As part of my studies at the Moody Theological Seminary, I have been doing an in depth literary study through the book of Ezra. I’ve learned a lot and been convicted by God’s Word through this study. As a result of that work, I’d like to share what I’ve gleaned with you. Would you join me over the next five Tuesdays on this study? You’ll be able to choose the depth of your involvement, but the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. I’ll give you reading assignments, study questions, and homework that will help you apply the book of Ezra to your life. Its up to you how deep you want to go. If you choose to study along with me, please let me know in the comment section of the blog and please share what you are learning and any questions you have. I look forward to doing this study with you!
Where is Ezra? That’s somewhere after Genesis and before Revelation right?
Have you ever read Ezra? Don’t feel too bad. Most Christians I know haven’t. And if you have read Ezra, chances are you’re like me before I started this project for class. I had read through Ezra before and I knew it was inspired by God and good for me. But I found it boring. Its full of genealogies, lists, numbers, and seemingly unimportant details about who got to carry the gold from one city to another. It seemed to me that this book was a dry historical account about the rebuilding of the temple and that’s it.
So why Ezra? Because there is much more to it than what you or I might see on our first reading. It really is God’s Word and is useful for our lives today. Let me set the stage.
Read Jeremiah 52:1-11
God’s people are living in Jerusalem under King Zedekiah. Picture yourself living within the walled city of Jerusalem. Prophets like Jeremiah have warned you that God is going to punish His people for their sins. You hear rumors that a great and mighty army led be King Nebuchadnezzar is on its way to destroy you. Imagine the fear when you hear the marching of their soldiers outside of your city’s gates. This attack on Jerusalem did not end quickly. For nearly two years, the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem. Imagine knowing the enemy was outside your home and may break in at any moment. Imagine the pain and suffering as your city slowly runs out of oil and wood for fires, then food, and then water. Imagine watching your loved ones slowly starving and dying.
And then the day finally came. The Babylonians erupt into the city. They flood into the streets as the sound of screams fill the air. The army of Jerusalem, those who are supposed to protect you, run for their lives. The Babylonians fill the city, killing by the sword anyone who stands in their way. Life as you know it is over.
They capture King Zedekiah. Instead of killing him, they torture him beyond what I am capable of imagining. They gather Zedekiah’s sons together and make the former King of Jerusalem watch as they are slaughtered. Then, after losing everything, when Zedekiah must have longed for death, they blind his eyes and throw him in a prison for the rest of his life.
Read Jeremiah 52:12-23
It gets worse. They begin destroying your beloved city. Starting with the King’s house, they burn down all of the buildings in Jerusalem. They crumble the walls around the city. Jerusalem is no more. There is no home to find shelter in. There are no walls to protect the people.
Not even the Temple of God Himself survives. They steal every last dime from the temple. Anything valuable, anything made of bronze, gold, or silver is taken and carried away to Babylon. Giant bronze pillars that are too big to carry are smashed into smaller pieces. Nothing is left.
Read Jeremiah 52:24-30
It gets worse. They don’t just destroy your city, kill your king, and steal anything you have of value. They carry you and your family off as their slaves to their city. Anyone you might look to for guidance, the leaders, priests, council members, and military officers are taken before the King of Babylon and murdered. There is no one left to turn to.
You have no king. You have no home. You have no protection. You and your family are enslaved. You’ve been carried to a far off land. You might think that your only hope is God, but even His temple has been destroyed. Which leaves you with horrifying questions lurking in your mind. . .
Has God abandoned us? Has He abandoned me?
What about His promises to be with us? What about the Messiah He promised to send?
Is it all lost? Will He ever rescue us?
Is there any hope for God’s people?
Seventy years pass. Seventy years. If you were young when carried off in exile to Babylon, you are now at the end of your life. An old and tired slave. And that is where the book of Ezra begins.
If you have ever felt hopeless, if you have ever wondered if God has abandoned you, if you have ever been through tragedy so deep you weren’t sure if you could recover, if you have ever walked away from God and felt His discipline, if you have ever been ready to give up. . . then Ezra is the book for you. Join with me over the next five weeks as we watch Ezra answer the question: Is there any hope for God’s people? If you dig deep, you’ll learn incredible lessons about God, yourself, and hope after pain.
- Identify a time in your life in which you have felt hopeless.
- As you look back now, where was God?
- Think of someone you know who could use a message of hope. It may be someone going through a difficult tragedy now or coming out of one recently. Invite them to study with us!
- Read Ezra chapters 1 and 2 by next Tuesday and answer the study questions below (you may need to do a little research to answer some of them!)
- Why does King Cyrus issue the proclamation? Was it all his idea?
- For what larger purpose is the proclamation made according to Ezra 1:1?
- Why is Jeremiah referenced?
- Identify three major parts of Cyrus’ proclamation.
- In what ways does God provide for the return of the exiles? ( I count at least four)
- What problem comes up in the middle of the list of names of the returnees?