Covered: Esther 5-10, Nehemiah 1-6
Not Covered: –
Scripture Memory: Honesty – Leviticus 19:11, Acts 24:16
This week’s reading will bring you to the book of Nehemiah, which is a turning point in God’s redemptive story that spans across the whole Bible. There are many themes in the book of Nehemiah, none bigger than God’s provision for his people. To understand this, it takes a little history lesson.
Throughout the Old Testament, there are countless stories of God’s faithfulness to Israel despite their unfaithfulness to Him. Though God remains faithful to Israel, there are still consequences for their disobedience. One of these consequences is that the nation is overtaken in 1100 B.C. by the Assyrian Empire. In an effort to decentralize other religions and cultures, the Assyrian Empire would spread people across Asia Minor. In 722 B.C, the nation of Israel was exiled, and the nation of Judah shortly after.
For two hundred years, God’s people are in a sense of hopeless as they are under the rule of other empires and exiled from the land God had provided for them. It is in this despair, we see a glimmer of hope when the Persian Empire overtakes the Babylonians and God provides for his people through King Cyrus.
“22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’” – 2Chronicles 36:22-23
The decree of King Cyrus would bring the Israelites back to Jerusalem, and God would appoint Ezra to rebuild the temple and Nehemiah to rebuild the wall. The Israelites’ return from exile is one of the most important moments in the nation’s rich history as it points to God’s provision for His people. Their exile had ended, and they were reunited with the land that God had provided for them. Now, they waited for the coming of the Messiah.
Not only did Christ come in a different way than Israel expected, but He came at a different time. It would be another 500 years before the nation’s savior would arrive. In Galatians 4:4, Paul gives us a glimpse into why Jesus Christ arrived when He did “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
What Paul indicates is that Jesus Christ’s birth came at an intentional point in history. Jesus’ arrival was not just waiting for Israel’s return to Jerusalem, but it needed to assure that The Gospel would go forth past Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. This would require two different empires to provide the means for which the Gospel message could spread.
God would use both the Macedonian and Roman Empire to set the table for Christ’s arrival. Alexander the Great would establish Greek as the common language across all of Asia Minor. And then finally, under Pax Romana, the Roman Empire would provide safe travel through their road system. Thanks to the Persian Empire, the prophecies surrounding Israel and Jerusalem were fulfilled by Jesus. Thanks to the Roman Empire, the disciples were able to safely travel across Asia Minor to share the good news with other nations. And thanks to Alexander the Great, there was a common language that allowed for the rapid expansion of the Gospel message.
Israel’s history is a difficult one that includes slavery, exile, defeat, and an extremely long wait for a Messiah. Can you imagine how they felt in these moments? There would have been hopelessness, abandonment, defeat, shame, guilt, discouragement, impatience, and confusion. We now have the benefit of hindsight to see God’s greater redemptive plan, and it brings light to these dark moments in Israel’s history. But for us today, we often don’t see the bigger picture and are left feeling like God has abandoned us or has lost control. But despite His perceived absence, He is actively involved in our lives.
Oswald Sanders says, “Faith is not knowing where one is going, but trusting in the one who leads.” This statement calls for us to change our perspective. We are not called to understand, but to trust. We follow the example of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 where our confidence is not in our circumstances, but in the one who is in control. The one who has provided time and time again. The one whose provision not just returned a nation back home, but also brought forth a Messiah who would not just save a nation, but the world.
Written by: Vick Green
Photo Credit: jcomp / Thailand, via Freepik