We finish our walk through the Old Testament with a look at how the exiles returning from Babylon started over. What the Lord did with them provides incredible direction for us when we need to start over in our own lives. And can God rewrite history? Yes, He can and He did!
Our last official entry in our walk through the Old Testament. The last books are Ezra, Zechariah, Haggai, Esther, Nehemiah, and Malachi. But today focuses on Ezra.
Background: The Jews had been taken to Babylon and the Temple had been destroyed. The exiles were taken away for 70 years.
Then the miracle! II Chronicles 36:23. Told to go back to rebuild the Temple, and given gifts on their way out!
So now, humbled and changed, they were back. No Temple, no worship services, no system of sacrifices, no Passover to celebrate, no real business to plug into–and the city walls are all broken down.
Have you ever started over? After completing something? Or losing something? Or moving somewhere new? Or after a major difficult life-changing event of some kind? Or even just becoming a new Christian and wondering how to adjust to a new life in Christ? Or if you’ve had one of those “this changes everything” moment.
Whether we plan it or not, life is filled with times of starting over.
How the Lord worked with Judah is a great picture of how to start over the right way!
The returning Jews had one great advantage and one great realization. They were free to worship God, and they realized that getting their relationship with the Lord right needed to be their first order of business.
We have the first advantage, and even more. We can love and worship and obey God anywhere–at any time and any place. Nothing can stop us from loving the Lord, praising the Lord and serving Him.
If we read these scriptures quickly, we can get the false impression that they went right into rebuilding the Temple. They didn’t. Ezra 2:2-3 They brought back the sacrificial system of worship and forgiveness first. They dealt with their hearts first, not just their activities.
When we’re starting over, we need to rediscover who we are. Once we’ve received Christ, we belong to Him. No matter what we’ve been through, getting our identities down is what’s most important. Colossians 3:3–to find ourselves, we seek God!
It was only after getting things right with God that they started rebuilding the Temple! It’s like going to church. Going to church is great if it comes out of a relationship with the Lord. But what’s better is knowing God personally and knowing who we are in Christ!
Once we start over, there will be resistance, from within and without. Ezra 3:10-13. Celebration, but also memories and comparisons. That’s internal.
There will also be external pressures when we start over, too! If we’re moving ahead in God, that’s our greatest point of weakness, and the point where Satan will hit us the hardest.
Ezra 4:4-5. Even old friends and family members can provide resistance to our new direction. Just expect it, even from well-meaning folks!
Another help that God gave to the nation was in His word. Ezra and Nehemiah have huge lists of names. Remember that these words were being read by people just returning from exile, who were wondering where they stood with the Lord, with the community, and in regard to serving in the Temple.
2.God affirms our calling when we’re starting over. Romans 11:29. He never removes our gifts or our callings.
3.The list shows that everyone is important. It’s the people of God, working together, that make the difference. We’re all important in God’s sight, and all important to His work.
4. But there is one more aspect of God’s word that is even more amazing!
God rewrote their history! I and II Chronicles tells us the same general story of 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, but with a completely different emphasis, for a brand new audience! There was a new emphasis on God’s promises, on the Temple, on King David’s lineage (which kept their focus on the promise of a Messiah).
Some have faulted these books for “downplaying or ignoring” the sins of David and Solomon and others. They’re forgetting the purpose of the books. No Jew could forget those sins. God was saying, “Hey, nation of mine, you sinned, you were judged, and now it’s a new time. We all know what went wrong. Now let’s remember His promises to us and how much hope there is for the future.” These books visit the past, but only with a vision of the future.
II Chronicles 33:12-13–Even a wicked king’s history was retold, with hope.
When you start over, God rewrites your history for you. Let him put things into HIS perspective for you. Let Him highlight what HE wants to.
For one, remember something about sin that has been forgiven: Ps. 103:12. We have to stop remembering what God has chosen to forget.
Last thing we see for starting over is that some relationships, even some important ones, have to change. Ezra 10-11.
God has a lot to say about starting over.