- First return of the exiles. Imagine a prophecy so precise as the one predicting that for 70 years, God’s people would live in desolation, and then they would be released. Now it was almost time for that promise to be fulfilled. Why was Daniel upset? Should he have been? Do you and I ever feel distraught by the way the Second Coming seems to be delayed and Jesus still hasn’t come? No longer under the rule of Babylon, the Israelite people were now under the command of the Persian empire led by Cyrus as its king. What was the promise to God’s people by Cyrus as recorded in Ezra 1? Besides proclaiming their freedom to return to Jerusalem, what did Cyrus do to make the move even more rewarding and joyful? God hasn’t given us an exact date of the Second Coming of Jesus. But do you think that the exact fulfillment of God’s promise to release His people after 70 years in Babylon should bring us comfort at this time?
- Kings and events. What was the first work to be done when God’s people arrived in Jerusalem? Be sure to look closely at the notes for Monday’s lesson. The list showing the Persian kings while God’s temple was being rebuilt is given by our lesson authors in chronological order. The narrative of how this all took place as given in Ezra 4, 5, and 6 is not in chronological order. Aren’t you thankful for the chronological list? How do you suggest keeping from drowning in this sea of dated perplexity?
- The second return. Ezra emerges as a leader in the restoration process. What would a resume for Ezra look like if he were applying for a position of some kind today? What do you learn about Ezra’s integrity and leadership in the first ten verses of Ezra 7? Imagine yourself on a committee for the Israelites trying to choose a stalwart and helpful leader and someone (or several people). Of course you would recommend Ezra? Why? How would you feel about working with Ezra in a busy time that could have been hectic but was not? Could we use people with Ezra’s qualities in the church today?
- King Artaxerxes. Even though most of the Jews stayed behind in Persia, some of them were eager to live in Jerusalem and do everything they could to make the city beautiful. How did King Artaxerxes contribute to the restoration project? Why do you think Artaxerxes put Ezra in charge of making sure that the inhabitants of the restored Jerusalem obeyed the laws of their God as well as the rules and regulation of the country? As much as he respected and honored God as the leader of the people moving into Jerusalem, why do you think Artaxerxes apparently did not even seriously consider being a follower of the most high God? Our lesson contains this note: “The Lord can use even unconverted people to do His will on earth.” Artaxerxes was one of those people.