Summary: We have a God who keeps His promises.
A. Ann Landers, former advice columnist, challenged her readers to come up with the world's 3rd
-biggest lie. She wrote, “The world’s biggest first two lies are: ‘The check is in the mail’ and ‘I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.’ Here’s a sampling from the thousands of suggestions of the 3rd biggest lies she received:
1. “It's a good thing you came in today. We only have two more in stock.”
2. “Ten extra pounds is nothing on a person of your height.”
3. “You made it yourself? I never would have guessed.”
4. “Of course I will respect you in the morning.”
5. “You don't look a day over 40.”
6. “Dad, I need to move out of the dorm into an apartment of my own so I can have some peace and quiet when I study.”
7. “It's delicious, but I can't eat another bite.”
8. “The new ownership won't affect you. The company will remain the same.”
9. “The puppy won't be any trouble, Mom. I promise I'll take care of it myself.”
10. “You don't need it in writing. You have my personal guarantee.”
B. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to believe and what to believe.
1. Sadly, many people and companies make promises that they don’t keep.
C. But I am here to tell you that the God that we read about in the Bible is someone who can be trusted.
1. I am here to tell you that when the God of the Bible makes a promise, He keeps it!
2. God zealously protects the integrity of His Word and wants us to have confidence in the Word.
3. And for that reason, those of us who believe in God have courage, and hope, and peace, because we trust in God’s promises.
D. Today we are beginning a new sermon series on the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
1. I’m calling the series: “Restoring and Renewing the People of God.”
2. In this series, we will witness how God restored and renewed the people of God back in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
3. And as we witness the way God kept His promises and worked in their lives, we will be assured that God will continue to keep His promises and work in our lives today.
E. As we begin our study, let me begin by saying that Ezra and Nehemiah are historical books.
1. Perhaps many of you enjoy studying history, others of you may find history to be boring.
2. Some people define history as the story of civilizations, or that history is the reciting of the rise and fall of peoples and nations.
3. All of this would be true, of course, but what I propose to do is to show that history is something more than the rise and fall of civilizations and the story of cultures and the recounting of wars.
4. History is the story of God’s sovereignty over the nations to accomplish His eternal purpose and to show forth His eternal glory.
5. History is truly the Lord’s story of His redemptive work, the display of His judgment, and the preservation of His people in every generation.
F. So when we come to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we see that their purpose is to give us more than just secular history – they reveal a spiritual history or a theological history.
1. What I mean by that is that they seek to show God’s providence over the nations.
2. They seek to reveal the redemptive history of God and God’s people.
3. While much of history offers slices of God’s common grace shown to obscure people or His judgments executed against wicked people, the most significant portions of history center on how God redeems a people for Himself.
4. The interplay of nations, wars, civilizations, economies, rulers, dictators, disease, conflict, and so much more has its ultimate focus in demonstrating the greatness of God’s love for His redeemed people and the certainty of His faithfulness in keeping a people for Himself.
I. Setting the Stage for the Story of Ezra
A. Derek Kidner, in his commentary, sets the historical stage well for us, identifying what is happening in the book of Ezra: It was a death to make way for a rebirth. A millennium before this, Israel had been transplanted to Egypt, to emerge no longer a family but a nation. Now her long night in Babylon was to mark another turning-point, so that she emerged no longer a kingdom but a little flock with the makings of a church. This is the point at which the book of Ezra begins. [TOTC: Ezra & Nehemiah, 13].
B. Let’s put the story of Ezra in its’ historical context. Let me give you a brief history of God’s people.