Ezra is one of the great spiritual leaders of the Old Testament. His name meant, “Yahweh helps.” He was used of God to lead the Israelites back to the Promised Land, much like Moses did previously. In fact, this return to the homeland from Persian captivity has been called Israel’s “second exodus.”
The book of Ezra tells the story of two returns. The first was led by Zerubabbel to rebuild the temple (1-6) and the second was led by Ezra to rebuild the spiritual condition of the people (7-10). The key verse of the book is found in Ezra 7:10, “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.”
Interestingly, the principles found in this small book stating how God dealt with His people more than 2,500 years ago, still speak to the heart and issues of God’s people today. Here are 10 preaching points from the book of Ezra which intersect the lives of believers in contemporary culture.
- God is sovereign. In the book of Ezra, God was at work through historical events. Persia defeated the Babylonians and took possession of the Israelites. However, Persian national policy allowed deported people to repatriate. This allowed the Israelites to return home after 70 years in captivity, thus fulfilling a promise of God. God is still sovereign over the affairs of nations today.
- God raises up people for specific purposes. Most likely, Ezra’s parents were a part of the original deportation from Israel and Ezra was born in captivity. Despite difficult circumstances, God raised up Ezra for the special task of leading His people (1:1-4). God still raises up people today for special work.
- God often uses the most unlikely sources. Whenever the Israelites prepared to return, God spoke to Cyrus, the King of Persia, to provide treasures to help rebuild the Temple in Israel (1:5-11). It is amazing how God works in the hearts of the most unlikely sources to accomplish His work.
- It is vital for a person to ensure they are truly in God’s family. In Chapter 2, great care was taken to ensure the pure lineage of Israelite families in their return (2:1-70). Today, people must ensure they have truly experienced salvation through Jesus Christ.
- Place spiritual matters as a priority. Whenever the Israelites returned, their primary emphasis was upon re-building the Temple first rather than the city walls or gates (Chapter 3). The Temple was used for spiritual purposes, while the wall was used for military and political purposes. Putting spiritual matters in order in your life is always the greater priority.
- There will always be opposition to God’s work. As Zerubbabel led the first group of Israelites back to their homeland and began to rebuild the Temple, great opposition arose from their neighbors. The opposition came at two different times as they re-built (4:1-22; 5:3-6:12). Today, the enemy often brings opposition whenever believers attempt to carry out God’s commands and work.
- Joy is possible in the midst of difficult circumstances. Four times in the book of Ezra the word “joy” is mentioned. Two times the text mentions the joy of the Israelites whenever the foundation of the Temple was completed (3:12-13). Two times the joy of God’s people was mentioned whenever the Temple was dedicated (6:16; 22). Their circumstances were far from joyful as the charred remains of their homeland surrounded them and provisions were meager. Yet, the Lord gave them joy. Today, it is important for believers to remain joyful regardless of the outward circumstances.
- God’s Word is primary. Beginning in Chapter 7, the priest Ezra arrived in Israel. His primary emphasis was upon God’s Word. He devoted himself to the Word of God and to teach its ordinances (7:10). God’s inerrant, infallible Word must be primary today. Devoting ourselves to it and its commands is the first task of every believer, minister, and church. God will bless the primacy of His Word.
- Spiritual leaders are to be prayer warriors. One of the most inspirational passages in the book was when Ezra prayed for the people. He was made aware by servants of the sin of intermarriage among the people. Interestingly, Ezra did not petition God for one request, yet he immediately confessed the sins of his people to the Lord and set an action plan of repentance. The poignant words of Ezra form one of the most beautiful prayers of the Old Testament (9:5-15). Spiritual leaders must intercede for God’s people today and be prayer warriors on their behalf.
- God Takes Seriously Marrying Outside of the Faith. In Chapters 7-10, one key sin plagued the Israelites. They disobeyed God by intermarrying with those who did not have a covenant relationship with Yahweh. The prohibition was not based upon race rather it was based upon faith. The monotheistic worship of God alone was to remain pure among His people. Today, it is imperative that believers in Jesus Christ avoid being unequally yoked with unbelievers in a marriage relationship (2 Cor. 6:14).
One of the undercurrents running throughout this small, yet powerful, book is one of hope. The story of Ezra encourages a people who had lost hope in the future. This is the plight of many in modern culture as well. They have lost hope. The pulpit is a wonderful place to encourage their spirit from the book of Ezra and show that a vital, living relationship with God through Jesus Christ provides wonderful hope for the future.