Day 201 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Ezra.
Ezra 4 – This chapter and the whole rest of the story show how Believers in all times live out the tensions Jesus talked about in John 15:18–19—being chosen out of the world and hated by the world. Those offering to help the returned exiles are in fact adversaries, not worshipers of the same God, as they claim. The whole Persian Empire for decades (as shown in the jump forward in time in verses 6–23) seems aligned against God’s people. Zerubbabel’s focus on serving the Lord God offers a godly example, though the people’s discouragement and fear are responses known and battled by all.
The chapter’s last sentence shows God’s people temporarily defeated but gives a hint of the victory to come. From our present place in history, we know that the defeat experienced here was not ultimate but was only a chapter in God’s book of instruction, leading us to trust in the God who would soon bring a greater victory (the building would resume) and ultimately a greater Victor, from this remnant’s efforts. This battle for a physical temple in a physical land against earthly rulers is a picture of the spiritual battle Paul describes, not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Thus, from an ultimate perspective, this is the battle Jesus Himself came to fight for us. It is a battle He won on our behalf. Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities . . . triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15).
We fight, knowing that Jesus has won, so that we can by His Spirit put on the “armor of God” and “stand firm” (Ephesians 6:12–13). We do not wage our spiritual battle to gain God’s love; we do battle because He has promised to love us no matter what.
How will you trust God today, knowing His love for you is unwavering?
Ezra 5 – The role of the prophets is crucial, as they bring God’s word to God’s people. In battles then and now, the difference is made by “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). In this story and in all of history, the ultimate power and help come from the God who breathes out that word, the God who “was over them” (Ezra 5:1) and whose eye was on His people.
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah here join a prominent leadership duo: Jeshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the descendant of David (3:2, 8; 4:3). God’s people need prophet, priest, and king—a prophet to speak God’s word, a priest to represent the people to God, and a king to represent God to them.
This triad of needs is fully met in Jesus. He is not only the final prophet (Acts 3:18–24) but the very Word from God spoken to the people (John 1:1, 14). He is the final priest (Hebrews 7:15–28) as well as the temple within which the priests worked (John 2:19–22; Ephesians 2:19–22) and the sacrifice offered by the priests in the temple (1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2). And He is the eternal King, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of David, Lord of all (Matthew 27:11).
Included in this letter to King Darius is a long quotation of the Jewish leaders’ words. These words truly affirm their God not just as a local deity, as others around would have believed, but as “God of heaven and earth,” a holy God who is angered by and who punishes sin. These leaders give bold, faithful witness to the Lord God, not only by their words but by the very fact that they stand again in their land, with people restored and rebuilding, sanctioned by royal decree—all due to the mercy and care of God.
Seeing that Jesus is our all in all, how does this lead you to worship Him?
Ezra 6 – Knowingly or unknowingly, King Darius speaks truly of God, who has caused His name to dwell in the temple (see Deuteronomy 12:5). These words reverberate with Scripture’s continual exaltation of God’s name, and especially with Scripture’s unfolding of that name as revealed finally in Jesus, who is given “the name that is above every name,” to which every knee of every earthly king will one day bow (Philippians 2:9–10).
The dedication of the rebuilt temple has all the marks of the community of God’s covenant people. The Word is central, and worship happens according to that Word. The sacrifices anticipate the final, perfect sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. The Passover Feast celebrates redemption from Egypt, anticipating God’s redemption of His people through the blood of His Son. Included are not only the Jews but all “who had joined them” to serve and worship the one true God: here is a picture of God’s redeemed people drawn from the nations. God sovereignly cares for them and makes them joyful.
What an encouragement to see the continuity of God’s covenant people, as today the worldwide church worships according to the Scriptures, joyfully exalting Jesus in the sacraments given in remembrance of Him, who instituted a new covenant in His blood (1 Corinthians 11:25).
How will you remember what Jesus has done for you today?
Ezra 7 – The focus on God’s Word continues even as the narrative skips 57 years to Ezra, who leads a second group of exiles back to Jerusalem. Pointedly introduced as a descendant of Aaron the first high priest, this scribe skilled in the law offers to Believers in every age the example of studying, doing, and teaching God’s Word. His effectiveness depends clearly on God’s grace, as this chapter is enfolded in affirmations of the hand of God on Ezra. God’s grace shines through personally in the chapter’s conclusion, as Ezra the narrator praises God for His moving the heart of the king (see Proverbs 21:1), His “steadfast love,” and His hand “on me.” Ezra is faithful to God’s Word, Ezra takes courage—and, ultimately, God opens his path.
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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