Summary: Why are you where you are right now? God has placed you there for a purpose. What is stopping you from leading the way to accomplish that purpose?
As you remember, we finished Ezra back in the first week of July. So it’s been 6 months since we spent time with our remnant. I miss them. As we’ve talked about before, Ezra and Nehemiah were originally two parts to the same book. Ezra wrote it, but he used different perspectives throughout. He wrote the first 6 chapters of Ezra in the third person, because those events happened before he got to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit inspired him to compile most of his information in those chapters from historical records and interviews. Then chapters 7-10 were recorded in the first person. He wrote them as an eyewitness. He wrote them as an eyewitness for two reasons. First, because he was there. And second because they were the things he was directly responsible for. They told of his mission. And then we get to the second part of his book—what we know of as Nehemiah. Even though Ezra was still there as an eyewitness to most of these events, he quit writing in the first person. Instead of writing from his perspective, he began to write from Nehemiah’s perspective. Most scholars say that when Ezra wrote this, the Holy Spirit inspired him to use Nehemiah’s personal diaries. So even though Ezra wrote it, it is as if it came directly from Nehemiah’s mouth. That’s the way biblical inspiration works. When the authors wrote the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit inspired them to use all kinds of sources. Sometimes God dictated directly to them. Sometimes they wrote from their own minds and perspectives. Sometimes they used historical or governmental or secular documents that already existed. But when the Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers to use all of those things to write God’s Word, He carried them along throughout the process. He guided them to write exactly His Word. He protected them from error and divinely breathed out His Word through the very words and parts of speech He influenced them to use. So no matter what sources Ezra used to compile Ezra and Nehemiah, his very act of putting them together was carried along by the Holy Spirit. And it resulted in the inerrant, infallible Word of God we have translated before us today. Because of that, we’re going to look at each part of this book knowing that it all has equal authority before God. Whether a well known passage we might have heard preached a hundred times… or a list of names we can’t even pronounce. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable. So we will treat it as such. And I can’t wait to get back into this wonderful book.
Just a quick review as to where we are in history. I know that some people find history boring. But it shouldn’t be that way for Christians. Because it isn’t for God. Because if history was boring to God, He wouldn’t have made so much of His Book revolve around history. Ultimately, all history is His story. It is the story of Jesus. And the only way we can have a complete picture of our Savior is to know the history He has given us—the history He was born out of and the history He was born into. So, let’s just quickly review where we are at this point in His story.
The events in chapter 1 take place late in the year 446 BC. Nearly five centuries earlier, King Solomon, the son of King David would have his reign come to an end. You remember that David was the first king to rule over Israel from Jerusalem. He passed on his throne to his son Solomon. But Solomon didn’t follow after God with his whole heart like David did. He multiplied foreign wives to himself and began to worship the gods of those foreign women. And because of his disobedience, God told him He would tear the kingdom away from him. But because of God’s promises to David, He didn’t tear it all away. And he didn’t do it while Solomon was alive. But when Solomon’s son Rehoboam took the throne, he tried to impose a very harsh rule on the people. So God split the kingdom. The ten northern tribes split away and left David’s line with only Judah and Benjamin to rule over. Both the northern and southern kingdoms fell into idolatry. The northern kingdom would fall first, and Judah would follow. God sent good kings and bad kings and prophets and priests to the people to get them to change their ways. But with each passing year, things only got worse. Finally in 722BC, the Assyrian Empire invaded Samaria and captured the northern kingdom. Judah should have learned from their example what happens when nations rebel against God. But they didn’t. They continued on their path for more than another century. And then God chastised them as well. He caused the newly formed Babylonian Empire to siege and conquer Jerusalem. And when they did, they carried them off into exile three times starting in 605BC. Now, the Jews were reunited as a people. No matter if you had previously been part of the northern kingdom or Judah… it didn’t matter… they were all removed from the land and exiled in Babylon. The Assyrian Empire had been taken over by the Babylonians and became the Babylonian Empire. And within a few years the Babylonian Empire would be taken over by a coalition of Medes and Persians. That would form the Medo-Persian Empire that was in place as we get to Nehemiah. The Medo-Persian Empire had a much more tolerant view of the captives in their land than did the Babylonians or especially the Assyrians. And because of that tolerant view, a king named Cyrus issued a decree in around 538BC for the Jews to go back and resettle Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. It took nearly two years for them to get there, but Zerubbabel and Jeshua led a group of exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem. Just as the prophet Jeremiah prophesied many years before, it was exactly 70 years from the time the first people were exiled until the first people returned to the land. God told the people through Jeremiah that they had failed to give the land its Sabbath for 490 years. Because of that, God was going to take them all at once. So the land was purged of Israelites and rested for 70 years. And then God made a way for them to return.