GOOD MORNING, SIBLINGS!
Today we begin Ezra! Our readings are Ezra 1-3
MAIN POINT OF RABBIT TRAILS TODAY: JUST AS IN THE TIME OF EZRA, WE ARE LIVING IN TIMES LONG SINCE PROPHESIED ABOUT!
Few quick notes about Ezra:
- This book is widely believed to be authored by Ezra, and the first person nature of chapter 8 seems to support this.
- Ezra was a direct descendant of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5) which would make him a Levitical priest in addition to being a scribe.
- The book of Ezra contains historical information on two different periods of time following the seventy years of Israel being captive in Babylon. Ezra 1-6 covers the return of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Ezra 7-10 begins more than sixty years after this, as Ezra leads a second group of exiles to Israel.
- The events in Ezra are set in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The returning exiles were able to populate only a tiny portion of their former homeland.
- Ezra’s Passion: We will see in this book that Ezra’s passion was to return YHWH’s people to His ways, teachings, commandments, and wisdom.
- Ezra is deeply regarded both in Judaism and early Christianity as having guided Believers back onto the path of obedience.
- In his zeal to return YHWH’s people to obedience, tradition (and extra-biblical texts) state that he enacted ten standing orders among the Jews, four of which are intended to help honor the Sabbath but one of interesting note states that “Jewish women and/or girls, as a precautionary measure, be accustomed to conversing with one another while one of their party goes to relieve herself.” No doubt, if your companion quit speaking suddenly, it made the remainder of the party aware that something had happened to her. This tells us about the environment they were living in, YHWH’s people were a definite minority. Regarding this specific rule, though, when my sister and I came upon this a few years back in our study we declared that Ezra was the reason why women started going to the bathroom in groups – and this still takes place today! source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra
- In case you were wondering, if I could spend the day with any Biblical figure, other than YHWH and Messiah, I’d choose Ezra without blinking. I feel that his experience uniquely equips him to understand the times we are living in and what it feels like to be a Believer in our world today.
We are reading about a time long since prophesied about. Anyone in that time who knew the Word of the Father or studied Torah scrolls would have been on the lookout for it. For a long time, prophecy had gone silent, they did not see any of it being fulfilled, but now the dry bones were rising up, The Father decided it was time, and so He began something new. Just as He is doing in our time.
•Many Believers today have no idea what significant times we are living in. Since the fall of Jerusalem until the rebirth of Israel as a Jewish nation in 1948 (which triggered fulfillment of prophecy once more), we experienced almost 1900 years in which Biblical prophecy was mostly dormant. This dry spell created some significant changes in how the church decided to view prophesy.
•So why is there not more excitement about prophecy coming true today? To put it simply: Most people don’t notice. Without a firsthand knowledge of the Bible and without an understanding of exactly who His people are with regards to these prophecies that are coming true, a day of prophecy being fulfilled can look like any other day.
But just as we will read prophetic statements in the book of Isaiah that come to complete fruition as predicted in Ezra (Isaiah was written two centuries BEFORE this time in Ezra), we can also read in Ezekiel 37 about prophecy that is coming true today, in our time, that every person in this group who has felt the Father stirring their spirit to read His word is taking part in – right now, right this moment, as you read these words.
There are numerous prophecies which we will soon read about that are taking place in our time. Amazing things are happening. The Father is moving and His hand sweeps over our lives in mighty ways to make straight our paths and to steer the world in line with His plans.
~Keep in mind~
Just as the church today may not take as much notice of prophecy due to the extended period of time in which none was fulfilled, so we find Israel in our readings today. As we begin Ezra, it has been nearly 100 years since our Jewish brethren were driven from their homeland. As many as five generations have passed between now and then, and now this King issues a call for as many as possible to return to their homeland.
The problem is, this is a land that many of them have never seen, and they certainly don’t consider it to be home. Imagine, if your great grandmother were from England and she came over here around the time the Titanic sank (that was about 100 years ago, roughly) and settled in America. You’ve lived here your entire life. Your parents and grandparents have lived here their entire lives. If you were able to know your grandmother, you probably recall a few stories she told from time to time that her mother had shared with her about a childhood in England, but that is it. You have no personal connection to England. Perhaps she was part of a specific church in England and her faith was important to her. Once she came here, there were no churches like that one to worship in and no priests as she was accustomed to and so she adapted her religion in order to be able to practice it in her new conditions.
And now, generations later, a call goes out to your generation that it is time to return “home” to England and help rebuild the church so that you can practice the faith of your Grandmother. Now we can understand why there wasn’t a sudden rush of Jews returning to their homeland. It simply wasn’t home to most of them.
But still, the Father stirred the hearts of a remnant, and called them back to a home they had never personally known, and to true worship of a God that they likely had little firsthand knowledge of.
Moving into our reading:
One great commentary I read said that the hearts of kings are in the hand of YHWH, and He turns them whichever way He will. Cyrus did not know the Father, as was prophesied in Isaiah 45:4:
“For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me.”
•Check out all of Isaiah 44:24-45:13 to see predictions of the events in Ezra.
•Did you know that Isaiah was written long before Ezra even though it appears after Ezra in today’s Bibles? Check out the timeline below for clarity. We are about to start reading some books a bit out of order (but as they appear in our Bibles) so this will help with confusion.
Ezra 1:5 YHWH has decided that it is time for His house to be rebuilt. In this reading we see, time and again, that it is He who is stirring up the spirits in people, Israelite and Gentile alike. They do not realize it, as many do not realize it today, but He is God over them all.
This stirring, spiritual awakening, whatever you want to call it. It has taken place with all of us here reading these passages today. I recall with great detail how the Father stirred up a longing in me, a thirst that only He could quench, that drove me to seek Him out through His word. He still drives that hunger today.
We see people from all walks of life beginning to move to honor Him in our reading today. The orchestrating force behind it all is the Father.
In Ezra 2 we see the piteously small numbers of the remnant that returned. Estimates are around 5%. However, keep in mind that the Father is always preparing a remnant – and a minuscule number of people, prepared, blessed, and directed by the Father, can overcome any obstacle.
•Ezra 3 -Note that when we read in Ezra 3:6 “On the first day of the seventh month…”, we naturally tend to think of the month of July. However, the Bible does not use a Gregorian calendar as we do, rather, it uses a Hebrew one.
So the months we are talking about in relation to our calendar are actually September – October. The first day of the seventh month is the Feast of Trumpets, one of the moedim (YHWH’s appointed times, or Biblical feasts). The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement (Another moedim), and the fifteenth day of the seventh month is Sukkot (my favorite feast) referred to in Ezra 3:4 as the Feast of Booths in ESV and sometimes called the Feast of Tabernacles. So if a Hebrew were to read that it was the first day of the seventh month, they’d immediately perk up knowing this is one of the most exciting months of the year.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!