Although thanksgiving and worship are separate responses; they are interrelated. It’s impossible to worship without a thankful heart; but one who has a thankful heart towards God is worshipping Him.
JUDAH FREED FROM SLAVERY
In our study of the book of Ezra we’ve been observing the children of Judah who had been enslaved by Babylon, but who were now set free and encouraged to return to their Homeland by Cyrus, the Emperor of Persia.
Cyrus, who may have been aware of God’s call on his life from learning of Isaiah’s prophecy of him, even calling him by name two hundred years before he was born, (Isaiah 44:23-28 and 45:1-13). was now anxious to fulfill that call on him by freeing the Children of Judah to return to their homeland.
Or perhaps Cyrus was not aware of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning him. Perhaps he was just carrying out his own will. Regardless, Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will.”
Cyrus did not command them, but encouraged those who were willing to return home. Ezra 2:64 records that a remnant of 42,360 people who had a heart for God and for the land God had promised their forefather, Abraham, returned.
As Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness; so the faithful remnant returned, believing God and it was counted to them for righteousness. They returned to their homeland and to Jerusalem which lay in shambles from Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction seventy years earlier.
They knew, only too well, that it would require hard work to rebuild; but to the remnant, it was worth the effort. To them, life was not worth living apart from God and from fellowship with him, as they had sung in Psalm 137 while enslaved in Babylon
Now that they had returned; their sadness and depression had turned to joy and gladness and as Isaiah 35:10 says, “sorrow and sighing fled away.”
They returned to Jerusalem to concentrate their attention and efforts to re-establish their worship of God by rebuilding the temple. They were determined to do things right according to the Law of Moses.
THEIR FIRST CONCERN
According to Ezra 1:1 and 3:1 in the seventh month of the first year of Cyrus’ proclamation of freedom, the Children of Judah set up their altar first. The altar was the place where animal blood sacrifices were made as an atonement for their sins. These sacrifices foreshadowed the perfect blood sacrifice of Christ at the appointed time. Until the sin problem is resolved, there is no need to attempt to worship God. It is impossible.
CHRISTIANS MUST REPENT
Before we as Christians can worship, sin has to be dealt with first. We must confess as we come to God in brokenness over our sins with a desire to be cleansed and freed from its power. Too many Christians come to God with a careless attitude, about their sins. “After all, no one is perfect!.” What a sick excuse to keep on sinning! They continue in their sins, excusing them with the excuse, “I’m justified. God only sees me in Christ’s righteousness; therefore I can continue in my sins.” Though that is a wonderful truth for the Christian, such excuses to continue in sin are horrible and insulting to our holy God.
To such, God warns of woe in Amos 5:21-27 and 6:1-6. That woe is a warning of trouble and sorrow to follow you throughout your life if you insist on continuing in your sins while at the same time pretending to worship God.
In II Chronicles 7:14 God details the kind of response He expects from us before He will forgive and cleanse us of our sins and revive us and heal our sin-sick nation. He addresses Christians; not the heathen.
which are called by My name
shall humble themselves
and seek my face,
and turn from their wicked ways;
I will hear from Heaven,
and will forgive their sins,
and will heal their land.”
THE SAMARITAN WOMAN WAS SAVED
No one, including the Samaritan woman of John 4, can worship God until the sin problem is settled by coming to Jesus as Saviour. This woman came to Jesus with academic questions about worship. Jesus brushed the worship conversation aside and concentrated on the woman’s real need of dealing with her sins and finding forgiveness through Jesus.
She responded in faith to Christ and went out sharing the good news of Jesus throughout the town. Through her testimony of a changed life, many Samaritans came to Christ.
DOES YOUR WORSHIP OFFEND GOD?
To go through the motions of worshipping God while still holding on to our sins is offensive to God and we deceive ourselves. Repeatedly through the Gospels Jesus pronounced woe on hypocrites who went through the motions of worship while holding on to their sins. Listen to Him dress down the Pharisees in Matthew 23. No harsher words were ever spoken by Jesus.
To claim to worship God while still holding on to, feeding on and loving this Satan-dominated, contaminated, perverted world system with its filthy movies, videos, and web sites is to deceive ourselves and insult and offend our holy God.
God confronts us through the prophet, Amos, in Amos 5:21-24, ” I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in incense in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from Me the noise of thy (worship) songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
In Revelation 2-3 Jesus warns of woe on the churches of Asia Minor, (representing the churches of the Church Age) We are warned of our sins and warned to repent or else He will deal with us harshly.
QUIT TRYING TO TWO-TIME GOD!
Dear Christian friends, you and I cannot continue to serve Satan and allow his sin-contaminated world system to corrupt our minds and attempt to serve Christ as the same time anymore than you can attempt to have two girl friends or two wives at the same time. He desires all of your love or nothing. He will not put up with our divided hearts. It’s either Christ or the world system. Jesus said so in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 We must choose.
We cannot allow movie and rock stars to have a part of our lives, or they will consume all of our life and love.
We cannot devote hours devouring R & X rated movies at the theatre or on our television or listening to Satanic-inspired music on our I pods without that garbage taking away our appetite for the Word of God and our love for Christ.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold fast the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (the things of this world).” If you want to argue about that, argue with Jesus. He’s the One who said it in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13.
God wants all of you or nothing. He’s not satisfied to have an hour or two of you on Sunday. Only after sin is dealt with can we start building the proper foundation for life. Have you set up an altar in your heart to love and worship Christ with all your heart?
THEIR SECOND CONCERN
In the second year, Ezra 3:8-11 tells us, they laid the foundation of the temple and began praising the Lord and giving thanks for the progress.
Can you say honestly that Christ is the foundation of your life? Is Christ what life is all about, as far as you are concerned? Can you say with Paul, in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain?”
Are you aware of the solemn fact in I Corinthians 3:16-17 “That you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? Are you aware of the fact that if you continue to defile your body, His temple, that God will destroy you?”
WHEN DOES THE WORSHIP BEGIN?
You and I cannot lay the right foundation in our lives until we have set up the altar of our hearts to honor and worship Christ alone. Ezra 3:10 says that “When the foundation was laid, then the worship began.” Only when sin is confessed are we capable of praising and thanking God for His goodness and mercy.
All other efforts to worship God are a farce. It is all meaningless and God is not impressed with it. In fact, if offends Him.
When we have surrendered our hearts and lives to God and we have turned our backs on the sinful, contaminating world system; then and only then does true worship begin. Only then can we prove to ourselves that His will is good and perfect. Only then will we be worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Our worship of God through our daily lives will shine out to those around us and our worship will be seen and heard by those around us and our godly influence will be felt by those afar off.
Are we submitted to Christ as Lord of our life? Have we purposely turned our heart away from the contaminating world system and from the sinful desires of our flesh? Is our heart an altar where Christ alone is worshipped? Only then will we have a heart that worships Him with thanksgiving.
There is nothing so popular and misunderstood and divisive in churches today as “Worship.” The Charismatic movement of the 1960’s has emphasized it as an experience to be sought. The Rock and Roll movement of the hippies of the 60’s has given modern worship the rock beat for its music.
The hippies at that time were in rebellion against their parents and against the government and against all authority in general. They used their rock music to express their rebellion. The Contemporary-minded Church, of the 60’s chose to adopt their rock music for worship in order to try to reach them for Christ. For fifty years now their rock beat has been the medium for worship music in what is known as The Contemporary Church. God, not popularity, is the judge of how successful that has been.
We’re presently studying the third chapter of Ezra in which the people of Judah are setting up the altar and preparing to build a new temple. You may remember that Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when he conquered Judah and took them into Babylonian captivity.
In this third chapter we see them preparing for the Feast of Tabernacles, a time when they built lean-to shelters of branches to temporarily live in as they celebrated God’s faithfulness to them during their wilderness wanderings.
Ezra 3 gives us three facts concerning their worship and how we must worship and carry out the work of The Church.
1. Everyone was united as one man in this concern. Ezra 3:1
2. Everything was done according to the Law of Moses. Today we can broaden that to the complete Word of God. Ezra 3:2,4
3. At the heart of worship was the burnt offering which typified the importance of Christ’s blood sacrifice, whose sacrifice and bodily resurrection is the foundation of Christianity. Ezra 3:3
Let us keep in mind that when it comes to worship and to how we conduct church services, our final authority is not our opinions nor preferences. Those are what divide churches and Christians in general. Rather, our final authority must be The Word of God. God’s principles and standards are applicable to any age.
THE PEOPLE WERE UNITED
The people were united in Ezra’s day according to Ezra 3:1 just as they were united when the Church got underway at Pentecost, as we see in Acts 2:1 There were no denominations or factions at that time. Acts 2:44-47, 4:24, 32-35. According to Ezra 3:11-13 the sound of their music and the shouting of the young men and the weeping of the older men could not be distinguished and it was heard from afar. They had a united testimony. There was no “generation gap”.
Any worship that does not make much of the shed blood of Christ for our sins, is counterfeit. Note the worship of the Church in Heaven described in Revelation 5. It’s all about the sacrifice of Christ’s blood for our sins. In true worship as we stand before God; age, gender, race, wealth, status and personal preferences all fade away into insignificance. All that matters is God’s glory.
Our God and our worship of Him is all bigger than ourselves. You and I have no right as individual Christians to determine by our preferences what is and what is not acceptable to God. God’s Word must be the final authority. Our God and our worship is too small when we limit the expression of our worship to the values and musical tastes of a particular generation- young or old or to a particular period of time or a particular nationality.
One thing we know from the Bible is that worship has been expressed through melodies that spring from regenerated, joyful hearts, as we see in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16. The essence of Christian music is Scriptural truth perfectly married to beautiful, singable melodies. Those melodies, harmonies and rhythms are greatly varied by nationalities.
According to Psalm 150, worship may be accompanied with musical instruments, including cymbals and drums. Psalm 47 adds that worship may also involve clapping our hands; not necessarily as we would clap for a musical performance in a recital, but spontaneous clapping that expresses our joy and agreement in worship, much as AMEN is used to express agreement. Of course, it is possible to be totally distracted from the preaching of the Word by dancing in the aisles and chasing people around the church sanctuary, as I have witnessed in some church services.
More important than the music is the importance of approaching God in the beauty of holiness, the imputed holiness of Jesus made possible by our trust in His shed blood for our sins and a practical holiness resulting through our relationship with His Holy Spirit.
CONSIDER THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF WORSHIP
All music consists of melody, harmony and rhythm. What concerns me about contemporary worship is not so much the rock beat rhythm, which I could understand, though probably never appreciate in sacred or secular music. What concerns me most about contemporary worship services is its limitation and lack of breadth of worship music. It all seems limited to the rock beat.
What grieves me deeply is that in the contemporary worship services, generations of Christians born after the 1960’s are missing out on knowing and singing the great hymns of The Faith, as found, for example, in church hymnals of the past. What grieves me is that this generation of Christians are becoming spectators as they watch and listen to the worship teams. They are losing their ability to sing. I listen to them groaning, not knowing where the melody is going.
I grieve that they will never hear nor know about thousands of hymns and Gospel songs by Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, a blind saint of God who wrote about 8,000 Gospel songs, including Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, Blessed Assurance, To God be the Glory, All the Way My Saviour Leads Me, I Am Thine, O Lord, Draw Me Nearer, and My Saviour First of All, a song in which she describes her joy as a blind person of one day seeing Jesus.
Then there are hundreds more hymns and Gospel songs by Al Smith. Oswald Smith, John Peterson, and Bill & Gloria Gaither. Frank Garlock and Ron Hamilton have added a large selection of beautiful hymns and Gospel songs with their modern harmony to church music.
THINK ABOUT THIS
Contemporary Christian Music and its monotonous rock beat, now fifty years old, has become the exclusive, staple sound and atmosphere of contemporary worship. The Christian music of past centuries has been BANNED from this generation as being embarrassingly out of date. It’s like a young family locking their grandparents in a closet so that they will not be embarrassed by their age. It’s like a young woman not being caught dead in her mother’s dress, for fear of being out of style.
Again I remind you that the CCM crowd who consider themselves contemporary and up-to-date are actually locking themselves into a style of music that is now over fifty years old. Why do they call it contemporary? Who cares whether it is contemporary? The questions that matter are: “Does it speak Biblical truth to the heart? Does it reflect our response to Biblical truth?
Worship music must not be based on that which appeals to the opinions and preferences of unregenerate sinners. They have no idea what true worship of God is, nor do they desire to worship Him. They live in rebellion to God.
Why should rebellious sinners be allowed to dictate to us how we are going to worship God and what we can and cannot sing or preach?
Christ is building His Church. We are not called on to rebuild or reinvent the church. Over the past several decades there has been a concerted effort to rebuild the church to try to meet changing needs of each generation. They want to change the worship style, music and preaching content. Each new generation wants it different from the former generation. Vainly the church tries to be in vogue by changing styles as often as hair styles and dress styles change.
God gave the pattern, as well as the standards for church leadership for the church, in Acts and in Paul’s Epistles.
It is not our calling to attempt to try to make God more popular with fallen sinful man by ignoring or overlooking the need to confront sin.
Looking at verse 10-13 of Ezra 3 we read of the united worship sounding forth from the builders of the temple. The younger were more enthusiastic and noisy. The older were more melancholic and sentimental. But the sound that went forth was a mighty united sound that made it impossible to distinguish the younger from the older. The volume of that sound was not measured in decibels as much as it was by the love, unity and fellowship heard for miles around.
Most of the stories of the Kings of Israel occurred at the same time Assyria was rising to power from 900BC- 607BC. God was preparing cruel Assyria to be His tool to judge backslidden Israel. God’s prophets who warned Israel of coming judgment included Elijah, Elisha, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah.
In 734 BC, the ten northern tribes of Israel were conquered by cruel Assyria and were dispersed throughout the world where they are to this day.
Later the two southern Tribes of Israel, Judah and Benjamin, were captured and taken into Babylon as slaves by Emperor Nebuchadnezzar. The prophet Jeremiah warned of this in Jeremiah 25:1-12. Other prophets to Judah included: Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
While these Jews were in Babylonian Captivity Jeremiah prophesied in a letter to them in Jeremiah 29:1-11, advising them to plan to settle in Babylon for the next seventy years. They were to marry, have children and build homes for themselves. They were not going to be delivered any sooner.
FINALLY THE SEVENTY YEARS WERE ACCOMPLISHED.
Cyrus did not command them to return to the homeland. He allowed them to choose whether they would leave or stay. When freed by Cyrus, only a remnant of Judah chose to return to their Homeland. This is how it has been throughout redemptive history. Of course, God is sovereign in the affairs and decisions of men; however, that does not hinder our personal freedom. All are still free to receive or reject Him. God, of course, knows the end from the beginning and always accomplishes His will.
There were still obstacles to their freedom that only God could overcome. In this book of Ezra we see God moving in amazing ways to remove those obstacles.
God delivered them from Babylonian captivity by allowing Cyrus of Persia to conquer Babylon in 536 BC. and rise to power over Judah, as well as the rest of the world. The remnant that returned were known by God by their names and even by the number of people from each family that returned.
Most astounding, Isaiah, who prophesied from 745-695 BC, prophesied Cyrus by name and told what he would accomplish 200 years before he was born. You can read that prophesy in Isaiah 44:23-28 and 45:1-13. Truly the King’s heart as well as the heart of every political leader in the world, is in God’s hand, according to Proverbs 21:1.
Along with God’s sovereignty which accomplishes His sovereign will in the affairs of man, we Christians are called to pray for our government leaders in II Timothy 2:1-4 that we might live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
In answer to prayer, God moved in the heart of Cyrus to give Judah permission to return to their Homeland. But more than that, He gave permission for them to rebuild their temple. He even provided grants for them to help rebuild. Not only that, but he took the golden and silver vessels of the temple which Nebuchadnezzar had stolen and put in his treasure houses and Cyrus returned those temple vessels to Judah to restore to their temple.
GOD KNOWS YOUR NAME AND ALL THE DETAILS ABOUT YOU.
Reading Ezra chapters 1 & 2 we become aware of many details, including names and numbers of unknown people and even the number of animals that returned from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem, their Homeland, when Emperor Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon in 538 BC.
Ii Timothy 2:19 Reminds us that “The Lord know them that are His and let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Note several lists of those who belong to Christ in Romans 16, Malachi 3:16-17 and Hebrews 11. God does not forget His own.
Note in Ezra 2 the lists and numbers by category of those who belonged to God. the priests 2:36-39, the Levites who were not descendents of Aaron, 2:40, the singers 2:41, the porters who carried everything 2:42, the Nethinims, slaves who drew water and cut wood 2:43. The grand total of all those who returned from Babylonian slavery were 42.360 people.
God know exactly how many and who belongs to Him. He encourages us to rejoice because our names are written in Heaven in the Lambs Book of Life.
In Zechariah 4:10 we are encouraged to not despise the seemingly small and insignificant details of our lives. God is at work even in the smallest of details.
This basic prophetic article is based on the Angel Gabriel’s message to Daniel in response to Daniel ‘s confession and concern for Israel’s future as found in Daniel 9.
An understanding of this will help us better understand the Book of Ezra as we try to explain it in messages to come.
The purpose of this article is not to satisfy idle curiosity, but to help us get the overall picture of God’s prophetic timetable. I will not attempt to set dates concerning the return of Christ. Jesus repeatedly told us in Scripture that no man knows the time of Christ’s return. We are simply to be ready for His imminent return. The Apostle Paul expected Jesus to return in his own lifetime. I Thessalonians 4:15 Bible believing Christians have been expecting Jesus to return in their generation for the past 2000 years. That expectation and excitement seems to have accelerated in the last century.
While Daniel was praying to God, confessing his sins and the sins of his beloved nation, Israel; no doubt, confused and depressed by the prophecies God had given him in Daniel 7 and 8 of the Gentiles powers that would rule in the centuries ahead, and grieving for his beloved people Israel, still banished from their homeland; God answered by sending the angel Gabriel to him with a special announcement. God promised to give Israel 70 more weeks of history. Literally, that is 70 sevens of years or 490 years.
A Week of Years
A week of years is a period of seven years. This is not something we pull out of thin air. The Hebrew word for seven is shabua. The word means a unit of measurement of seven just as our word dozen is a unit of measurement for twelve.
In Genesis 29:16-28 we learn that Jacob worked for Laban for seven years in exchange for Laban’s youngest daughter, Rachel. At the end of seven years of work, Laban tricked Jacob by giving him Leah, his oldest daughter. Though this upset Jacob, he loved Rachel so much that he fulfilled another “week of years” to have the woman he most loved. So when Gabriel in Daniel 9 is speaking of a week of years, he is referring to a period of seven years.
This 490 year period of Israel’s history would include Christ making reconciliation for iniquity and conclude by Christ bringing everlasting righteousness to this earth. This 490 year period of Israel’s history would begin with a king’s decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. According to Nehemiah 2:1, Artaxerxes gave that decree in the month Nisan in the twentieth year of his reign. He reigned in Persia from 465 to 425 BC. So the twentieth year of his reign was 445 BC.
You can read the text of that amazing decree in Ezra 7:11-26.
Gabriel’s announcement divides the seventy weeks of years into three groups.
The first 7 weeks of years, or 49 years takes us to Malachi and the end of the Old Testament.
The next 62 weeks of years or 434 years takes us through the 400 silent years between the Old and New Testament and through the years of Christ’s life and ministry on this earth. So adding 49 and 434 gives us a total of 483 years or 69 weeks of years. These are all in the past. Messiah the Prince, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be cut off or die; but not for His own sins. Jesus came into the world and died for our sins.
So since 445 BC, the year of Artaxexes decree to rebuild Jerusalem, 483 of the 490 years of Israel’s history have been fulfilled with only seven more years to go before everlasting righteousness will be ushered in.
Sitting on the Side Track
When Israel publicly rejected Jesus, their Messiah; God switched Israel from the main track of prophecy to a siding and brought a new train, The CHURCH, composed of born again Jews and Gentiles, on to the main track.
Israel, as a nation, has been on a siding ever since. The clock has temporarily stopped ticking for her. When the Church, composed of regenerated Jews and Gentiles, is raptured from this earth, the Church will be removed from the main track of prophecy and Israel will be switched from the siding back on to the main track. Luke 21:24 and Romans 11:25-27 speak of this side-tracking of Israel for the present. With the removal of the Church to Heaven, the final seven years prophesied by Gabriel will start ticking away. Unconverted Jews will find themselves in the Tribulation along with all unbelievers alive at that time.
The Abomination of Desolation
The Tribulation will begin with Anti-Christ appearing and making a covenant of peace with Israel. Daniel 9:27 After 3½ years, Anti-Christ will enter the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and desecrate it, claiming that he alone is God to be worshipped. Daniel 9:27 Matt. 24:15-22 II Thessalonians 2:3-4 The final 3½ years of the Tribulation will be known as The Great Tribulation. God’s wrath will be poured out on the world like nothing anyone has ever seen.
Note these veiled references to the final 3 ½ years of the Tribulation.
Rev. 12:6, 1,260 days = about 3 ½ years
Rev.12:14 time, times, half a time.= 1 year,2 years, ½ year =3 ½ yrs
Rev. 13:5 42 months= 3 ½ years
Martyred for Christ
A remnant of Israel converted to Christ during the Tribulation will endure martyrdom at the hands of the Anti-Christ. At the end of the seven years of Tribulation, Jesus will return in glory, destroy His enemies and bring in the Millennial Kingdom of everlasting righteousness, thus fulfilling Daniel’s final Seventy Weeks of Jewish history.
Will you be left behind?
Those Jews and Gentiles who receive Christ as Saviour in this Church Age of Grace will be raptured from this earth and thus escape the awful Tribulation that lies ahead for those left behind.
The Bible reveals History, His Story, God’s story, from Genesis to Revelation. That’s why it’s so exciting and powerful to the saving of souls.
In Genesis 3:15 is the SEED PLOT of the Bible. It refers to two seeds. The Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The seed of the woman is Jesus and those who belong to Him and the seed of the serpent is Satan and those who belong to him. The promise of Genesis 3:15 is that although Satan would do everything in his power to destroy Jesus; Jesus would eventually conquer and destroy Satan. That’s the story line of the Bible.
In Genesis we learn of the creation of man and the story of how sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and the serpent, Satan, who beguiled them and tempted them to sin against God, their Creator.
Starting with Genesis 4 we are confronted with the truth that salvation is by a blood sacrifice and that good works do not save. We see in the story of Cain and Abel the enmity between God’s Seed and Satan’s seed.
Genesis 12 introduces God’s plan of redemption through Jesus who would come through Abraham’s son Isaac, and Isaac’s son, Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, and through one of the twelve sons of Jacob, Judah, through whom Jesus came in the fullness of time.
In the final chapters of Genesis we find Israel leaving their homeland because of a famine and settling in the land of Goshen, a fertile area of Egypt. In Exodus we learn of Israel’s enslavement by the Egyptian Pharaohs for four hundred years. At the end of that 400 years God raised up Moses to lead them out of the bondage of Egypt back to their Promised Land of Israel.
Years later in 606 BC to 536 BC, Judah was conquered and enslaved for seventy years by the Babylonian Empire. Their deliverance from Babylon is the theme of this series in Ezra.
God’s eternal plan for His chosen people, the Jews, was for them to return to their own land of Palestine so that in the fullness of time Jesus, their Messiah and Saviour of the world would fulfill prophecy by being born in Bethlehem, dying on the cross, sacrificing His blood for our sins. and rising again from the dead the third day so that He could save all who come to Him by faith.
God’s eternal plan for us, His Church, concerns worship, spiritual growth, fellowship, discipleship and evangelism. Those needs are met and we are equipped for service as we spend time in His Word, obeying whatever He shows us.
The devil did all in his power to hinder God’s plan for the Jews and he continues to try to hinder God’s plan for us. That’s why Satan tempts us to sin and hinder our fellowship with God.
That’s why restoration, renewal and revival are necessary. That’s the theme of the Book of Ezra, being restored back to God.
Because of the sin of rebellion towards God, Israel was in captivity under Babylon for seventy years just as they had been enslaved by Egypt a thousand years earlier and just as they have been scattered throughout the world for the past two thousand years.
But God is not finished with Israel. He has an eternal, wonderful plan for them when Jesus returns one day and they meet Him and receive Him as their Messiah. Zechariah prophesies this in chapters 12-14.
Nor is God finished with us gentiles: helpless and hopeless in our sins. Through faith in the Lord Jesus, who died on the cross, paying the full penalty for our sins; we can be saved and brought into fellowship with Him, our Saviour and Heavenly Bridegroom.
DELIVERANCE FROM BABYLONIAN EXILE
The book of Ezra tells that story of deliverance which took place over 2500 years ago back in 538 BC. The Jewish remnant experienced deliverance from Babylonian captivity and restoration back to their homeland of Israel. God prepared the way for the birth of Jesus and His death and resurrection so that all who receive Him as Saviour may be saved.
To grasp the history of this period of time, read Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. To grasp God’s message to His people during this time of captivity and restoration, read the prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Also read the book of Daniel to get the big picture of what God was doing through Israel at this time and what He has in store for us in the future.
If you are familiar with ancient history, you are aware of the four major world empires: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome
You are also aware that King Belshazzar and His Babylonian world empire fell to the conquering King Cyrus of Persia in 536 BC.
That’s where the story of the Book of Ezra comes in. We’ll get started with that the next time.