Day 200 – Thru the Bible
Today we begin in Ezra-Nehemiah. Here’s a video that shows how these two books are actually one book and gives us the big picture.
Video – Read Scripture: Ezra-Nehemiah
Available on YouTube – here.
How does this video help you understand the Ezra and Nehemiah connection?
Ezra 1 – Ezra continues the story of God’s people directly from Chronicles (2 Chronicles 36:22–23). But it reaches farther back: “The word of the Lord” in Ezra 1:1 might recall Genesis 1, where God’s word initiated all these events from the very beginning. A sense of awe for such a God pervades this chapter’s details, which show the certainty of God’s promises—most immediately, that King Cyrus would after 70 years release the exiles to return to their land (Jeremiah 25:11–14; 32:36–38). Cyrus is mentioned specifically by the prophet Isaiah, who calls him God’s “anointed” (Isaiah 45:1–13). This earthly king who fulfilled God’s plan offers just a shadowy picture of God’s anointed Son, who would finally release God’s people from slavery to sin and the exile of separation from God.
God’s redemptive plan looms large here, as we see Him preserving the people to whom He has given His covenant promises—through Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3) and David (2 Samuel 7:12–17). Those promises were carried through generations of Abraham’s seed and channeled through the tribe of Judah (see Ezra 1:5) until they ultimately culminated in Jesus. Ezra shows the merciful continuity of God’s covenant, even for a sinful people punished by exile for their ugly rebellion against God. God’s promises will not fail; they are even more solid and beautiful than all the gold and silver vessels produced here as glorious evidence.
How does seeing God’s faithfulness in the past give you hope for today and tomorrow?
Ezra 2 – In offering a simple summary, verse 1 rings with grace. God punished and purified His rebellious people through the captivity, and God also restored His people from a captivity they could not have escaped on their own, bringing them home to the land of blessing. This gracious pattern of God never abandoning His people but always leading them toward the blessing of dwelling with Him comes to ultimate fulfillment and demonstration in Jesus.
All these names and numbers in the verses that follow are a counting of blessings, a review of God’s abundant faithfulness in preserving a previously faithless people—who now respond in renewed faithfulness by ordering themselves according to God’s Word and giving themselves to God’s work. The carefully recorded priests and Levites, who alone are designated by God to serve in the temple, play a crucial role as these exiles rebuild the temple and reestablish proper worship to honor the God who has redeemed them.
As those with unproven genealogies are noted (verses 59–63), particularly those claiming priesthood, a strong theme emerges: God’s people must keep themselves pure and holy according to God’s commands—not out of racial superiority or legalistic pride but because God purposed to bring great blessing to them, and through them to the whole earth. Our Lord’s gracious commands are always for the purpose of blessing. And through it all we remember that our pursuit of purity and holiness is a response to, not the prerequisite for, God’s favor—ultimately shown to us through Jesus.
How do you remember that serving God is a response to what He’s already done for you in Jesus, and not a requirement to attempt to earn His love and blessing?
Ezra 3 – The priority of rebuilding the altar according to God’s Word shows what is to be the shape of the Israelites’ lives: centered around the Lord God, listening to His Word, and offering up to Him morning and night the sacrifices He desires. In the Old Testament it was lambs and grain and drink, to be offered with hearts of faith. In this new covenant age we now see clearly that even these offerings were ultimately an anticipation of Jesus, who “loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). We who are united to Jesus, who gave Himself for us as the perfect sacrifice, are called now “to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
The song celebrating the laying of the temple foundation not only echoes the words sung in anticipation of Solomon’s temple (1 Chronicles 16:34) but also features the “steadfast love” that God declared to Moses (Exodus 34:6; Deuteronomy 7:9) and that rings out repeatedly in the Psalms. The weeping of those who remember the magnificent former temple reminds us that this once great nation has lost its visible power and glory. God’s people must now trust solely in the power of God’s covenant promises—in His steadfast love, and in the glory that would come to this temple only with the arrival of Jesus (see 1 Kings 8:10–11; Haggai 2:7; John 1:14).
At this stage in redemptive history, then, the longing for a true and final temple is heightened. Jesus came as this true and final temple: He is the final place where people may freely enjoy fellowship with God, where earth and heaven meet. And in the vision of the new earth that we are given at the very end of the Bible, we see that there is no longer any need for a physical temple such as the people in Ezra’s day longed for, because Jesus is there. In Him, God forever dwells with His redeemed people (Revelation 21:3, 22–23).
Since your future is secure in Jesus, how will you live today in response to this freedom and security?
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.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
All links you need to be a part of this are here – Thru the Bible in 2018.