Today’s Scripture Focus: Ezra 10:1-17
We are now in the section of scripture known as history. There are two types of history books in the Old Testament—covenant history, which tells the story of God’s people before the Babylonian Exile, and post exilic history. The post exile writings are I and II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Although I and II Chronicles detail events from before the Exile, they are written from the perspective of those who had already experienced God’s judgement. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther deal with three groups of God’s people—those who rebuilt the Temple, those who rebuilt Jerusalem, and those who remained in foreign countries.
Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, and many believe they were written by the same person or community. The book of Ezra tells the story of the first two waves of Judean exiles that went back to Jerusalem. In 538 BC, the Persian king Cyrus decreed that God’s Temple should be rebuilt in Jerusalem. The first group of Jews made the long and dangerous journey back home, and began to settle on the land of their ancestors. They faced opposition from those who had been resettled there during their absence. They managed to rebuild the altar and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles before the work was interrupted.
God continued to intervene on behalf of the people, and there were eventually able to continue work on the Temple. Those who remembered Solomon’s Temple wept, for the new one couldn’t compare to its glory. After about fifty years, the Persian king Xerxes decreed that Ezra—a priest and expert in the Law—should gather another wave of Exiles and set up a government in Jerusalem. Before, the Jews had been ruled by a king. Now they would be ruled by a book. Ezra knew the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—and would make sure the people followed it’s teachings. Ezra gathered other priests and leaders and traveled home.
What Ezra found in Jerusalem broke his heart, for many of the people, including the priests and leaders, had intermarried with the pagan peoples who lived around and among them. Why was this a problem? Remember it was King Solomon’s marriage covenant with foreign peoples that led Israel into the worship of idols. This weakened and divided the people, and eventually led to Israel’s destruction by their enemies. Had they learned nothing from their exile? Ezra cried out to God on behalf of the people. The consequence of their sin seemed harsh—they had to purify their households. Though it is sometimes painful, obeying God’s word always strengthens God’s people.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
Why was Ezra so broken hearted in 10:1? How did the people respond when they saw him weeping?
How has obeying the Bible cost you personally?
God is calling the church today to be faithful to the Word. Pray that God will give us strength in this day to say “no” to the world when it contradicts scripture.