Date: 5th century B.C.
Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are the last of the historical books.
Both Ezra and Nehemiah write of events in Palestine which took place after some of the exiles returned from the Babylonian captivity.
Both books cover a period of approximately 100 years. The emphasis of Ezra is on the building of the Temple. In Nehemiah the emphasis is on the building of the wall of Jerusalem.
Between chapters 6 and 7 there is a gap of 50-60 years. During this period the events depicted in Esther took place.
This time lapse also accounts for the change in characters in the second part of the book. Some evidently had died.
Zerubbabel led the first return from exile in chapters 1-6. Ezra led the second in chapters 7-10.
The Jews were in Babylon. They hung their harps on the willow trees—how did they get there? See 2 Chronicles 36:14-21.
Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the city, the walls and the Temple. He took the sacred vessels/prisoners.
Jeremiah foretold that the captivity would last 70 years. See 25:12 and 29:10.
Daniel was reading this (9:2) and he began to pray for his people and for their return to their own land. Here we have a picture of a man of Go don his knees pouring over the Word of God. What a lovely sight.
“Prayer moves the hand of Him Who moves the Universe.”
Through the prayer of Daniel God stirred the heart of the king; and God’s program was set in motion.
v. 1—“The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia.”
200 years before this Isaiah had prophesied that Cyrus would build Jerusalem (44:28). “Cyrus is My shepherd, he shall perform My pleasure; even saying Jerusalem shall be built, he shall lay the foundation of the temple.”
No room for coincidence or the arrangement of man, this revival was the work of God. Revival comes down, it is not worked up.
This whole movement was deeply spiritual. “The Lord stirred the spirit of Cyrus.” “Those who returned were raised/called up by God.”
This was a work of God. (This work soon lost its power to cold intellectualism. Counted the words and letters—guard against legalism.
v. 3—Those whom God had stirred were asked to go to Jerusalem.
There was nothing at Jerusalem for the flesh. It was burned, ruined, desolate.
But for faith, it was the city of God the place of the Name.
These spiritual men and women were so inspired to return to Jerusalem they gave up their homes and possessions.
What a price they paid, what a sacrifice they made to rebuild God’s house. Christ loved the church, and we should love the church in the same manner.
v. 4—Those that remained in Babylon were instructed to support those who returned. They were to give gifts of gold, goods, beasts, free-will offerings. This was to support the work and the workers of the church at Antioch.
v. 5-6—These give us the response to the proclamation. Volunteers.
The fathers of Judah and Benjamin were priests: Levites. “All those whose spirit God had raised.”
Those who could not go strengthened the hands of those who did, with precious things, all done willingly.
v. 7—The vessels of the Lord were separated. They were separated from the vessels of the king devoted to heathen deities. Before they could be used by God they had to be separated. Israel was never stronger or more blessed than when she was separated from the nations around here. “In the world but not of it.”
God’s promise through Malachi. “Bring in all the tithes and offerings and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that you will not be able to contain.”
Saints on their knees is the prelude to blessing. Note the three ninth chapters of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel. Three men on their knees, confessing their own sins and the sins of the people. The result is blessing. These men recognized the need of their time.
On for holy men today who recognize the advancing apostasy and the growing insubjection to the Word. Those who will teach the sovereignty and holiness of God, the lordship and headship of Christ, the presidency of the Holy Spirit, and the authority of the Word of God. Describe the sanctified man.
The church is looking for better methods. God is looking for better men. What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, or more novel methods. The church needs holy, spiritual men whom God the Spirit can use. Men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit’s power does not flow through methods or machinery but through holy men.
Daniel was a student of the Word. He saw that the time was approaching for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, the liberation of Israel. He also realized the total unpreparedness of his people for this event. He fell on his knees in confession and prayer.
The result of his prayer was that (1) many hearts of his people were prepared; (2) there was a movement of God in the heart of the king Cyrus. In fact, Daniel’s prayer set in motion one of the most important events in the history of Israel.
Chapter 2 is a sample page out of the eternal book. A look at God’s Hall of Fame.
Similar lists are given in other parts of the Word. In Genesis 49 we have the record of Jacob’s sons. In 2 Samuel 23 and 1 Chronicles 11 there is set forth for posterity the names of David’s mighty men.
In Nehemiah 3 and also in chapter 7 the list is almost identical with that in Ezra 2. These are the names of faithful men whom God has honored by keeping an eternal record of their names.
This reminds us of 2 Timothy 2 where the vessels of honor and dishonor were separated. “Separate Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
In God’s service today, those whom He uses are separated from evil and purged from all sin.
Ephesians 5:26—“That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word. That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
The priest could not serve God without first using the brazen altar and the brazen laver.
To serve God effectively we must be clean.
Some texts to express the importance of unity.
Romans 15:5-6—Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus. That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:10—Now I beseech you brethren by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
2 Corinthians 13:11—Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
Ephesians 4:3—Endeavoring to keep the unity created by the Spirit in the bond of peace. Jew and Gentile have been united by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has made all true believers one in Christ Jesus. We each must keep this unity intact by living at peace with one another.
Note the characteristics of the great revival under Ezra (Nehemiah 8-10).
1. They gathered themselves as one man.
2. Bring the book.
3. Men, women and all who could hear with understanding.
4. The Word was read from morning till midday (6 hours).
5. The ears of all the people were attentive unto the book.
6. When Ezra opened the book the people stood up.
7. Ezra worshiped the Lord.
8. The people said “Amen, Amen” and lifted up their hands.
9. They in turn worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
The result: The joy of the Lord was their strength. There was very great gladness—revival.
Missionary Day in the church in Scotland.
“Give me thine ordinances,” says the god of Phariseeism.
“Give me thy personality,” said the God of Hegel.
“Give me thy reason,” says the god of Kent.
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus says, “My Son, give me thy heart.”
This chapter contains the names of families who went up out of the captivity.
Little did they realize at the time that their names would be recorded for posterity.
Nothing escapes the eye of God, and any effort will be rewarded by Him. Judgment Seat of Christ.
One of the significant things that happened is found in verses 61-63. There were some who claimed to be priests, but no record was found to substantiate their claim.
Consequently their names were removed from the priestly register, all support was withdrawn, and they were treated as unworthy of the office of a priest, until there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummin.
This means that they were excluded from the priesthood, until an inspired priet, who was given light on this subject from God, could verify their claim.
v. 68-69—When some of the leaders came to the site of the Temple, their hearts were further stirred.
“They offered freely”—“They gave after their ability”.
This is an example for us. See 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7; Acts 11:27-30.