Sunday, January 12, we launch a new sermon series at Immanuel Baptist Church on the book of Ezra called Rebuilding Ruins. I don’t know precisely how many sermons it will include, somewhere between 14-16, but Ezra will be worth all the attention we give it for at least five reasons.
We need eyes to see God’s providence and man’s opportunity.
Preaching Ezra will clearly present God’s power to change hearts and attitudes. The story begins: “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 1:1). God motivated expatriated Jews to return—“everyone whose heart God had moved” (Ezra 1:5). Later, God changed the heart of the king of Assyria (6:22), motivated the king of Persia to beautify the house of God (Ezra 7:27-28), and caused both kings to submit to God’s sovereign will (Ezra 1:2; 7:23). God can change your mind too. We need faith to pray big prayers for our sovereign God to move among us and spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
We need the courage to start over or try again.
Perhaps it is helpful to know that the book of Ezra spans almost a century, and two big gaps form in the story. In chapter 4 false accusations against the Jews ended construction of the temple for 20 years, and 50 years lay between the events of chapter 6 and Ezra’s return in chapter 7. That is a long time to finish a project. Will your patience last decades? Perhaps you quit too soon—quit serving, quite sharing the Gospel, or quit attending church altogether. Reading Ezra will give you patience to start over or try again.
We need atonement for our sins.
When the people returned to Jerusalem, they immediately built an altar in the seventh month and began establishing the temple in the second year. The people praised God at the temple’s foundation singing, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel” (Ezra 3:11). But why build the temple before a wall as Nehemiah constructed? Why not roads, houses, and infrastructure first? Why set the altar before the temple’s foundation? The answer: sins were atoned on that altar. For 50 years the sin of Israel’s rebellion laid exposed. The altar was the place of forgiveness, and God’s people wanted to be clean before God. We must hold the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our priority in the church for the same reason. Before good works and worthwhile projects, we must hold to Christ’s sacrifice for sin.
We need purity as God’s people.
The book of Ezra ends with a public confession of the people’s sin of intermarriage. To be clear, Ezra was not condemning interracial marriage. The Law made provision for non-ethnic Jews to join the nation, and Ruth, as an example, was a Moabite who joined Israel through marriage after accepting the God of Israel. The impure marriages were dissolved because the people had “broken faith and married foreign women” (Ezra 10:10). A holy God is equally concerned with the purity of your marriage, money, education, and career.
We need the Bible to restore the church.
God’s Word (the Bible) restores God’s people. That is the book’s unifying theme. Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Knowing Scripture, obeying Scripture, and teaching Scripture will revitalize the church just as it restored Israel after the exile. No fancy mission statement or program launch necessary. Just Christians who carry their Bible to church. We need to be Ezra-like in our hunger for God’s Word.