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.
Just a brief reminder that a great way to prepare for the service this coming Sunday is to read the text we will be studying together.
One of the dangers of reading the stories of those followers of Jesus that we find in the Bible is we can treat them as if they are almost super-human.
Preparing For Sunday May 12, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
This last Sunday, I preached the first of two sermons on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Here was the sentence I began unpacking, which is my summary of both letters:
Martin Luther warned that the people of the church are always in danger of their hearts straying from the truth of the good news of the kingdom of God found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
First, it is Palm Sunday. Which means it is the beginning of a week of remembering the most important events in the history of the world: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, his death at the hands of sinful men as the result of a sham sentence in a kangaroo court, his burial by those who loved him, and his resurrection from the dead just three days later. All of it for the salvation and rescue of the world.
The Whole Story: Ephesians-Week Two
I attempted to show in the sermon this past Sunday that Paul offers us two anchor points for our lives, and upon which our lives depend.
Preparing For Sunday 19 May 2019
What do you think of when you see these two words together?...