why he was leading a return of exiles, but also had the blessing of the king.

*Not every one of the Jews wanted to return.  Many of the Jewish exiles created new lives for themselves.  Many had become wealthy, and children were born to them in these places.  Those who were born in these places never knew Israel, the Temple, etc. so moving back was not an option for them. 

Verses 27-28 are Ezra’s praise to the LORD for God’s working to allow Him and others to return.  It was also for the king’s provisions that would make the return easier for all of the people. 

Of course, we have to have a list that begins in 8:1 and ends in verse 14.  After Ezra examined the list, he realized that he did not have any Levites which is critical for worship in the Temple.  He makes a request, and some Levites show up.  Verse 22 led Ezra to lead the people to a fast prior to their departure.  Humanly speaking, going without military protection would be futile, but because of their trust in the LORD, they made the journey in 4 months which was very quick in those days with their numbers and supplies.  The bottom line, God was their protector as well as the provider.

Upon their arrival to Jerusalem and gave their sacrifices and offering at the Temple, they showed the letter to the provincial leaders (verse 36) and finally, sacrifices were made on behalf of the returning exiles.  I am certain that many of you had returned to a place from your childhood and began to look around.  Things were different and not as you remembered.  Maybe things were not as big as you recalled.  Maybe things have worn out or just broke down, and it brought you sadness.  Sure, there are things you expect, but some things are a bit shocking to see.  This is what is coming for Ezra and the exiles.

There will be some things that will do the same for us as we return from the “stay at home” experience.  We must be careful not to allow these things to cause us to lose hope, to take our eyes off of Jesus, or to take things out on those trying to reopen.  I can tell you personally of this first week of reopening the LIFE Center that reopening is much more difficult than the closing was. 

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Ezra chapters 5-6


SCRIPTURE: Ezra chapters 5-6
Author:  Jeremy Witt
Remember that today’s reading is tied to yesterday’s.  In chapter 4, hope seemed lost.  The building of the Temple had stopped, and anything that might have been done was forcibly stopped by the enemies of Judah and Benjamin.  Leaders of the province had written to King Artaxerxes to tell him of Israel’s history of rebellion.

Insert application.  We all have a history.  We are known for certain things whether we like it or not.  I am not as an Oklahoma State fan.  But what is constantly repeated about me is how one day back in August 2010, I made a mistake in front of the whole church 10 years ago and it is not forgotten today.  I am reminded almost weekly of that mistake by someone in the church.  It might make my tombstone one day if some people have their way. 

For the few of you who do not know, I jumped from the stage in the Worship Center at the Marlow campus and broke my foot.  There is much more to the story, but that is enough.  By the way, you have a history too and some of you know exactly how it feels to have your past brought up again.  This is something that our enemies, whether in the human form or the supernatural form, love to bring up our past failures and poor decisions. 

However, this chapter starts off differently than how chapter 4 ended.  It begins with two prophets of God speaking and prophesying that God said to resume building.  The rebuilding started in 520 BC, the 2nd year of King Darius’ reign.  More details can be found in the book of Haggai and Zechariah along with their prophecies. 

Hope has returned.  God has spoken.  Work has resumed.  These exiles came back to a land that was devastated and they faced opposition.  They were told to stop rebuilding and kept from rebuilding until now.  God stepped in with these two prophets, and the people had purpose one again.  Isn’t this how many feel right now?  We are all frustrated.  Our patience is wearing thin.  When can we resume our lives?  We have many similarities with the people in Ezra 4-6. 

But here comes the governor and his horde again in verses 3 and following.  Last time that they showed up, they were kept from working.  Now they come asking questions about who, what, when, where, and why like politicians do.  However, because the LORD had spoken and given them hope and boldness, they began to rebuild the Temple.  Notice in verse 5 that GOD watched over them and they kept building.  This time, they were not prevented from continuing the rebuild of the Temple.

Tattenai the governor sent a letter to the new king, Darius.  This time, however, he included details that Zerubbabel and Jeshua gave them of how King Cyrus had given them permission along with money to rebuild the Temple.  Tattenai did not tell King Darius of their past, but they told him of the facts and who gave them permission.  Let us not lose sight that the LORD was behind it all using Cyrus to fulfill His Word. 

Upon looking up the facts, Darius responded with a letter in chapter 6 that not only proved Zerubbabel’s facts, but it also led to greater protection for the Israelites and the rebuilding of the Temple.  (Ezra 6:8-12)  Personally, verse 11 is my favorite in this section. 

What follows is the completion of the Temple which took 4 years once they resumed its building.  The dedication, the first celebration of the Passover since the exile, and then the Festival of Unleavened Bread followed the Passover.  The Israelites were able to worship at the Temple as God instructed for the first time in over 60 years. 

We may want things to be done in our time (quickly), but God works at His pace.  We must learn to understand this difficult truth.  His timing is perfect, our timing is rushed.  He will do what He says whether it is in His time or ours.  Regardless, we must learn to trust Him even when it is inconvenient for us.  Do you see how this is true for us today as well? 

May we be encouraged, and may our hope remain strong.  God has this, and He has us.  Let us trust Him and His timing. 

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