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.]
Isaiah eventually staggered his twentieth century critics. Again and again he was 100% accurate looking forward hundreds of years. Compare that to the psychics looking ahead one year.
It’s now obvious that the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is the Messiah. At the time the prophecy was given, I don’t think anyone realized that. They were looking for a kingly Messiah even greater than David himself. I haven’t gotten Isaiah to admit this, but I don’t even think he understood the prophecy, but he reported it faithfully.
Let’s look at a few of the prophecies from Isaiah 53.
The Messiah will be a sacrifice for sin, 53:5-12. Paul explained the fulfillment in Romans 5:6-8.
Messiah will be silent before His accusers, 53:7, fulfilled in Mark 15:4-5.
Messiah will be buried with the rich, 53:9, fulfilled in Matthew 27:57-60.
Messiah will be counted among the criminals, 53:12, fulfilled in Matthew 27:38.
There was a time when skeptics claimed that the prophecies in Isaiah 53 were too detailed, too specific, too accurate to be mere coincidence. I agreed. But then the skeptics argued that the ONLY logical explanation was that Isaiah was written after the gospels and patterned the suffering Servant after what the gospels wrote about Jesus.
Then a Bedouin shepherd left his sheep and goats to look for a stray. He found a cave in a crevice among the limestone cliffs. He tossed a rock in. Instead of hearing a “thud” when it hit, he heard something break. With a cousin and a friend, he entered the cave and found clay jars holding the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls.