The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), September 16
Seventy years in captivity have taught God’s people two difficult lessons:
- There is no God but the Creator God and Sovereign Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Captivity cures Israel of idolatry.
- Bible literacy and obedience are crucial to spiritual vitality. Captivity heightens the need for Bible literacy.
Ezra, who can trace his lineage to Phinehas, Eleazar, and Aaron, is well versed in the Law of Moses. He brings strong teaching skills and theology with him from Babylon—“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). He is commissioned by Artaxerxes to “set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them” (7:25). Artaxerxes also promises to punish any who disregard Bible literacy, “Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment” (7:26). Wow! Pretty strong words coming from a pagan king! Wise rulers realize that good laws and God’s laws go hand in hand.
Psalm 106 captures the consequences of the lack of Bible literacy and obedience to the Scriptures in Israel, “They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; they served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons” (Ps. 106:34-37).
Though a remnant from Judah has returned to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, they have yet to be restored spiritually. Bible literacy is crucial to the people’s spiritual revitalization, so God raises up Ezra to ensure the birth and continuation of the process, because, through the story of their past, they will see God and understand His ways.
God’s revelation of Himself through creation reflects His wisdom and power, but it does not reveal man’s sinfulness or His provision for man’s salvation. Without the Bible narrative, man is simply lost. He mingles with those whose cultures conceal God and soon becomes just as blind and godless.
What happened to Israel can happen to any individual, church, community, or nation.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ezra 4:7-23; 7:1-8:36):
Describe the strategy used by Israel’s detractors to interrupt their rebuilding the temple. According to their accusations, what does a rebuilt temple represent? What role does recorded history play in the resolution of this problem? How does the LORD vindicate the returning exiles?
Describe Ezra’s view of God and how that impacts his leadership