Read chapter in full: www.biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Ezra+001
In the fifth century BC, many Judeans were returning from exile to the southern part of the land of Israel. They faced great difficulties: their capital city and temple had been destroyed, foreigners had moved in, and they were no longer ruled by their own king. But the books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah insist that God’s people can still fulfill his purpose. They must form a unique society centered on the worship of God in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. (These books are really one long book, telling a continuous story; one can see, for example, how the end of 2 Chronicles overlaps with the beginning of Ezra.)
The book presents a sweeping chronicle of Israel’s history, beginning with a long genealogy or ancestor list. Going all the way back to Adam, it situates the people of Israel among the nations and reminds them of their calling. Special attention is given to Judah, ancestor of the royal line of David, and to Levi, ancestor of the priests and temple attendants.
The second main part describes the kings who ruled in Jerusalem down to the time of the exile. David receives more attention than others, but many details of his life told elsewhere are left out. The focus is on his military campaigns and his elaborate plans for the temple in Jerusalem. The reason is clear when we see that David was not permitted to build the temple because he was a warrior. God wanted a man of peace to build the place where all nations would come to pray. The honor therefore fell to David’s son Solomon. More space is devoted to him than to any king besides David, describing his construction of the temple and the splendors of his reign.
The final part of the book relates the experiences of the returned exiles. The memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah, leaders of the second generation of returned Judeans, are incorporated into the history. These leaders helped create a distinct community by forbidding intermarriage with the surrounding peoples, and they directed the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Included here is a description of a great covenant renewal ceremony led by Ezra and Nehemiah.
An important theme of the entire history—which can appropriately be called a temple history—is that pure worship is offered on God’s terms, not ours. God has chosen Israel to welcome the nations into true worship. Through all the ups and downs of history he is working to bring this purpose to fulfillment.
CHAPTER 1 (ESV)
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:
2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.
God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus King of Persia, so that he made a written proclamation that allowed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem. He also stirred up the heart of the leaders, parents, priests and Levites, so that they had a desire to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Major changes are often originated from changes within people’s heart; courageous actions come after our hearts are transformed by God. After 48 years of exile, the Jews changed from arrogant to humble while both their attitude and desires were changed. God stopped punishing them and gave them the opportunity to return to their homeland for a new beginning. Paul once reminded us, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). In order to obey God’s will, we should begin with the willingness in our heart. Reflect if our dedication for following and serving God has turned cold and the reason why. Are you willing to open yourself humbly and accept the opportunities God gives you? If yes, God will give you a fervent heart to desire for His Word and to follow Him closely, so that you can serve Him actively and your spiritual life will continue to grow.
Come before God quietly and reflect on the reason why your pursuit of faith becomes lukewarm. Repent to God and ask Him to examine you and touch your heart, give you the passion to follow Him and serve Him so that you will forget what lies behind, strain forward to what lies ahead, and press on toward the goal.
“How Can I Keep from Singing” www.youtube.com/watch?v=vh_8rTBpvRU