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EZRA OVERVIEW

Ezra Overview

The Book of Ezra does not specifically name its author, although scholars believe it to be the Priest Ezra. Interestingly we will witness that Ezra does not appear in the book until chapter 7.  At this point the writing switches from third person to first person which lends credibility to scholars believe and study as to who the author actually is.  The date of the writing is believed to be between 460 and 440 B.C

Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible.  They both give and account for one of the most important events in history…the RETURN from exile.  Both books have a lot in common:

  1. They both cover about 100 years of history.
  2. They both begin in Persia but end in Jerusalem.
  3. They begin with a king’s decree.
  4. Both books include prayers of confession (Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9).
  5. Both books end with the purification of their people.  An important chapter to reread would be Jeremiah 29 because it goes along with both the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah.

The Book of Ezra is devoted to events occurring in Israel at the time of the return from Babylonian captivity (which began in 538 BC) and the years following their return.  The emphasis in Ezra is on the rebuilding of the Temple. It covers the return from captivity to rebuild the Temple up to the decree of Artaxerxes, which is the event covered at the beginning of the Book of Nehemiah. Haggai was the main prophet in the day of Ezra, and Zechariah was the prophet in the day of Nehemiah. Ezra was a priest, the great grandson of the priest who found the lost scrolls in the deserted temple who brought them to King Josiah who began a revival (Jeremiah’s dad)!  Like….WOW!!!

We will see extensive genealogical records (oh boy… I know lots of names…..).  So why does God feel it important to include such extensive genealogies?  The ones in the book of Ezra establish the claims to the priesthood on the part of the descendants of Aaron.  Remember….most of God’s chosen people have been in captivity and in exile for at least 70 years.  They lived in a different culture with different gods…different rules…and probably didn’t think a lot about genealogies or even the law of God.  So God wanted to be sure they KNEW.

I found Ezra 3:11 to be so appropriate for THANKSGIVING!!! “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.”  Don’t you just LOVE God’s timing!!!!!

Look at this Scripture — Ezra 7:6, “…this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”

The book can easily be divided into two basic sections:

  1. Chapters 1-6—The First Return under Zerubbabel, and the Building of the Second Temple.
  2. Chapters 7-10—The Ministry of Ezra. Time flies in many of these Books and Ezra is no different.  Well over a half a century passed between chapters 6 and 7. Many of the characters of the first part of the book had died by the time Ezra began his ministry in Jerusalem. We will read a prayer of confession of sin as well as subsequent separation of the people from the sinful practices into which they had fallen in Babylon but also while they were in Jerusalem…..remember that is why God was so upset with HIS people….because they REFUSED to TURN BACK to HIM!!!

The Book of Ezra a continuation of the biblical theme of the REMNANT. Think about that for just a moment.  The theme of the REMNANT is prevalent throughout the Bible.

  1. Noah and his family were saved from the destruction of the flood as a REMNANT.
  2. Lot’s family was saved from Sodom and Gomorrah because they were part of the REMNANT.
  3. 7000 prophets reserved in Israel despite the persecution of Ahab and Jezebel….. reserved as the REMNANT.
  4. When the Israelites were taken into captivity in Egypt, God delivered His REMNANT  and took them to the Promised Land.
  5. Some fifty thousand people return to the land of Judea in Ezra 2:64-67, and yet, as they compare themselves with the numbers in Israel during its prosperous days under King David, their comment is, “We are left this day as a remnant.”
  6. The remnant theme is carried into the New Testament where Paul tells us that “at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5).
  7. Although most people of Jesus’ day rejected Him, there remained a set of people whom God had reserved and preserved in his Son, and in the covenant of His grace.
  8. Throughout all generations since Christ, there is the REMNANT of the faithful whose feet are on the narrow road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). This REMNANT will be preserved through the power of the Holy Spirit who has sealed them and who will deliver them safely at the last day (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30).

The Book of Ezra is an AWESOME reminder of the HOPE and RESTORATION that our precious Lord and Savior is and has for each of us if we believe in HIM!!  NONE of us is without sin.  We live in a world of hurting people who try to live their lives with their own reasoning, feelings, emotions, thoughts, and teachings and if these things are not based on the MOST HIGH GOD and HIS LIVING WORD then we can live a life wandering through the wilderness without thoughts of hope or restoration.  BUT….JESUS changed ALL that for each of us.  There is great hope that ours is a God of forgiveness, a God who will not turn His back on us when we seek Him in repentance and brokenness (1 John 1:9).

And remember in Daniel when Gabriel came to tell him about the spiritual battle that was happening?  Remember the Scriptures from the New Testament which points us in the knowledge that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling own of strongholds?  Well…..we will see the opposition of the adversaries of God concerning the rebuilding of the temple  in Ezra.  We will witness a very typical pattern of the enemy who wants to “kill, steal, and destroy” our very souls for all eternity!!  Our enemy will use anything and anyone to deceive us.  The enemy will even use those who would appear to be in sync with God’s purposes to deceive us and attempt to thwart God’s plans. Ezra 4:2 describes the deceptive speech of those who claim to worship Christ but whose real intent is to tear down, not to build up. We are to be on guard against such deceivers.  God warns us to not follow false prophets.

KNOW what the LORD says —– This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:10-14 NIV.

We all read Exodus when Moses led God’s Chosen People out of Egypt.  NOW, we will read about a second Exodus.  In this second Exodus, Ezra will be God’s instrument to lead God’s Chosen People out of Babylon.  We will witness exactly how God will use this man for HIS purpose!!

Sharing HIS love,

DANIEL OVERVIEW

Daniel Overview

The author of the Book of Daniel identifies the Prophet Daniel as its author (Daniel 9:2; 10:2). And in Matthew 24:15, Jesus mentions Daniel as the author!! This book was likely written between 540 and 530 B.C.

In 605 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had conquered Judah and deported many of its inhabitants to Babylon including Daniel. Daniel served in the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar and several rulers who followed Nebuchadnezzar. This book records the actions, prophecies, and visions of the Prophet Daniel. Remember Jeremiah told his story from inside of Judah before, during, and after the sieges by Babylon. Ezekiel was taken in the second siege and was warning HIS people while living in Babylon. Daniel tells his story from inside the castle where the royal family lives.

NOW… Daniel was taken in first siege and final siege where he chose to live for God even while in the castle of King Nebuchadnezzar!!! Daniel belonged to a family of high rank when he was taken into captivity to Babylon in the first invasion by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel, who we just read was taken in the second wave, about 8 years after him). Daniel was about 16 years old. Daniel lived to be over 90 so he saw it all! He saw the Babylonian Empire fall and the Medo-Persia empire grow. He served under many different kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus. Daniel’s entire adult life was spent inside Babylon. Talk about living FOR God and ONLY for God…..Daniel will show us how living for God in a world that mostly does not care for or believe in God CAN be done with great confidence, humility, and focus on God.

As we read the Book of Daniel we will witness Daniel and his three friends remain faithful, courageous, and devoted to our God and God blessed their faithfulness and obedience through promotions in the king’s service (Daniel 1:17-20). In chapters 2-7 Daniel will be the ONLY one who is able to interpret the king’s dream and guess who Daniel gives the credit too??? Then the king throws Daniel’s friends into the hottest furnace possible (because they refuse to idolize him)…..three go in but Nebuchadnezzar sees four…..will they make it out of the fiery furnace??
Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar will blatantly misuse items taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. God sends Belshazzar a message that ONLY Daniel can interpret. Daniel’s message will not be well received and he will be thrown into the lion’s den……will he survive?

Chapters 8-12 contain a vision involving a ram, a goat, and several horns – also referring to future kingdoms and their rulers. Chapter 9 records Daniel’s “seventy weeks” prophecy. God gave Daniel the precise timeline of when the Messiah would come and be cut off. The prophecy also mentions a future ruler who will make a seven-year covenant with Israel and break it after three and a half years, followed shortly thereafter by the great judgment and consummation of all things. Daniel is visited and strengthened by an angel after this great vision, and the angel explains the vision to Daniel in great detail.

This is such an awesome book of a man who NEVER took his eyes off God, regardless of his circumstances. And, God used Daniel powerfully not just in his time…but for all times. We will see some topics concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ and the great judgment just as we saw in Ezekiel.

A few key verses from Daniel are: Daniel 1:19-20, “The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.”

Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 4:34-35, “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”

Keep in mind that the scriptures of the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den are a foreshadowing of the salvation provided by Christ. God provided a way of escape for the men in the fire just as HE has provided a way for us to escape the fires of hell (1 Peter 3:18.) God provided an angel to shut the lion’s mouth so Daniel would be saved from death and Jesus Christ is our provision from the dangers of the sin that threatens to consume us….here …..today!!

We will see that God has a plan, and His plan is down to the intricate detail. God knows and is in control of the future. Everything that God has predicted has come true exactly as He predicted. Therefore, we can believe and trust with great confidence and faith that the things He has predicted for the future will one day occur exactly as God has declared.

In addition to having a plan we will see God as a Keeper, Protector, a Revealer, a Deliverer, a Judge, and of course All Powerful. The book is divided into tow main sections:

A historical narration in chapters 1-6.
An Eschatology, and a prophecy of Revelation (Chapters 7-12)
The original book was written in Hebrew except some of the first half which was written in Aramaic, which was becoming the commercial and diplomatic language of the time. The city of Babylon was perhaps one of the grandest most luxurious city’s ever. Babylon came to its zenith while Daniel was there under Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned for 45 years.

Babylon , will however be captured (in a day!!) by the Medes and Persians, but will remain an important city for years to come. I remember reading in Isaiah the prophecy of Babylon’s future:

Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
the glory of the Babylonians’ pride,
will be overthrown by God
like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited
or lived in through all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there,
no shepherd will rest his flocks there.

But desert creatures will lie there,
jackals will fill her houses;
there the owls will dwell,
and there the wild goats will leap about.

Hyenas will howl in her strongholds,
jackals in her luxurious palaces.
Her time is at hand,
and her days will not be prolonged.

So…buckle up and get ready for the ride through Daniel!!!

Sharing HIS love,

EZEKIEL OVERVIEW

EZEKIEL OVERVIEW

I HATE to tell you this, but last year was the FIRST time I had ever read the book of Ezekiel completely through!! So…now you know <<<smile>>>!! Sure I had read scriptures or possibly even a chapter or two, but last year really opened my eyes to what this prophet had to say.

The author is The Prophet Ezekiel and it was most likely written between 593-565 B.C., during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. He was a contemporary of both Jeremiah (on the outside of the captivity) and Daniel (on the inside of the captivity.)

Ezekiel’s book can be divided into four sections:
Chapters 1-24: prophecies on the ruin of Jerusalem
Chapters 25-32: prophecies of God’s judgment on nearby nations
Chapter 33: a last call for repentance to Israel
Chapters 34-48: prophecies concerning the future restoration of Israel

Since we will be spending the next 2 weeks with Ezekiel, here is a little background on what Ezekiel was dealing with incase you are just now jumping in (and if you are WELCOME!!) We read about three attacks on Jerusalem that brought all of Judah under Babylonian control. There were 3 distinct moments where they were invaded and taken into captivity. We read about them from the perspective of Jeremiah, who was in Jerusalem to see all 3 events over the course of 40 years. Now we will read about Jerusalem/Judah’s captivity from the INSIDE, from a first person perspective.

King Josiah of Judah was was a good king of Judah. The Book of the Law was found in the temple, when he was having it restored. (I Know…the bells are beginning to go off in your head…”oh yeah..I remember him!!”) He read The Book of the Law and wept when he saw how far away from The Lord his country had grown. He began a reformation, and people began to walk in the ways of the Lord; celebrating Passover, worshipping in the Temple, following the Commandments. Nothing good lasts forever and Josiah was no different. He was killed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo. Four years later Neco was then defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, leaving Babylon as the world power.

Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years and had contemporaries ready to follow in his footsteps. Ezekiel was about 18 yrs old when Nebuchadnezzar took the first group of captives. Among that first group was a familiar name, Daniel. Daniel was exiled at the age of 15 (with his friends Hananuah, Mishael, and Azariah…..you’ll recognize the names that King Nebuchadnezzar gave these three when we get to that part!!), while his friend Ezekiel was left behind. During this time Jeremiah was bringing the message to the people to repent…but they did not.

Keep in mind that Ezekiel and Jeremiah were working with the same generation. That generation was not only exceedingly sinful but thoroughly hopeless (ummmm…guess you could say they were bad to bone!!) By means of his prophetic ministry he attempted to bring them to immediate repentance and to confidence in the distant future. For 10 years, life continued the same, Judah continued to sin. Then King Johoiakim, king of Judah, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and he died. Jehoiachin became king and once again Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem this time taking 10,000 captive, and among them was Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a few years away from becoming a priest (age 30 eligibility). When he turned 30, Ezekiel had a vision! (nope nope nope…not gonna tell you what his vision was….can’t spoil the story <<<smile>>>>).

Ezekiel was uprooted from his homeland in the 2nd Babylon attack at age 25. He was marched off to Babylon and held in captivity. For five years he languished in despair. Then at age thirty a majestic vision of Yahweh’s glory captivated his being while in Babylon. The priest/prophet discovered God was not confined to the narrow structures of Ezekiel’s native land; but HE was/is a universal God who commands and controls persons and nations. In Babylon, God imparted to Ezekiel His Word for the people. This vision from God transformed Ezekiel. He became avidly devoted to God’s Word. He realized he had nothing personally to assist the captives in their bitter situation, but he was convinced God’s Word spoke to their condition and could give them victory in the midst of their circumstances. Ezekiel used various methods to convey God’s Word to his people — things such as art in drawing a depiction of Jerusalem, symbolic actions and unusual conduct to secure attention, and he cut his hair and beard as a demonstration.

In the time frame Ezekiel was written, we have three living prophets:

JEREMIAH — was in Jerusalem with the Jews during all three stages of the exile, prophesying, preaching, and warning them to repent.
EZEKIEL– lived with the exiles in Babylon, bringing them a message of hope.
DANEL–well…. God placed Daniel to live with the Rulers in the court.
During this time frame, other evil nations were wiped out by the Lord. Jerusalem, however was not, but most of the Judeans were in captivity. There is a HUGE difference between the two scenarios. The difference is significant, God disciplines those HE loves. His discipline/punishment (not always the same thing). By placing HIS people in captivity, through their punishment HIS desire was that they would come to know HIM. And they did.
A key verse is from this Book is Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'”

We will find in Ezekiel 34 that God denounces the leaders of Israel as FALSE shepherds because they were self centered and cared ONLY about themselves rather than taking good care of the people, HIS people (Ezekiel 34:1-3.) By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep and who protects them from the wolves who would destroy the flock (John 10:11-12). In chapter 34 these leaders of Israel, Israel’s shepherds failed to see the importance of ministering to the weak, sick, injured, and lost. BUT the good news is that Jesus is our GREAT Physician who heals our spiritual wounds (Isaiah 53:5) by His death on the cross. He is the one who seeks and saves that which is lost (Luke 19:10).

Sharing HIS love,