Summary: Ezra reflects on the Exile, the Return, and the Future
Ezra: A First Person Reflection on the Exile, the Return, and the Future (pt 1)
Welcome. It’s good to see you!
In the 2500 years since I lived on earth, I’ve enjoyed meeting my heroes of the faith. Some, like Barnabas and Stephen lived after I did, but I admired their work. Some, like Job, Caleb, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael... (oh... you may know them by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), some lived before I did, so I learned from their examples.
Please forgive me for not introducing myself. I am Ezra. I am, by vocation, a priest and a scribe [Ezra 7:11], a record keeper. By avocation, I am a teacher of the Law [7:10]. I served the Lord during the Restoration of Israel, the most exciting time in our history since the Exodus.
Both as a record keeper and a teacher, history is important to me. For some of you history may be a boring list of names and dates. Others may view it as a series of events. I like what English speaking Christians have done with the word “history,” defining it as “His story,” the story of the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Redeemer. I like that play on words. Too bad it doesn’t work in Hebrew.
For the devout among God’s people in my day, history was more than just a series of events. It was much more than a boring list of names and dates. Our history was the realization, the unfolding, the fulfilment of prophecy.
Fulfilled prophecy is powerful evidence for the Jewish faith under the old covenant and the Christian faith under the new covenant, a claim no other religion can make. It is powerful evidence for the inspiration of scripture, a claim no other book can make. In most of your lifetimes, Jehovah’s Witnesses have tried and failed to predict the second coming of Jesus. In some of your lifetimes, they have tried more than once or twice. In a recent century, Joseph Smith Jr, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claimed to be a prophet while repeatedly failing the biblical test for a prophet. Almost 200 years later they still claim to be led by an unbroken, though repeatedly discredited, succession of prophets.
Some people perform intellectual somersaults to find prophecy in the rambling verses of Nostrodamus. Their intellectual somersaults are more impressive than his rambling verses.
Years ago, on New Year’s Eve, broadcasters on one of your TV shows saved check-out line tabloids from a year earlier when famous psychics made predictions for the new year. As I recall, their accuracy ranged from a low of 0% to a high of less than 20%. They looked ahead only one year, into events already unfolding in the lives of people already known. I do not understand how those psychics became rich and famous failures with a faithful following.
In the years since I lived on earth, I’ve had the chance to talk with Isaiah about his prophecies. Are you students of scripture? Have you read Is? What do you think is his most amazing prophecy?
[take answers, which will surely include the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.]