The Heart of God: Exile and Return (5)
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24.27
Read and meditate on Ezra 7-10.
As we consider the situation in Jerusalem during the time when the temple was being rebuilt, we can understand why God sent prophets like Zechariah to point the people beyond the present to a more expansive Kingdom vision for the future.
1. What kind of qualifications did Ezra possess as a watchman for God’s people (7.1-11)?
2. This period of rebuilding the temple reminds us in some ways of David’s preparation for building the temple, and the work Solomon did in finishing it. How do you see this? Do you suppose the people of that day made a similar connection with their past? And would doing so have helped to encourage them in their work? Explain.
3. Right away, though, the people followed a path of compromise (Ezra 9, 10). Was this inevitable? Why or why not? What dangers of compromise do God’s people today face?
4. Summarize Ezra’s message to the compromised people of Israel, as well as his motivation in preaching this word. How did the people propose to rectify this situation (Ezra 10)? What do we learn from this situation about repentance?
5. The people had rebuilt the temple and re-established the proper worship of God in Jerusalem. But their hearts were still distant from the heart of God. They still needed that which Moses had promised in Deuteronomy 30.1-10, and Ezekiel prophesied in Ezekiel 36.36, 27, and Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31.31-34. Explain what yet had to happen for God’s people, and do so in the light of what we’ve seen in Haggai and Zechariah.
Being fully established in God’s covenant is not, in the first place, about outward trappings. It’s about what’s going on inside us, and what we need from the Lord if He is to rule in our hearts, and not merely in the outward circumstances of our lives. In what ways does this period of return from the exile enlarge our view of God’s covenant, beyond what we’ve seen thus far?
Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
T. M. Moore
Two books can help you gain a fuller understanding of the terrain we will be covering in this series. Kingdom Documentsprovides a concise overview of the primary teaching of the Old and New Testaments, and shows, through early Church creeds, how our forebears understood the primary teachings of God’s Word. (click here to order). I Will Be Your Goddevelops more fully the idea of God’s covenant and leads us to consider the practical implications of our covenant relationship with God (click here).
Visit The Ailbe Seminary, where our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, offers a parallel study of our theme in this series, using brief video presentations and the workbook God’s Covenant: An Introduction. All courses at The Ailbe Seminary are available without charge.
We are happy to be able to offer each week’s Scriptorium studies in a free weekly PDF, suitable for personal or group use. You can download all the studies in this series by clicking here. Please prayerfully consider sharing with The Fellowship of Ailbe through your giving. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.