OVERVIEW OF EZRA - Rebuilding the Temple and Renewing Its Worship
Author: Ezra the priest who returned with the returning Jewish remnant from Babylon to Jerusalem.
Date: The book covers 536 B.C. when King Cyrus of Persia issued edict for Jews to return to Jerusalem until approximately 433 B.C. Probably written after Ezra’s return in 458 B.C. and Nehemiah’s return in 445 B.C.
Audience/Purpose: Written to the Jewish people to remind them of how God’s sovereign grace and faithfulness brought the Jewish remnant back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple so that they would be encouraged and inspired to be faithful to God in worship and holiness in the future.
Chapters 1-6 - The return of first wave to rebuild under Jeshua and Zerubbabel’s leadership
1:1-4 - God moved King Cyrus’ heart of Persia to declare (539 B.C) Jews to return from exile to Jerusalem
1:5-11 - Jews whose hearts God moved went back also, and with original Temple articles
2:1-70 - List of Jews who returned/resettled in Jerusalem, began giving freewill offerings for the work
3:1-6 - Rebuilt altar in spite of fear of opposition, began offering offerings on it
3:7-10 - Jeshua and Jerubabbel led/oversaw work to begin on Temple (538-536 B.C)
3:11-13 - The breakout of worship after foundation was laid (indistinguishable sounds of joy and weeping)
4:1-5 - Enemies of Jews tried to trick them and even hired people to discourage their work on Temple
4:6-24 - Rheum and Shimshai wrote to King Artaxerxes of Persia, falsely accused them of rebuilding to rebel against him, he believed them and stopped the work until Darius became king (approx. 15 years?)
5:1-2 - Ministry of prophets Haggai and Zechariah inspired Zerubbabel, Jeshua, people to start rebuilding
5:3-17 - Governor Tattenai questioned their authority, he and associates wrote king Darius to warn him of progress and explain their response that they were servants of God working under Cyrus of Persia’s edict
6:1-12 - King Darius rediscovered Cyrus’ edict for Jews to return and rebuild Temple, declared them to continue the work and be provided for out of the royal treasury (approximately 516 B.C)
6:13-22 - Finished rebuilding Temple and dedicated/celebrated with great joy and Passover for how God had changed the hearts and attitudes of the kings
The events recorded in the book of Esther occur between Ezra 6 & 7 (486-464 B.C.).
Chapters 7-10 - The return of Ezra the priest to reform the religious and spiritual life of Israel
7:1-10 - Ezra the priest comes to Jerusalem (approx. 458 B.C, Nehemiah 445 B.C.) because “the hand of the Lord his God was on him” to study, observe, and teach God’s Word to the Jews
7:11-26 - King Artaxerxes’ letter to commend Ezra to go and teach God’s Word/law, to appoint and oversee those to assist with teaching it, and authorize their provisions and protection
7:27-28 - Ezra’s interlude of praise for the Lord’s favor
8:1-14 - The list of families and family heads who went with Ezra to Jerusalem
8:15-36 - Ezra gathered everyone at Ahava Canal to prepare for trip to Jerusalem, no Levites found so sent for them and they came, led them to fast and seek God for favor and protection and He answered
9:1-15 - Ezra discovered people and leaders married foreign wives, Ezra’s heart broke and confessed their sin and sins of ancestors, imploring God’s mercy, forgiveness and favor on remnant
10:1-44 - Ezra’s confession inspired people’s confession/repentance who put away foreign wives
Gospel According to Ezra
Ezra reminds us that God always leaves Himself a remnant to be a faithful witness for Him in the world.
God graciously and sovereignly reigns over hearts to accomplish His purposes for His people.
Jesus Christ, along with his forerunner, John the Baptist, appeared in Jerusalem, much like Ezra and Nehemiah, preaching repentance and reform to prepare the people for God’s kingdom.
Christ came not to build physical structures of institutions, but rather to fashion and form a group of believers who would become God’s living Temple in whom He would dwell by His Spirit.
Christ gave His life, and through His death, burial and resurrection, He redeemed, saved and sanctified for Himself this very people in whom He dwells, empowers, and sends out to carry on the work of the Gospel.
Contemporary Significance and Applications
The Church’s primary task and goal in the call to help advance God’s kingdom and build up His Church is to share with the world the good news message of salvation and sanctification through faith in Jesus Christ and all He accomplished. This requires Gospel focus, conviction, and passion.
God’s kingdom work always begins with His people experiencing revival, renewed enthusiasm, and answering the call to advance the Gospel and build up His Church. This requires focus on Gospel fundamentals of repentance, faith, discipleship, maturity, prayer, service, witness to fuel the spiritual engine of the Church for Gospel mission.
God’s kingdom work then moves through His people concentrically to impact others, sectors of society, and the world. This requires concentric vision, thinking, planning, action.
Much like Ezra’s challenge in returning to Jerusalem, the Church has the present-day challenge of informing and inspiring an increasingly unchurched and uninterested culture in the Gospel and Church. This requires rock solid conviction by believers to believe, live, teach the Bible as God’s authoritative Word against bending to mounting cultural pressures to compromise.
Because the Church faces internal challenges and outward opposition to advancing the work of the Gospel and Church growth, ministry entails consistent engagement of the spiritual habits and disciplines required to remain encouraged, looking to God with hope, and faithful to the calling and task of building up a group of believers committed and faithful to growing in worship, holiness, service, and witness.
Describe possible internal struggles/challenges that might be present in the Church to potentially discourage or hold back advancement of the Gospel and work of the Church?
Describe the outward opposition seeking to discourage or hold back the advancement of the Gospel and the work of the Church?
Discuss how we’re doing in fostering the “Gospel fundamentals” that fuel the Church for Gospel work?
What are some specific habits and disciplines most needed in the face of potential pressures and discouragement to the advancement of the Gospel and work of the Church?