Today’s reading is: Neh. 1-2; Ezra 9-10
Nehemiah Chapter One
- The Book begins in Chislev (Nov/Dec) of Artaxerxes’ 20th year (444BC). It has been nearly 14 years since Ezra led over 4,000 Jews back to Jerusalem.
- In Nehemiah’s way of thinking, those who returned to Jerusalem from Persia “escaped” and “survived” the captivity (Neh. 1:2-3).
- This is the spiritual escape from the devil who keeps believers from pursuing the will of God (2nd Tim. 2:25-26).
- This is the spiritual escape from the corruption and defilement of the world system (2nd Pet. 1:4; 2nd Pet. 2:20).
- Nehemiah is informed that the Jews in Jerusalem are being afflicted and unable to successfully build city walls for their own self-defense (Neh. 1:3; Ezr. 4:12).
- The struggles of his people motivated Nehemiah to engage in a fervent effective intercessory prayer ministry (Neh. 1:4-11).
- He calls upon the Lord to hear His prayer.
- He confesses the sins of his people.
- He calls upon the Lord to be faithful to His promises.
- He calls upon the Lord to provide grace in his upcoming petition before King Artaxerxes.
Nehemiah Chapter Two
- Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (Neh. 1:11b). מַשְׁקֶה mashqeh #4945: butler, cupbearer (cf. Gen. 40:1ff.).
- Artaxerxes has the capacity to recognize Nehemiah’s spiritual heaviness of heart (Neh. 2:1-2).
- Nehemiah explains his spiritual burden for Jerusalem, and realizes that the Lord has answered his prayers (Neh. 2:3-4).
- Nehemiah requests the king’s permission to head up a wall-building project in Jerusalem (Neh. 2:5). After determining the length of time until Nehemiah’s return, Artaxerxes gives permission (Neh. 2:6) and issues a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Neh. 2:7-8 cf. Dan. 9:25).
- Nehemiah encounters opposition by the local Persian officials, but presses forward anyway (Neh. 2:9-10).
- Sanballat the Horonite.
- Tobiah the Ammonite servant.
- Geshem the Arab.
- He conducts three days of nightly inspections (Neh. 2:11-16), and then encourages the Jews of Jerusalem to build their walls (Neh. 2:17-20).
Ezra Chapter Nine
- The leaders of Israel approached Ezra the Bible teacher with a serious Biblical issue (Ezr. 9:1-4).
- The returnees had been inter-marrying with the idolatrous gentiles in the land of Canaan (Ezr. 9:1b-2).
- This was strictly prohibited under Mosaic Law (Deut. 7:1-4).
- Ezra sat down appalled, and explained the Law to the returned exiles (Ezr. 9:3-4).
- Ezra enters into an intercessory prayer ministry on behalf of his sinful nation (Ezr. 9:5–15).
- Ezra practiced “intercessory confession.”
- Ezra praised the Lord for the grace He extended in preserving a remnant through the captivity.
- Ezra praised the Lord for the grace He extended in returning a remnant to rebuild His temple.
- Ezra is left to wonder what the Lord’s judgment will be upon the returnees who continue to defy His Word.
Ezra Chapter Ten
- Ezra’s prayer ministry towards God prompted a repentance among the guilty parties involved (Ezr. 10:1ff.).
- Shecaniah represents the people, and encourages Ezra to take the leadership in this national revival (Ezr. 10:2-4).
- The Lord lifts up His servants for His purposes.
- Humble believers will recognize God’s calling of others, and appreciate the Godly leadership that is exercised.
- This national revival was not led by a prophet, priest, or king, but by the greatest recognized Bible teacher of that generation.
- Ezra secured the cooperation of the Levitical priesthood, and fasted before the Lord for the three days it took for Israel to be assembled (Ezr. 10:5-8).
- Ezra bluntly taught Israel’s guilt and the need for confession & separation from the paganism of their mixed marriages (Ezr. 10:9-12).
- The people understood the seriousness of their evil, and accepted the consequences of their actions (Ezr. 10:13-17).
- Rather than the fervor of mob action, the people determined to handle the issue city by city under the delegated authority of the elders and judges.
- Each marriage was “investigated” before a divorce was decreed.
- In a tradition quite like the Chronicles, the Book of Ezra concludes with a roster of identified significance (Ezr. 10:18-44).
- Is this truly the end of the Book? Was Ezra-Nehemiah originally one book?