Rebuilding, Restoration, & Redemption
August 4, 2021
Rebuilding, Restoration, & Redemption
Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther
Going Back Home (Ezra)
Who: The book of Ezra is named after its probable author, Ezra, a priest and scribe (7:1, 6). It tells how Cyrus king of Persia, issued a decree that the temple at Jerusalem should be rebuilt (1:1, 3). He sent Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, to govern the people and take charge of the construction (2:2; 3:2).
-The book also tells how Ezra led a second group of exiles back to Jerusalem from Babylon (7:1–10). He came with a letter from King Artaxerxes (7:11), ordering him to teach God’s law and restore proper worship in the temple. After the return, God’s people became known as Jews, the short form of Judeans (4:12).
When: Cyrus sent the first exiles back to Jerusalem in his first year as king of Persia (1:1). This was about 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first captives from Judah (2:1; 2 Chron. 36:21). God promised through Jeremiah that Babylon would be destroyed after the 70-year captivity had ended (Jer. 25:12–14). The Babylonians were overthrown by the Persians (1:1).
-Zerubbabel began rebuilding the temple in the second year after arriving in Jerusalem (3:8). Because of interruptions, the temple was not finished until the sixth year of King Darius (6:15).
What: When Zerubbabel’s builders laid the foundation of the temple, some people sang and praised God (3:11). The older ones cried because they remembered how great and beautiful Solomon’s temple had been (3:12). In contrast, the new temple looked humble and simple.
-Two hundred years before Zerubbabel, God promised to save a remnant of Judah (2 Kings 19:30–31). He made this promise through the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:20). God promised that this remnant would take root downward and bear fruit upward in Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:30).
-Judah’s remnant was carried away to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:20). God fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy by bringing back the exiles who came with Zerubbabel and Ezra as the remnant. (Ezra 9:15).
-Ezra became upset when he arrived in Jerusalem because the Jewish men had married foreign women (9:1–4). Ezra and the leaders decided to stop this sin and make the men repent by sending the foreign women and children away (10:1–4).
-Ezra asked the men to do two things (10:11):
1. Confess to the Lord
2. Separate from the foreign women
Restoring God’s Wall and His People (Nehemiah)
-Nehemiah lived in Susa (1:1), about two hundred miles east of Babylon. Darius I built a palace there. The book of Esther describes it as a splendid palace that King Xerxes also used (1:1–7).
-Nehemiah’s job: cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia (Neh. 1:11–2:6)
-Nehemiah heard bad news: the Jews in Jerusalem were in distress because the city walls were broken down and the gates were burned. (1:2-3)
-Nehemiah’s prayer (1:5-11):
- He praised God for keeping His covenant (1:5)
- He confessed Israel’s sin (1:6-7)
- He asked God to hear (1:6), to remember His promises (1:8-9), and to grant him success with the king (1:11).
-Nehemiah was afraid. Would you have been afraid? (2:2)
- Artexerxes had previously issued orders for the construction in Jerusalem to be stopped because he believed the Jews to be a rebellious people. (Ezra 4:7-23)
- Approaching the king for a favor could be dangerous. He could have your punished or killed if you angered him. (Esther 4:11)
-Nehemiah’s mission: rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (2:5, 17)
-Leadership Qualities Observed in Nehemiah:
- Encourager (2:17-18; 4:6)
- Encourage people to use their gifts for God.
- Coordinator (3:1-5)
- Help people work together.
- Warrior (4:5-13)
- Planner (4:13-18)
- Work according to God’s plan.
- Servant (4:23; 5:14-19)
- Friend of the weak (5:1-13)
Redemption Through the Queen (Esther)
-Esther lived a few years before Ezra and Nehemiah. Xerxes (Ahasuerus) ruled in Persia then. Esther was born as an exiled Jew in Susa. She never saw Israel’s homeland. Yet she saved all of the Jewish exiles from death, thereby allowing many of them to return to the Promised Land.
-Summary by way of the Main Characters:
- Vashti – Queen who refused to obey the king (1:10-12)
- King Xerxes (Asasuerus) – Married Esther (2:17); Ordered/empowered the Jews to defend themselves (8:11)
- Mordecai – Esther’s cousin who raised her (2:7); Heard of assassination plan and sent word to the king through Esther (2:21-22)
- Haman – the king’s head “under-ruler” to whom Mordecai would not bow (3:2); Influenced the king to issue a decree that all Jews should be killed (3:8-9, 12-13); hanged on a 75 foot scaffold (7:9-10)
- Esther – Jewish girl named Hadassah (2:7); Bravely approached the king to ask him to save the Jews (7:3-4)
And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (4:12-14)
*God is in the details!
-God has a plan, and everyone has a place in that plan. God might not use you to save a nation as Esther did. Of the millions of Jews, only Esther was able to do that. But you fit somewhere in His plan. More than once in your life, you have or will be able to adapt Mordecai’s words in 4:14 to your own situation.
-God can and will use you to accomplish His purpose in the world. Will you, like Esther, be willing to do whatever He asks, no matter how hard it might be?
*Study from Route 66: Travel Through the Bible by Mark Reed, Positive Action for Christ, Inc.