- Lists and so forth. Be honest. Did you cringe just a bit when you saw “lists” as one of the topics for this week’s lesson? Do you remember memorizing long and painful lists of various kinds in classes you took? How often in your work and home life do you come across lists that make you groan? Or that excite you with joy? Our lesson reminds us that our God is a ruler of infinite details and gives us a fair number of lists to help us keep track of the most important ones. For example, what practical value does the listing of genealogies have for us modern-day Christians?
- The God of history. Which of our Bible writers for this quarter, Ezra or Nehemiah, paid more attention to details? Consider Belteshazzar, the king of Babylon until his empire fell in one crash. Why the sudden fall of power? Was it because of Belteshazzar’s failure or because of the strength and power of the defeating Medo-Persian forces? Imagine seeing a huge human hand appearing in a room for celebrating, writing of the sure end of Belteshazzar. What was Daniel’s view of the event?
- In their cities. We see in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 a list of people who came with Zerubbabel and Joshua from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem. Was this list boring to the survivors of the years in servitude in Babylon? What was its purpose? Imagine you are coming with fellow Israelites to the city of your heritage. Then imagine what it is like when that venerable monument to God’s glory, the second temple, is not only built, but remodeled, and made to be beautiful. Why were they so successful in accomplishing all of this?
- Where are the priests? How easy is it to conclude that everybody came back to Jerusalem from Babylon? Why wouldn’t they all rejoice and come back? What about Levites, who served as priests in various ceremonial services? Why did they decide not to come back? Or was just it a minority of priests who did not return? What were some of the main reasons that many Israelites decided not to make the journey “back home”? What do you think would have been your choice if you’d been in that group of God’s children?
- Humbled before God. Yes, God did promise to bring His children back home from captivity. Did He also promise that it would be a pleasant journey? No trials or problems? Why didn’t Ezra beg God for an escort or an armed guard to protect him on the journey? Should he have? Why do you think that Nehemiah’s choice for assuring a safe journey was dramatically different? Is it a sign of indifference or disloyalty to depend on anyone except God and His people to help us when we’re in trouble?
- In the Holy City. “Free at last, free at last, praise God almighty, I’m free at last.” Was that the cheer of those settling in Jerusalem and the surrounding area? Why were so many immigrants to Jerusalem eager to settle in the pleasant countryside rather than in the city? Can you blame them? What was the challenge about city life that God wanted His people to take on? Do you think that as last-day believers in the second coming, we should at least consider assuming a larger role in the highly populated areas of our countries so that we could lead more people to follow Jesus?