This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Imagine that it is 538 B.C., and as an Israelite, you look around, and you wonder about the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. Is he able? Is he willing? Had God forsaken them forever? Were they still the chosen people? Were God’s promises still good? When will all of these things come true? How will they come true?
The book of Ezra-Nehemiah is the story of a sovereign and faithful God named Yahweh who fulfills his end of the covenant. Who keeps his promises. That is its place in the Whole Story—to show us the progression of what theologians call redemptive history (the history of God’s saving all of humanity) yes, but within that, to show us who God is. That he is sovereign and faithful, that he is able and willing.
Moreover, this book was written to both Encourage and Challenge—the people of Ezra-Nehemiah, and that is still its purpose today.
It was written to Encourage—-
that Yahweh was still their God, on their side;
that the covenant was still in effect;
and that promises and prophecies would be fulfilled.
It was written to Challenge—
that people would repent of their sinfulness;
they would re-commit to their covenant responsibilities;
and they would faithfully obey and worship God.
This book is here, in the Whole Story, to Encourage and to Challenge.
If you’d like to be encouraged, and are up for a challenge, I invite you to watch or listen to the sermon on Ezra-Nehemiah. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Ezra-Nehemiah page over at the Bible Project.
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