First Christian Church
October 24, 2021 1st Service
- Bible Trivia
- Since Jesus Came Into My Heart
- Let's Just Praise The Lord (#18)
- He Lives
- I Love To Tell The Story (#444)
- INTRODUCTIONHave you ever been in a difficult position that it seemed like you would never get out of?To make matters worse, the reason you are in the position was because of something you did.You have been in the situation for so long that the likelihood of something changing grows dimmer by the year.We are going to dive into the book of Ezra.Big Idea of the Series: This five-week series addresses what God did for the Jewish people throughout the events recorded in the book of Ezra.Through failure, forgetting what is essential, and sin, we may become exiles attempting to return to God.However, just as in the book of Ezra, God reclaimed His people according to his promises. Therefore, he can also reclaim and redeem your life for His purpose in this world.The nation of Israel was a story of sinning against God, failure to carry out their mission from God, and forgetting from whom their blessings flowed.The nation was quick to turn its backs on God, and the results were devastating for the nation and its people.Let me share a brief history to give context to the message.Judah both fell and returned in stages. Looking back, we see that the Babylonians made three deportations of the Jews, the last coinciding with the destruction of Jerusalem.In 605 b.c. Following his defeat of Assyria and Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar made Judah a vassal state and took a few captives (including Daniel) back to Babylon.In 598 b.c. he returned and reasserted his control, taking Jehoiachin and other nobles to Babylon.Finally, in 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar crushed the rebellion of Zedekiah, destroyed Jerusalem, and took the survivors to Babylon. (AMG Concise Bible Survey)From 586 to 539 B.C., the Jews lived as exiles on the land of Babylon.However, an event happened that would change things, an event that, on the surface, might not have looked like a salvation moment for the nation.In 539, the Medes and Persians overthrew the once-powerful Babylon.It seems like the nation will go from one master to another; the cycle seems endless.You ever been in an endless cycle in life?For those who have opened a Bible, did you read God’s promises with a high level of skepticism?You may surmise that you are not worthy of God’s promises, like the promise of the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life when you are baptized into Jesus!How about the promise of peace and rest? Those seem like admirable goals that will never happen in your tumultuous life.Through the Old Testament book of Ezra, we will learn some things about God’s promises!The BIG IDEA for this message is:: God remembers His promises despite our past and our sin.Ezra 1:1 (CSB)1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing:SERMONI. God always remembers His promises.Have you ever made a promise, only to forget that promise?Or has someone made you a promise, and they forgot the promise?Or better yet, have you been waiting years for a promise to be fulfilled?The nation of Israel had been waiting for God to deliver on a promise that was made almost 70 years ago.This promise is linked back to the Prophet Jeremiah almost 70 years before this event.Before the exile of the Jews to Babylonia, he had announced that they would return to Judah from Babylonia after 70 years (see Jer 29:10; 2 Chr 36:21).The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of the Hebrew people returning home (Jeremiah 25:11–12).Isaiah references Cyrus being used by God to allow the Jews to return from exile (Isaiah 45:1).Jeremiah 25:8–12 (CSB)8 “Therefore, this is what the Lord of Armies says: ‘Because you have not obeyed my words,9 I am going to send for all the families of the north’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘and send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will bring them against this land, against its residents, and against all these surrounding nations, and I will completely destroy them and make them an example of horror and scorn, and ruins forever.10 I will eliminate the sound of joy and gladness from them—the voice of the groom and the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.11 This whole land will become a desolate ruin, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.12 When the seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, and I will make it a ruin forever.Notice the reason the nation was going to be sent into captivity; their disobedience toward God!The Prophet Isaiah speaks of God using Cyrus to carry out His promise.Isaiah 45:1 (CSB)1 The Lord says this to Cyrus, his anointed, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and disarm kings, to open doors before him, and even city gates will not be shut:By the way, Isaiah wrote this about 140 years before it happened!From Jeremiah, notice why the nation was sent into captivity; their disobedience toward God!We have to understand that not even our disobedience will keep God from keeping HIS promises.God remembers His promises, and even through our failures, redeems our past mistakes for His purposes.The nation was in exile for 70 years, many people had lived, and many had died during the exile.Before the exile, the Prophet Jeremiah both tried to warn the people and encourage them.HE warned them of the impending doom, and he encouraged them, letting the people know that God had not forgotten them.Returning home plays a role in many of our lives.Every fall, schools celebrate a ritual of “homecoming” in which those who have graduated return to the school grounds to catch up on life.Returning where you came from gives a sense of community and shared history, whether it’s the class of 1981 Eagles football team having a reunion or refugees returning from being exiled.You never have to wonder if God has remembered His promises, God remembers, and God will keep them!Ezra 1:2–4 (CSB)2 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah.3 Any of his people among you, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.4 Let every survivor, wherever he resides, be assisted by the men of that region with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, along with a freewill offering for the house of God in Jerusalem.”Ezra 1:7–11 (CSB)7 King Cyrus also brought out the articles of the Lord’s house that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and had placed in the house of his gods.8 King Cyrus of Persia had them brought out under the supervision of Mithredath (MYHT RAY DATH) the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar (SHESS BAZZAR) the prince of Judah.9 This was the inventory: 30 gold basins, 1,000 silver basins, 29 silver knives,10 30 gold bowls, 410 various silver bowls, and 1,000 other articles.11 The gold and silver articles totaled 5,400. Sheshbazzar (SHESS BAZZAR) brought all of them when the exiles went up from Babylon to Jerusalem.II. God inspires the fulfillment of His promises.Sometimes when we are waiting for God to fulfill a promise, we look around us and determine that God could not fulfill His promise because of the circumstances we find ourselves in.When the Medes and the Persians defeated the Babylonians, I would imagine there was not much hope for the exiles that they would return home.The exiles were well aware of the timeline that God revealed to them through Jeremiah almost 70 years before this time.If they were watching the preverbal clock, they had to know the time was near, and if they followed Isaiah 45:1, they knew that God would use a guy named Cyrus to help God fulfill the promise!And remember, Isaiah wrote about Cyrus about 140 years before the events took place!I would imagine that the exiles thought the only way out of Babylon was if somehow, someway, Israel rose from the ashes and defeated the Babylonians!As a side note, sources outside the Bible back up the accuracy of what Ezra and Nehemiah write.The AMG Concise Bible Survey (Introduction to Ezra and Nehemiah)Many archeological finds support the historical nature of these books.Among these are the Cyrus cylinder and Nabonidus chronicle.Both are cuneiform documents that report Cyrus’ desire to win favor with people previously taken captive by Babylon.They relate how he gave them the freedom to return to their ancestral homes and to rebuild the temples of their gods.Since Judah provided a buffer state with Persia’s not-yet-defeated enemy, Egypt, the goodwill of the Jews would have been of special interest to him.Understanding the thinking of Cyrus also shows us that it was not illogical for Cyrus to be inspired by God to let the nation of Israel return home.The move also made strategic sense.Before we get too carried away thinking that Cyrus was a follower of God, the Cyrus cylinder and the Nabonidus chronicle shows us that this is the Edict of Cyrus, or the Cyrus Decree sounds as though Cyrus were a true believer in the God of Israel.In reality, Cyrus followed a consistent policy of honoring the religions and customs of his different subject peoples. (Breneman, M. (1993). Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (electronic ed., Vol. 10, p. 68). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)Cyrus was playing to the crowd.What is somewhat ironic about the decree of Cyrus was that even if he was playing to the crowd, he was being used by God to fulfill His promise to Israel!As part of the plan of Cyrus, Cyrus also released all of the articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple when the Babylonians destroyed the city.When God makes you a promise, He will inspire circumstances and others to make it happen.God’s faithfulness went beyond just allowing the Hebrew people to return to Jerusalem.God made provision for them on their journey.Money, food, and stolen items from the Temple were all given to the Jews by their foreign neighbors. Thus, when God reclaims and restores people, it is in abundance—though not always material abundance.We have to be open and ready to allow God to work!Ezra 1:5–6 (CSB)5 So the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone whose spirit God had roused—prepared to go up and rebuild the Lord’s house in Jerusalem.6 All their neighbors supported them with silver articles, gold, goods, livestock, and valuables, in addition to all that was given as a freewill offering.III. Humans participate in the fulfillment of God’s promises.I love verse 5. This verse carries the same thought as in verse 1. God ROUSED!The word ROUSED is used in the Old Testament, especially when God causes foreigners to do his will without their being aware of it (see 1 Chr 5:26; Isa 41:2, 25; 45:13).The word means to move, awaken, prompt.God uses people in His plan to fulfill His promises.At first, not everyone would return initially, only the ones God moved or roused.Notice that not only did God rouse many Jews to go back and rebuild the Temple, but folks who were not Jews were also helping to fund the work.We need to realize that many times, God will use us or others in the pursuit of fulfilling His promises.CONCLUSIONWhy does this issue of God keeping His promises matter?Think about this.How often have you believed that you messed up so badly that God would not follow through with His promises?Maybe you sinned terribly and thought that God could not forgive you?You really do not believe in 1 John 1:9 any longer; that you have sinned in such a bad way that God cannot forgive you, even if you are repentant.What do you do?You let Satan win!Let’s not let that happen!Here is your challenge for the week!I am asking you to trust that God will reclaim you and bring you home.Trust that He not only redeem your past, but He gives you an abundant future!
- Jesus Loves Even Me
- Our God Reigns
- Oh How He Loves You And Me (#349)
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