Uplook Fridays:Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther

The Medo-Persian Empire rose out of the ashes of the
Babylonian Empire in 536 BC, at which time Cyrus (chart #3) offered the Jews
their liberty ({{Ezra 1:2-4}}). This was directly the result of Daniel’s prayer
(#2) for the restoration of Judah
when he discovered, in what we call {{Jeremiah 29:10}} (#1), that the captivity was
just about complete.

Under the leadership of Jeshua and Zerrubabel (#4), a small
contingent returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the
altar of Burnt Offering and the Temple
foundation ({{Ezra 3}}). However, this project was not without difficulty. Both
opposition from without and apathy within delayed the work and required the
stirring ministries of Haggai and Zechariah (#5) to spur the Jews to
completion. With a renewing of the decree by Darius (#6) the Lord’s house was
finished in 516 BC, twenty years after the return ({{Ezra 6:15}}).

Between Ezra 6 and 7 is a gap of 58 years (516-458 BC), to which belongs the
story of Esther. These were momentous years on the world stage. During this
period occurred the deaths of Buddha and Confucius, and the battles of
Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis.

The story of Esther takes place in Persia. Not everyone went home. For
over a thousand years, the largest concentration of Jews outside Israel
was in the region where they had been exiled.

The king of Persia
married a Jewess named Esther, who uncovered a plot against her people— led by
Haman, the prime minister. When Esther and her cousin, Mordecai, brought the
plot to the attention of King Ahasuerus, Haman was deposed and replaced by
Mordecai. Those who had taken part in the aborted plan were executed. The Jews
narrowly escaped slaughter. To commemorate this, the feast called Purim was
established.

Some have objected to this book being included in the Canon
because it does not seem to have any theological themes, nor is the name of God
mentioned. God is there, however, working behind the scenes. It has been shown
that the Tetragrammaton (YHVH), the name of Yahweh (Jehovah), occurs four times
as an acrostic at the crises in the plot (1:20; 5:4; 5:13; 7:7). In two cases,
the name is spelled backwards; in two, forwards. In two cases it is the initial
letters; in two, the final letters. This has been illustrated by using the
divine title of LORD in the following four couplets:

Due Respect Our Ladies, all

Shall give their husbands, great and small (1:20).

Let Our Royal Dinner bring

Haman, feasting with the king (5:4).

GranD foR nO avaiL my state,

While this Jew sits at my gate (5:13).

IlL tO feaR
decreeD I find

Toward me in the monarch’s mind (7:7).


Ordinary life is not so ordinary; it is filled with eternal significance.
Events fit into a normal pattern of cause and effect, but woven through it all
are the hidden purposes of God. Human choices are of great importance and have
profound consequences, whether for good or evil. The book of Esther says: Do
not be deceived by appearances. More is happening than you think.

The second section of Ezra (7-10) covers Ezra’s personal
journey to Jerusalem
(#7) with a new wave of refugees. He was appalled to find the people so
demoralized. Under his careful Bible teaching, a revival in a measure took
place (#8).

In some ways, Nehemiah is a parallel account to the one
given by Ezra. Twelve years after Ezra’s return in 458 BC, Nehemiah heard (#9)
in far-off Babylon that Jerusalem was in ruins, her walls broken, and
her gates burned. Although, as the king’s right-hand man, he had every external
comfort, there was no comfort for his soul. Offered a leave of absence (#10),
he returned to the city of his fathers. However, Nehemiah found more than
broken walls; he found broken lives. Discouragement had set in, God’s
commandments were being transgressed, and moral laxity, even among the priests,
was common.

In spite of critics, unskilled labor, threats of violence,
and an enormous task, the approximately four miles of wall were repaired in 52
days (#11). And what filled Nehemiah’s heart with joy was the fact not only
that the work had been completed, but that God was seen to have done it: “the
work was wrought of our God” ({{Neh. 6:16}}).

Thus ends the history of the Old Testament, with the exception of the last Old
Testament prophet—John. Four hundred years will pass in which God is silent,
until at last He will speak the Word (#12)!


Used by Permission. This
material is protected by copyright. ©
2005 Uplook Ministries.
(FYI: I don’t have the links to the charts so I can’t help you there. Sorry. -rey)

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