The authors of four Bible books wrote in the same style. The books are Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. (Read 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-4.) Cyrus was king of the land called Persia. He defeated Babylon. Then he let the Jewish exiles return home. Their home was the land called Judah.

The exiles had two major tasks. They must build the Temple again. (We can read about this in Ezra.) And they must rebuild the city walls. This was because enemies had broken down the walls. (We can read about this in Nehemiah.) These two books (Ezra and Nehemiah) remind God's people about three important things. And these three things are important for us today too.

First, God must be their only guide.

Second, everyone must work together. They must do this even if it results in loss for them.

Third, some people will oppose them. They will have disappointments. But they must still go on with the work. They must always remember something. It is this. God is on the side of his people. And this is true, even when things seem to be most against them.

The book called Ezra has two parts. There were two different ‘returns’. Zerubbabel led one group. He was the ruler. Later, Ezra led another group. He was the teacher.

This book's title is Ezra. Yet, we do not read about Ezra until chapter 7.

Building God's House (Chapters 1-6)

These chapters show six principles. They show us how Christians should serve God.

Agree that God is guide (1). Everything began with God (1:1). God encouraged the foreign king (1:1) and his people (1:5). God even encouraged his people's neighbours too. And they gave money to God's people (1:4, 6).

Several centuries later, people found some records. They were on shapes of baked clay (earth). The records were facts about King Cyrus. There was his defeat of the ‘near eastern’ world. And the records said that Cyrus ‘returned the gods to the right place’. We know that Jews do not have images. But Cyrus did give back treasures (valuable things) from the Temple (1:7). So, the Bible agrees with these records.

Obey instructions (2). Everyone must obey God's word. This is most important, whatever we do for God. Chapter 2 is a list of the 42,360 people who returned home. There were also 7,337 servants (2:64, 65). Read 2:59-63 too. Some people could not prove that their families were Jews. And God's word had clear instructions about this. (Read Numbers 16:39, 40.) It also had orders about food for priests (2:63. Read Leviticus 2:3, 10.) Every Christian must honour God's word. And we do this by obeying it.

Ignore disappointments. Disappointments will come. We must expect to have them (3), when we want to serve God. And the first difficulties may come from God's people. They may also come from other people who do not believe.

Some people were feeling sad (3:12). This might have been why they were crying. Or their tears might have been tears of joy. Haggai 2:3 suggests something else. The new Temple could have caused their tears. It was not as big as the first Temple.

It can be like this in the church today. Some people feel sad. They are always thinking about the past. Everything seemed much better then. So, they miss opportunities in the present. And they are afraid of dangers that might come in the future. Do not let people like this affect you.

Do not agree to a lower standard (4). (You cannot always please God and please people.) Things now changed. God's people were not causing trouble now. But people who were not believers opposed them. These other people were clever. They offered to help God's people. (These people were already in the land. They were a mixture. And there was a reason for this. It had happened many years before. There was a strong enemy called the Assyrians. And they forced Jews to live in this land. Jews married people living there. And after many years, people gave them a name. They were called Samaritans.)

God's people remembered his word (2 Kings 17:24-41). The Samaritans worshipped idols. They had done this for many years. And their religion was evil. The builders of God's house did not like this. They wanted their work for God to be holy. So, they refused the Samaritans’ help. But this caused trouble. The Samaritans started to oppose the work. And this proved that their offer was not sincere.

Recognise other workers (5). The people who opposed the work seemed to succeed. And the work stopped (4:24). However, God sent two prophets. Their names were Haggai and Zechariah (5:1, 2). They had much courage. And they were not afraid to speak the truth. Their methods were very different. But God still used them both.

It is most important to work together. Ezra 5:1 shows this. We cannot achieve everything on our own. Zerubbabel was leader. But he had two special men beside him. They loved God and served God. And they spoke God's words to the people. It was a delight for the leader to have them.

Finish your own tasks (6). Enemies caused serious problems. They tried to stop the builders. And they wrote a letter to Darius. He was now king in Babylon. (This was the place where the exiles had been living.) And their enemies hoped that Darius would stop the work.

However, this did not happen. God was helping the Jews. Officials found King Cyrus’ order in Babylon's records. Cyrus had permitted the Jews to build the Temple in Jerusalem (6:2). Darius was king now. And he gave clear orders. Those that opposed the work could not mistake his reply. Darius said:

  • Stay away (6:6). Do not try to stop the work.
  • Pay all necessary costs (6:8-9).
  • I warn you (6:11)!

So, the people finished the work. And they were very happy (6:22).

Often, Christians do not finish work for God. They begin it, but they do not finish it. And this shows two sad things. We lack power to continue when things are hard. We lack true love for God too.

Making God's People Holy (Chapters 7-10)

The leader. The Jews finished the Temple. So there was now a building for worship. However, this was not enough. The people must be ready to worship God. But they were not holy. They were not obeying God. So, they were not ready.

Ezra is the main person in these last chapters. The writer often talks about ‘the hand of God’.

[Note: ‘God's hand’ does not describe a person's hand. We cannot see God's hand. The words describe things about God. They show God's actions. So, the words show who God is. They also show what God does.]

God's hand is:

  • A hand that was generous (7:6). ‘The king gave me everything that I asked for’. The reason was that ‘The hand of the Lord his God was on him’.
  • A hand that helped. Ezra and some other Jews were travelling for four months. And they were safe on this long journey. This was because ‘The good hand of their God was with them’ (7:9).
  • A hand that gave power (7:28). Ezra said, ‘The hand of the Lord my God was with me. So, I had courage’.
  • A hand that protected (8:22, 31).

Ezra had an ambition. He wanted to do three things. He wanted to study, to do and to teach (7:10). This should be our purpose. We should want to know God's word. We should want to show it by the way that we live. And we should want to share it with other people.

The travellers (8:1-14). This is a list of names. It is the names of the exiles who returned home. And the writer recorded these details with loving care. Facts were important to the Hebrew people (Jews). Our service for our Lord should be like this too. We should care about details. We should not be careless.

The workers (8:15-20). There are details about servants for the new Temple.

The money keepers (8:24-34). This section tells us about other kinds of work. God's work needs many different gifts. You should be doing your part too.

The last chapters are about a problem. The nation was not holy. Some of the Jews married foreigners. And they went away from God. They worshipped their partners’ idols. Their behaviour was bad. And they refused God's authority.

Again, two men worked together in God's service. Ezra repented for the people (9). And Shecaniah started to make the people change. These two men had different characters.

Ezra was sitting. He felt upset and very sad (9:3). Then he prayed. But Shecaniah acted. He said, ‘Get up Ezra. This is your responsibility. But we will support you. So, be brave and do it’ (10:4). He encouraged Ezra. He had hope (10:2). He had determination (10:3). And he had sympathy (10:4. ‘We will support you’).

The book ends in a sad way. (Read 10:9-15.) It is about husbands who did not obey. And there were wives who did not believe. The people were feeling very unhappy. They had wet clothes too, because of the rain. There was something especially sad. It was this. Many religious leaders were doing wrong. And they should have known what God's word said about this. It was such an important matter.