When we began the last series, we watched as God’s chosen people split into two groups and became a kingdom in the north (Israel) and a kingdom in the south (Judah). Over time it became obvious that the north was not walking together with God, so the LORD sent the Assyrians to defeat them in battle and deport the remaining people. Judah, the south, walked with the LORD for a long time before finally turning away themselves. After over 100 years of rebellion, the LORD finally sent the Babylonian empire to defeat and deport them as well. Now, the remnant (remaining leftover) of God’s chosen people are living in captivity. Samaria, in the north, is destroyed. Jerusalem, in the south, is destroyed. The Temple of the LORD has been looted and torn down as well. The Israelites are completely defeated.
Last week, however, we saw as God continued to work with the people who were living in captivity. Ezekiel, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were a few of the men that the LORD was working in and through during this time period. The LORD was not finished with them yet!
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy He had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: "This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: "The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build Him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (Ezra 1:1-2 NLT)
This series will take us through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. They overlap in the timeline, but Ezra picks up first. Each one focuses on a building project. In Ezra, the Temple of the LORD is rebuilt. In Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt. Both of them will show us more than a physical building project, though. These projects will help us see the rebuilding of God’s chosen people into people who humbly start walking together with God.
Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes' reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, "Why are you looking so sad? You don't look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled." Then I was terrified, but I replied, "Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire." The king asked, "Well, how can I help you?" With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, "If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried." (Nehemiah 2:1-5 NLT)
How about you? Are you ready for some building projects?