Ezra and Nehemiah are the SAME SCROLL!
So technically, it is Part 1 (Ezra) and Part 2 (Nehemiah)
So when we hit the end of Ezra and begin Nehemiah, don’t be thinking that Nehemiah is BETTER THAN EZRA!!! (Third day in a row 😉)
It’s important to note that there are roughly 60 years between Ezra Ch 6 and Ch 7
Roughly 57 years
60 years give or take (You get to pick since it seems Fr. Mike can’t 😉)
Now we are introduced to the prophet Ezra, sorry to the SCRIBE Ezra
He’s not...well, I guess he’s sort of a prophet too🤔
You know, all these technical terms
He’s a SCRIBE
He’s a PRIEST
We get his pedigree and he comes from the line of Aaron, the CHIEF PRIEST of Ancient Israel
Ezra 7:1, “...Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Merioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of AARON THE CHIEF PRIEST.”
Remember there were three waves of DEPARTURE form the Holy Land to Babylon
Now, there are three waves of RETURN from Babylon to the Holy Land
The first wave is marked by Zerubbabel
The second wave is marked by Ezra
The third wave is marked by Nehemiah
The REMARKABLE thing is that Ezra has INCREDIBLE FAVOR with King Artaxerxes II, King of Persia
We already heard incredible stories about the decrees of Darius and Cyrus
These foreign kings who are saying, “Yes, I will give you all of these things so you can go back home to the Temple and worship God.”
IT IS REMARKABLE
Ezra notes, “All this happens because the hand of the Lord was upon me. It’s not because I was so great. It’s not because I was so super skilled. It was because God’s favor was there.”
It’s worth noting that whenever we had these BLESSINGS in our lives, to be able to say, “GOD WAS PRESENT and it’s not just a coincidence. This is something that happened because God is GOOD.”
Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
There are three things that Ezra dedicated his life towards
Ezra set his heart to STUDY the Word of the Lord
THAT’S WHAT WE ARE DOING FOR THE LAST 270 DAYS!!
We have been letting God’s Word FORM OUR MINDS
We have been letting God’s Word FORM OUR VISION
We have been letting God’s Word PENETRATE OUR HEARTS
The second thing is that Ezra dedicated his life to CARRY OUT GOD’S LAW
It was not this kind of antiseptic laboratory knowledge
He STUDIED it in order to DO IT
He did it to CHANGE HIS OWN LIFE
He did it to CHANGE HIS OWN HEART
The third thing is that he dedicated his life to TEACH THE LAW in Israel
THAT IS JUST...SIGH
THAT IS WHAT WE ARE DOING!!
We are striving to UNDERSTAND the Word of God
So that we can LIVE IT
Then, we teach it to our children, our friends, the people around us, in a class, or to students on campus, or to all of you reading this study guide
IT IS A REMARKABLE GIFT
So next we have The Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra with all these gifts
One of the things that is really interesting in Ezra 8:21-23, ”Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava (Ahava means LOVE in Hebrew FYI), that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a straight way for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way; since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all that forsake him.’ So we fasted and besought our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”
Basically Ezra is saying, “We really talked up the fact that God has got our back. We don’t need any extra help so we better ask God then.”
There is something REALLY GOOD about this
We are going to contrast this a little bit with Nehemiah
Nehemiah Ch 2 sees that the king actually does give them an armed escort from Babylon all the way to Jerusalem
He sees that as GOD’S FAVOR
God is providing an armed escort through the king for Nehemiah
And here is Ezra saying, “Well, I was ashamed to ask the king for an armed escort because I had already talked up and bragged about our God who would protect us because we are seeking his face.”
There is something GOOD about BOTH of those things
It wasn’t like Ezra said, “I was too ashamed to ask the king for help, and therefore I just relied on MYSELF.”
Ezra said, “I was ashamed to ask the king for help, so I RELIED UPON GOD.”
THAT IS NOT A BAD THING!!
Nehemiah, for his part, said, “No, I rely upon God to give me what I asked the king for.”
BOTH OF THOSE ARE COMPLETELY LEGITIMATE WAYS TO WALK IN THE LORD!!
The ONE way to NOT walk in the Lord is to be ashamed to ask the king for help and also to NOT ASK GOD FOR HELP
So in this case both men, Ezra and Nehemiah, will have asked God for help
God provided that safety for both Ezra and Nehemiah in the persons of the guard and armed escort that he had given to them
So it’s kind of a unique thing
And they returned to Jerusalem
We got Ezra all the way and the priests that he had to recruit to go back to the Temple
We are going to get the last couple of chapters of Ezra tomorrow
Ezra is going to do something interesting tomorrow, but we will get there THEN
Onwards to Zechariah
Zechariah Ch 7 is about Hypocritical Fasting
The people are back in Israel
They are basically saying to Zechariah, “Ok so we’ve been fasting this whole time here in Judah on the fifth month and the seventh month. Can we keep that up, or is that done now that you all are coming back, all the exiles are returning. Are we done with fasting on the fifth month and the seventh month?”
It is really interesting that God only declared one day of fasting, THE DAY OF ATONEMENT, in Jewish life (Do you remember when we first learned about The Day of Atonement? Go back and read Day 41: The Day of Atonement in The Bible in a Year Study Guide to refresh your memory 😁)
There were FOUR MORE DAYS that were introduced because of the Fall of Babylon and all the tragic things that happened
But then the people picked up fasting on the fifth month and the seventh month
WHICH IS NOT A BAD THING!!
Obviously you’d think, “Yeah I’m going to commemorate these difficult times and difficult moments.”
THAT IS A GOOD THING TO DO!!
As Catholic Christians, we fast EVERY SINGLE FRIDAY
There is a degree of penance that we do every single friday to COMMEMORATE AND REMEMBER the Death of our Lord, Jesus Christ
We also CELEBRATE EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY to COMMEMORATE HIS RESURRECTION!
THERE IS SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT THIS
What Zechariah is pointing out is, “Ok you fast and everything. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with this. But what happens is, the rest of the time you eat and drink like your lives are your own. Yeah, you give God a little pittance. But the rest of your lives you treat like God is not part of them. You treat like your food is yours, your drink is yours, your lives are yours. Instead of saying, ‘No, my food, my drink, everything I eat, everything I drink, everything I do is for HIM.’”
Zechariah is dialing in on something that is COMMON TO ALMOST ALL OF US
How many of us have made it a regular habit to say, “Yeah I go to church on Sundays, but the rest of the week is MINE.”
“Maybe I give that tithe to the Lord, but the rest of that is MINE.”
As opposed to saying, “God, the entire week is YOURS.”
“God, my entire paycheck is YOURS.”
“God, all my life is YOURS.”
What FASTING and PRAYER are meant to do is to get to the CORE of us where we realize, “MY ENTIRE LIFE IS GOD’S”
So this little FASTING I’m doing today
This PRAYER I’m doing today
This OFFERING I’m lifting up to the Lord right now…
Is a sign of the fact that my ENTIRE LIFE BELONGS TO GOD
Zechariah points out to the Jews of the day and to US RIGHT NOW that if we give God that fast, it is GOOD (Living with you WHOA OH!!! 🤪🎸)
If we give God that FAST but then keep the rest of our lives as OURS, THEN WE ARE MISSING SOMETHING
GOD DOES NOT WANT US TO MISS THAT SOMETHING!!
GOD WANTS US TO BECOME TOTALLY HIS!!
Zechariah Ch 8 has this BEAUTIFUL PROPHECY
Zechariah 8:23, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”
THAT IS US!!
WHO ARE NOT BORN JEWISH
WHO ARE BORN GENTILES
WHO ARE BROUGHT INTO THE COVENANT THROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST!!
That is us saying, “Let us go with you to the House of the Lord.”
Like St. Paul said, “We have been grafted onto the tree.”
We are so grateful that God allows someone like us, who are not the Jewish people, not the People of God, TO BECOME HIS PEOPLE THROUGH ADOPTION BY BAPTISM!!
WHAT A GIFT!!
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
WHAT A DAY!!
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER