Sermons

Wed, Mar 21, 2018

The Book of Ezra (Overview)

The book of Ezra picks up where 2 Chronicles left off. I guess they could have titled the book 3rd Chronicles but since most likely Ezra wrote it he gets credit. Ezra is the main character of the second half of the book bearing his name and Zerubbabel is the main character of the first half of the book. If Ezra did write the book of Ezra, he probably did so not long after he arrived in Jerusalem in 458 BC. The book of Ezra is postexilic—meaning, it was written after the Jews had been exiled to Babylon. The book of Ezra is called the Second Exodus but the message of the book is best summed up in a single word, RESTORATION.
Series:Ezra
Duration:52 mins 17 secs

The Book of Ezra 

 

 

The book of Ezra picks up where 2 Chronicles left off. I guess they could have titled the book 3rd Chronicles but since most likely Ezra wrote it he gets credit. 

 

Ezra is the main character of the second half of the book bearing his name and Zerubbabel is the main character of the first half of the book.

 

If Ezra did write the book of Ezra, he probably did so not long after he arrived in Jerusalem in 458 BC. The book of Ezra is postexilic—meaning, it was written after the Jews had been exiled to Babylon. 

 

The book of Ezra is called the Second Exodus but the message of the book is best summed up in a single word, RESTORATION. 

 

Ezra was overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness, especially when compared to the unfaithfulness of the Jewish people. Ezra understood that we don’t always respond to God the way we should and the way God deserves, but that God is willing to respond to any heart that is sincere and has a desire to seek and serve Him. 

 

The Babylonian captivity took place in 3 stages as Nebuchadnezzar was forced to conquer Judah on 3 separate occasions, in 605, 597, and 586 BC as the Jews rose up and rebelled against his authority. 

 

Interestingly enough, there would be 3 returns back to their homeland, under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Ezra covered the first 2 in his book 

 

 

1. The first return took place under Zerubbabel for the purpose of rebuilding the temple, in chapters 1-6

 

2. Under Ezra 80 years later in chapters 7-10, Ezra returned not to rebuild the wall but rebuild the people and deal with spiritual issues.

 

The third return would occur under Nehemiah.  

3. Several decades later under Nehemiah. He focused on the rebuilding of the walls of the city of Jerusalem and bring the people back into obedience. 

 

The books of Ezra Nehemiah and Esther complete the historical books of the Old Testament and record Gods dealing with the Jews after the Babylonian captivity.  

 

Ezra, Nehemiah deals with the remnant of the Jews who returned from Babylon to Israel while Esther deals with those who did not return to Jerusalem but remained in the land of their captivity after they were free to leave.

 

You can also study the books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi give us the bigger picture. 

 

 

Before we jump into the book of Ezra its important to note how this all came about to begin with. It also helps us remember the different books of the Bible and how and why they all fit together in telling us the story of God’s plan of redeeming mankind. 

 

Remembering the nation of Israel’s history we recall that it was upon David’s son, Solomon’s death, that the kingdom was divided into 2 kingdoms. One in the north, Israel and the other in the south, Judah. The Northern kingdom broke away from the worship life in Jerusalem which was lead by Solomon’s son Reheboam, and the northern kingdom was headed up by Jeroboam, the son of Nabat.  

 

In roughly 200 years of living in the sin of idolatry and in open rebellion to the Lord the northern kingdom was swept away into captivity by the Assyrians.  

 

Sadly, the southern kingdom of Judah failed to pay attention to what their relatives were doing up north and like the old saying, “history not learned from tends to repeat itself” they followed in the same path, it just took longer.

 

Due to a number of good kings 8, to be exact, the downward spiral was slowed but not stopped as just 120 years after the northern went into captivity in Assyria, the southern kingdom was captured by the Babylonians who were now the ruling power. 

 

Have you ever heard the expression, “Third times a charm”… After his third conquering of Jerusalem  Nebuchadnezzar determined he wasn’t coming back a fourth time and so he ordered that not a stone be left unturned and he had the city burnt to the ground. 

 

To understand the timeline here of the book of Ezra we need to remember, its been 70 years since the end of 2 Chronicles and the beginning of the book of Ezra. Those 70 years are known as the “Babylonian captivity” that was prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah to Judah during the reign of Jehoiakim.

  

You can read Jeremiah 25 where God tells the nation they will serve the King of Babylon for 70 years for their disobedience. 

 

Jeremiah 25:11, “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

At the end of the 70 years Cyrus issued a decree for the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. He did this by God’s leading.

 

For some tonight you might be wondering why 70 years and what exactly did the Jewish people do that brought about being taken captive by the Babylonians to begin with? 

 

 

Leviticus 25:1-7 (NKJV)
1 And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,
2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD.
3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit;
4 but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.
5 What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.
6 And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you,
7 for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land--all its produce shall be for food. 

 

God had said, for 6 years you are going to grow crops and I will give you double so during the 7th year the ground could rest. 

 

The children of Israel were not faithful to God. They got greedy. They decided to not take the 7th year off so if you do the math for 490+ years they refused to allow their land to rest during the Sabbatical years. 

 

For 70 land Sabbath years the land was not allowed its Sabbath rest. Because of their disobedience, God allowed the children of Israel to be taken captive to Babylon for 70 years so the land could rest. The Lords will be done!  

 

God again, clearly told the children of Israel what the consequences for their disobedience would be…

 

Leviticus 26 provides the sanctions that God would impose upon His nation for the years that Israel did not obey the specifications of a sabbatical year.

 

The reason wasn’t so much agricultural  but spiritual. The land belonged to God. Keeping the Sabbath was for the Jews to recognize the land is God’s, and for 490 years they refused to obey the Lord and so the land was owed a 70 year rest. God held the nation to the deal and is why they were taken into captivity. 

 

 

Leviticus 26:34-35, “34  Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35  As long as it lies desolate it shall rest-- for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it.” 

 

Leviticus 26:43-46  

43  The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them; they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes. 

44  Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. 

45  But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.' " 

46  These are the statutes and judgments and laws which the LORD made between Himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses. 

 

Jeremiah also prophesied that the nation would return to the land. At the end of 70 years

 

Jeremiah’s letter came by the way of the prophet to the captives of Israel in Babylon during the reign of king Zedikaih. 

 

Most everyone is familiar with this passage from Jeremiah 29

 

Jeremiah 29:10-11, 10  For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 

11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

God chastened the nation just like He said He would, just like the book of Hebrews tells us every good father disciplines his children does, 

 

Hebrews 12:5-7 (NKJV)
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 

 

And faithful to His word, God never leaves us nor forsakes us…

 

In Jeremiah 29, the Future and hope God spoke of is that their captivity would not be permanent

 

What does all this have to do with us? The entire Bible points us to Jesus, shows us the heart of God, the nature of God, and most of all, the love of God. 

 

God has a plan to restore us if we will return to Him, to return from captivity as it were. 

 

Remember this word as we study through the book of Ezra, RESTORATION

Our God is a restoring God. God is the God of the second chance. Think about it, what did the Jewish people do to deserve to be brought back to the land? Nothing… its only by God’s grace. 

 

Just as God restored the people back to the land of Israel. The God we serve is a restoring God. 

 

The end of the story is not Israel’s failure, but God’s glory. 

 

The end of your story and mine is not of failure either, its God’s glory if we too will receive our forgiveness and seek to follow Jesus. 

 

 

Aren’t you glad tonight that our God is the God of the second chance! 

 

No matter how badly we fail or fall, there is always the opportunity to repent and turn back to God. 

 

There is life after failure. This thought gave me an idea for a devotional I did today titled, “Life After The End of The Rope” 

 

As the book of Galatians is showing us, we are all trophies of God’s grace. 

 

Every book in the Bible points us to Jesus and the shadow of restoration seen here in the book of Ezra is fully realized at the Cross where Jesus redeems us from captivity and restores us back to God. Not as slaves but as sons and daughters!  

 

And just think that word restore, it means “better than new” not just back to what it was before. 

 

 

Ezra 1

 

 

Ezra 1:1-11 (NKJV)
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,
2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah.

 

Cyrus is not a follower of God. He was a polytheist, he worshipped any and all gods. Since he didn’t know any of his gods he just worshipped them all. 

 

He recognized somehow though that the God of heaven was involved in his success and in the establishment of the Medo-Persin empire to fulfill His purposes. 

 

Proverbs 21:1, “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” 

 

God was behind the decree not Cyrus. Remember that history is really His-Story. History is God’s story. God moves as needed to rule and over rule human history so that what ever He has declared will come to pass. 

 

The prophecy of Isaiah 44, written 200 years earlier and 150 years before Cyrus was even born. God prophesied through Isaiah the prophet that a man named Cyrus would restore the Jews to their land and rebuild their temple. 

 

This is awesome! If God says it, that settles it and we do well to believe it. 

 

Isaiah 45:1-3  

1  "Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held-- To subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: 

2  'I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. 

3  I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel. 

 

 

This decree is a miracle of God. God provides in amazing ways

 

 
3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem.
4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.
5 Then the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. 

 

God put it on some peoples hearts to go and others to stay. Not everyone can go, there are goers and there are senders. If everyone left who would take care of what is left behind? 

 

50,000 are going to go. God will put it in their heart to go. A great reminder to us all, Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life.  

 

And a warning to us as well, Don’t play Holy Spirit in other people’s lives. Don’t get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s leading. 

 

Its the Holy Spirits job to “separate” who He wills for the sake of ministry. 

 

The worst thing we can do is talk people into ministry. We need God to raise up people He has called. 

 

We have a need… pray and obey… don’t force, don’t manipulate, don’t guilt people into serving. Why? Because God doesn’t. As we will see, God remembers our faithfulness to Him and He rewards it. 

 


6 And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered. 

 

People gave to their success. Give as the Lord leads you to give. 


7 King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods; 

 

Even King Cyrus gave them articles of the house of the Lord that King Nebby had taken. 


8 and Cyrus king of Persia brought them out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 

 

Probably a Persian name given to Zerubbabel.  


9 This is the number of them: thirty gold platters, one thousand silver platters, twenty-nine knives,
10 thirty gold basins, four hundred and ten silver basins of a similar kind, and one thousand other articles.
11 All the articles of gold and silver were five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar took with the captives who were brought from Babylon to Jerusalem. 

 

This is a great reminder. God keeps great records. God knows the exact number… 

 

There were 2499 items listed here and the total was 5400. The smaller items were not listed. 

 

Ezra 2:1-70 

 

1  Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city. 

2  Those who came with Zerubbabel were…

 

I’m not even going to attempt to read the names listed here, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them on your own. The important thing to glean from chapter 2 is that God makes note of those with whom responded to the Spirits prompting to return to Jerusalem and be part of the restoration process. 

 

This listing here is a shadow of the greater list, the names of those who throughout human history have responded to the spirits prompting and whose names are written in the Lambs Book of Life, those who have put their hope in Jesus Christ. 

 

To think how far these men came to be part of the restoration process. 900 miles… They were living comfortable and profitable lives in their captivity. They gave that all up to follow the leading of God. 

 

Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: 

3  the people of Parosh, two thousand one hundred and seventy-two; 

4  the people of Shephatiah, three hundred and seventy-two; 

5  the people of Arah, seven hundred and seventy-five; 

6  the people of Pahath-Moab, of the people of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve; 

7  the people of Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; 

8  the people of Zattu, nine hundred and forty-five; 

9  the people of Zaccai, seven hundred and sixty; 

10  the people of Bani, six hundred and forty-two; 

11  the people of Bebai, six hundred and twenty-three; 

12  the people of Azgad, one thousand two hundred and twenty-two; 

13  the people of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six; 

14  the people of Bigvai, two thousand and fifty-six; 

15  the people of Adin, four hundred and fifty-four; 

16  the people of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety-eight; 

17  the people of Bezai, three hundred and twenty-three; 

18  the people of Jorah, one hundred and twelve; 

19  the people of Hashum, two hundred and twenty-three; 

20  the people of Gibbar, ninety-five; 

 

Listed by cities… in verses 21-35, 

 

21  the people of Bethlehem, one hundred and twenty-three; 

 

Jer

22  the men of Netophah, fifty-six; 

23  the men of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty-eight; 

24  the people of Azmaveth, forty-two; 

25  the people of Kirjath Arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty-three; 

26  the people of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty-one; 

27  the men of Michmas, one hundred and twenty-two; 

28  the men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three; 

29  the people of Nebo, fifty-two; 

30  the people of Magbish, one hundred and fifty-six; 

31  the people of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four; 

32  the people of Harim, three hundred and twenty; 

33  the people of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty-five; 

34  the people of Jericho, three hundred and forty-five; 

35  the people of Senaah, three thousand six hundred and thirty. 

 

Verses 36-39 we have the listing of the priests…

 

36  The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy-three;

37  the sons of Immer, one thousand and fifty-two; 

38  the sons of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty-seven; 

39  the sons of Harim, one thousand and seventeen. 

 

All work is spiritual work… about 10% of the people who returned were priests. 

 

 

40  The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, seventy-four. 

41  The singers: the sons of Asaph, one hundred and twenty-eight. 

42  The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, and the sons of Shobai, one hundred and thirty-nine in all. 

43  The Nethinim: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth,

 

Nethinim means “dedicated ones”, a group that King David raised up to assist the Levites. “Keygrips”, helpers to the worship leaders and priests though they were not Levites. 

 

44  the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon, 

45  the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub, 

46  the sons of Hagab, the sons of Shalmai, the sons of Hanan, 

47  the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, 

48  the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, 

49  the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, 

50  the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephusim, 

51  the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 

52  the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 

53  the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Tamah, 

54  the sons of Neziah, and the sons of Hatipha. 

55  The sons of Solomon's servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Peruda, 

56  the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 

57  the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth of Zebaim, and the sons of Ami. 

58  All the Nethinim and the children of Solomon's servants were three hundred and ninety-two. 

59  And these were the ones who came up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not identify their father's house or their genealogy, whether they were of Israel: 

60  the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, and the sons of Nekoda, six hundred and fifty-two; 

61  and of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Koz, and the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name. 

62  These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. 

63  And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim. 

 

They didn’t have the proper paperwork to serve as priests so they waited until they could consult God to their role. 

 

64  The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, 

65  besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred men and women singers. 

66  Their horses were seven hundred and thirty-six, their mules two hundred and forty-five, 

67  their camels four hundred and thirty-five, and their donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty. 

68  Some of the heads of the fathers' houses, when they came to the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God, to erect it in its place: 

69  According to their ability, they gave to the treasury for the work sixty-one thousand gold drachmas, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priestly garments. 

 

People gave as they were able to give. Its never about the amount, its always measured by ability to give. 

 

70  So the priests and the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Nethinim, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities. 

 

Lets don’t take it for granted, we serve a God of the second chance, actually its as many chances as we need to understand His grace, His mercy and His love. 

 

God has a plan and a purpose for our lives that is greater than our sin and failure. 

 

If God is in your life, you have a future and a hope! 

 

 

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