Covered: Zechariah 1,2,12;Ezra 7-10, Esther 1-4
Not Covered: Zechariah 3-11,13-14
Scripture Memory: Purity – Ephesians 5:3, 1 Peter 2:11
What’s going on in our passages?
One of the hard parts of reading through the Old Testament the way it is laid out is trying to see the big picture of what is going on, what is the theme? This week’s reading can create that feeling of disorientation. This week we have three different books, two genres, addressing three different time periods, and three different circumstances. But…they all are related! The passages this week all concern the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity.
Remember, Judah was captured and carried away to Babylon for 70 years of discipline for chasing after other Gods. The time of discipline comes to an end when Babylon was defeated and falls to the Persian Empire. The Persian King Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the Temple, revive their worship, and regain their lives. Even the temple objects that were stolen by Babylonian captures were returned, and the Persians funded the reconstruction projects! Cool, right?
The people returned to Jerusalem in three phases. The first phase was in 538 B.C., under the command of the ruler Cyrus, the Jews were allowed to return (Ezra 1-6 not covered in the reading this week). They would work on the rebuilding of the Temple. The work would, however, stall and Zechariah would urge the Jews to build the temple! He would also speak of the coming Messiah (chapter 12). The second phase for the return of exiles would be in 458 B.C. This is covered in this week’s reading: Ezra 7-10. The third and final phase would be in 444 B.C. This is covered in the book of Nehemiah next week.
Also, included in this week’s reading is the beginning of the story of Esther. Her story happens between chapters 6-7 of Ezra, back in Persia, over a ten-year period. Through Esther, God protected the Jews from an attempted genocide of those who are remaining in Persia at that time. This providential protection of God’s people is commemorated in the Jewish holiday the Feast of Purim.
Getting back on track!
Getting back on track spiritually is difficult! This is what the people of Israel were doing as they came out of captivity. As Christians, when we are disobedient to God’s teachings and truth, we should expect discipline. This is fatherly love (Proverbs 3:12). If we respond to His discipline and conviction through repentance and turn back to God, we’ve begun to get back on track. But there is always more… Sometimes it also means changing other parts of our life – where we live, with whom we associate, in what we value and invest. This is where it can get really tough. Just like Israel, God will help us if we will trust in Him! Remember what Paul said, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6).
One of the places that we often have trouble getting back on track is with our personal worship of God! This is where Israel struggled. Why? The urgent versus the important. God is often the first thing we allow to get pushed out of our schedule and our heart!
So, how is your personal devotion? Daily reading can be a huge part of that! So keep going and way to go! What about your corporate worship? What do you allow to bump church service off your calendar, your family calendar? Did you know that now the average for a committed church attender is to attend 1.8 times a month? A weekly rhythm is so much more transforming of our lives. Just think of what you do weekly! So, I would encourage you to even find a church while on vacation! Why? Keep the rhythms and communicate the importance to the family! Finally, don’t try to get back on track all by yourself. We need a strong biblical community to encourage us to keep gathering, growing, and going! 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching – Hebrews 10:24-25
Written by: Kevin McKee
Photo Credit: Samuel Zeller