THE STORY chapter # 21
(My home church is participating in the study of THE STORY – The Bible As One Continuing Story Of God And His People. Foreword by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee. Each week, my Thursday post focuses on our current study chapter.)
The temple in Jerusalem was now rebuilt. And Jews, through a decree written by king Artaxerxes of Persia to Ezra the priest, were allowed to return with Ezra to Judah. Artaxerxes realized the hand of the Lord was with Ezra, and provided him with much gold and silver for the journey. The king also gave Ezra authority to appoint magistrates and to teach everyone the laws of God.
The Israelites were assured a safe journey home, because of the decree written by Artaxerxes. But once they arrived in their homeland city of Jerusalem, their security was uncertain. The walls of Jerusalem were still in ruin from the attack of the Babylonian army. And the cities gates had been burned. Any nation who was an enemy of Israel, could come and easily attack them – again!
Also, Ezra the great teacher of the Law and son of Aaron the chief priest, discovered the people were intermarrying neighbor’s from different cultures. They worshipped other gods. This greatly distressed Ezra, who tore his clothes and prayed for their sin. While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. Ezra 10:1 Jerusalem, accepting the Truth in their sinful ways, repented.
Approximately thirteen years after Ezra and the first group of Israelites returned, Nehemiah, cupbearer to king Artaxerxes, received news about the sad state of Jerusalem from a brother. When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4
Nehemiah prayed for God’s help, then approached the king for permission to return to Jerusalem. Again, king Artaxerxes provided supplies and permission letters for a safe journey. Once in Jerusalem, Nehemiah inspected the broken city walls. He approached the city’s people. Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” Nehemiah 2:17
The process of rebuilding was not an easy task. The governor of Samaria, Tobiah the Ammonite, the Arabs, and the Ashods were all angry and plotted against the repairs. But Nehemiah stood firm against his foes. He encouraged all builders to work with one hand, and carry a weapon to fight in the other. The rebuilding did not falter. Jerusalem stood firm under the direction of Ezra and Nehemiah. After fifty-two days of steady leadership, the walls of Jerusalem were complete.
In celebration, the people gathered on the first day of the seventh month. Ezra brought the Law before the people, reading it clearly to them. They found in the Law, they were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month. The people had not celebrated this since the day of Joshua son of Nun. So they all went and built temporary shelters, according to the Law.
Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, not only were the walls rebuilt, but Jerusalem as a whole, was rebuilding their faith in the one, true God.
THE STORY foreword by Max Lucado & Randy Frazee