Lesson #1: God's Sovereign Care (Ezra 1, 7)
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,
2 "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, "The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
3 "Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.
4 "And every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.'"
We see God clearly intervening in world history to accomplish His marvelous plan. Some are threatened by God's sovereignty; others find comfort.
What about you? Why?
What do you see about God's sovereignty in chapters 1 and 7?
We should greatly delight in the God who interlocks His grace with His sovereignty. This is what we discover here.
Cost of Rebuilding Worship
1 Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women, and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly.
2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God, and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.
3 "So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
4 "Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act."
(Ezra 10:1-4, NASB).
Ezra 9-10 Study notes and questions
Rebuilding is often more costly than building. This is also true in the moral realm of things. In order for God to rebuild a people He had to again teach them about holiness. Old false impressions still were not eradicated! Ezra had to seriously confront the Israelite people about marrying heathen women. Difficult purging was required.
#1 Western Christianity has almost completely lost its moral foundations. In some places it is completely destroyed. We have a big challenge to be pure since once God's people becoming unholy, it seems they never recover.
What purging issues need to be addressed if the church in your culture is to stay alive?
#2 How are we going to raise up children of great faith?
Or what will cause those people around you that come to know the Lord, actively seek the Lord?
What needs to be changed in our discipleship concepts to pass on a genuine faith to 2nd and 3rd generation Christians?
6 This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the LORD his God was upon him.
7 And some of the sons of Israel and some of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.
8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
9 For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him.
10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
(Ezra 7:6-10, NASB).
Study Notes and Questions
A community of God's people will not rise above its leaders. The leader has the uncomfortable position of standing before God and the people. Ezra had to face two difficult confrontations as all leaders do.
1) How does the man personally respond to God?
We must not think that any man naturally gravitates to the things of God. Ezra deliberately set his heart to these things. In what ways do you see leaders around you set their heart on God?
2) How will he bring God's holy teaching to God's people?
We see this great confrontation here in this section.
Did you ever wonder why so much would be written about these men marrying foreign women.