Ezra - God's help

Background

After 70 years in exile, the captives from Judah were allowed to return to their homeland. Nearly 50,000 people made this journey under the leadership of Zerubbabel. Upon their arrival they began to rebuild the Temple, but became discouraged by opposition. After encouragement from Haggai and Zechariah, they returned to the task and completed the Temple.

Ezra returned to the Land with a second group of exiles, 80 years after Zerubbabel. Ezra found the Temple rebuilt, but the lives of the people in shambles. Intermarriage with foreigners opposed to God threatened the spiritual future of the nation. So Ezra prayed for guidance and then led the nation to repentance.

Theme

Before telling the group the theme of the book Ezra, ask them this question. "What does the name Ezra mean?"

1. God delivers His people

2. God helps

3. God restores

4. God forgives

Answer : The name Ezra means "Yahweh helps".

Several had the name: a family head in Judah (1 Chron. 4:17), a priest in the return with Zerubbabel (Neh. 12:1,13), and a prince at the dedication of Jerusalem's walls built by Nehemiah (Neh. 12:32-33). The most famous is the chief character in the Book of Ezra.

Many of us shudder when God calls us to do His work. We feel that the task is too difficult for us and we may never do a good job. The study of Ezra should dispel this fear. Here we see that God is active when He calls us to do His work. He does not leave us all alone but is with us every step of the way to see it to completion.


How does God help us to do His work?


By moving the people in authority

(Ezra 1:1-3 NIV) In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: {2} "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. {3} Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.

Sometimes we need approval from an authority before we can proceed with God's work. Perhaps we want to build a church and need approval from the relevant authorities. Perhaps we need the approval of our boss so that we can use the office bulletin board to put up a poster for a church activity. We can be encouraged that in the book of Ezra God demonstrates that even those in authority are fully in His hands to do with them whatever He pleases.


By providing us with the physical resources

(Ezra 1:7-10 NIV) Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. {8} Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. {9} This was the inventory: gold dishes 30 silver dishes 1,000 silver pans 29 {10} gold bowls 30 matching silver bowls 410 other articles 1,000

God does not leave us with no resources to work on. When God wanted His people to build His temple, He made sure that they had enough resources to work with.


By providing us with human support

(Ezra 1:5 NIV) Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.

God moved in the hearts of the people so that they want to go and rebuild the temple. Similarly if the task is too much for us to handle alone, God will provide the necessary human resources. And He does that by moving in the hearts of people so that they will offer their help to us.


By removing the opposition

(Ezra 4:4-5 NIV) Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. {5} They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

At first, the people were successful in halting the work of the temple. But by God's intervention, the rebuilding of the temple was resumed during the reign of the next king who not only ordered that the temple be completed but also that those who oppose must now help with the completion of the temple. The new king issued this decree:

(Ezra 6:6-10 NIV) Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there. {7} Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site. {8} Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God: The expenses of these men are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. {9} Whatever is needed--young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem--must be given them daily without fail, {10} so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.

Do you encounter oppositions when you carry out God's work? We can pray that God will remove the opposition but why not pray that God will turn the opposition into support.


By giving His people courage

King Artaxerxes had earlier issued a decree that the building of the temple should be halted. Yet God gave a group of people enough courage to defy the king's order and carry on with the building despite new threats. The king had decreed:

(Ezra 4:21 NIV) Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order….24 Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

A group of people decide to start rebuilding the temple again.

(Ezra 5:2 NIV) Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.

Maybe God called you to evangelize to a group of people and you have been afraid. Ask God to give you the courage so that you can boldly take on the task.


By watching over His people

(Ezra 5:5 NIV) But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.

God not only gave His people courage, He also watches over them so that no harm will come to them.

This should be another reason why we can courageously carry out God's work.


By giving us clear instructions

God does not call us to do something and leave us in the lurk. He will tell us exactly what He wants us to do and how He wants us to do it.

(Ezra 6:14 NIV) So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.

When God moved the heart of King Cyrus to issue a decree to have the temple built, He also gave specific instructions to the king as to how this should be done.

(Ezra 6:3-4 NIV) In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide, {4} with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury.

Are you called to do something by God but don't quite know how to proceed. Ask God for his guidance and detailed instruction.


Personal evaluation

List three tasks which God has called you to do which you feel is difficult. For each of the tasks, evaluate whether we have taken the available steps to enlist God's help. 

Write down your three tasks and ask yourself whether you have enlisted God's help in these areas. Write down Yes, No or Not Applicable in the boxes. If the answer is No, write beside it what you should specifically pray for.Task 1     Task 2     Task 3     
​By moving the people in authority 
​By providing us with the physical resources
​By providing us with human support
​By removing the opposition
​By giving His people courage
​By watching over His people
​By giving us clear instructions

Look for areas in which we have not sought God. Determine to pray more specifically that God will help you in these specific areas.