Themes in Ezra
THE JEWS RETURN
By returning to the land of Israel from Babylon, the Jews showed their faith in God’s promise to restore them as a people. They returned not only to their homeland but also to the place where their forefathers had promised to follow God.
God shows his mercy to every generation. He compassionately restores his people. No matter how difficult our present “captivity,” we are never far from his love and mercy. He restores us when we return to him.
In 536 B.C., Zerubbabel led the people in rebuilding the altar and laying the Temple foundation. They reinstated daily sacrifices and annual festivals, and rededicated themselves to a new spiritual worship of God.
In rededicating the altar, the people were recommitting themselves to God and his service. To grow spiritually, our commitment must be reviewed and renewed often. As we rededicate ourselves to God, our lives become altars to him.
Opposition came soon after the altar was built and the Temple foundation laid. Enemies of the Jews used deceit to hinder the building for over six years. Finally, there was a decree to stop the building altogether. This opposition severely tested their wavering faith.
There will always be adversaries who oppose God’s work. The life of faith is never easy. But God can overrule all opposition to his service. When we face opposition, we must not falter or withdraw, but keep active and patient.
When the people returned to the land, they were also returning to the influence of God’s Word. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah helped encourage them, while Ezra’s preaching of Scripture built them up. God’s Word gave them what they needed to do God’s work.
We also need the encouragement and direction of God’s Word. We must make it the basis for our faith and actions to finish God’s work and fulfill our obligations. We must never waver in our commitment to hear and obey his Word.
FAITH AND ACTION
The urging of Israel’s leaders motivated the people to complete the Temple. Over the years they had intermarried with idol-worshipers and adopted their pagan practices. Their faith, tested and revived, also led them to remove these sins from their lives.
Faith led them to complete the Temple and to remove sin from their society. As we trust God with our hearts and minds, we must also act by completing our daily responsibilities. It is not enough to say we believe; we must make the changes God requires.