Lesson Preparation. We’ll look at what is involved in the actual preparation for teaching a specific lesson
What improvement will I make to my Father’s world?
And yet we cannot or will not turn over control of our lives to our God who created us, and the world. Our God who controls us and the world, whether we want to admit to this control or not. Our God who, for the exchange of just recognizing that control and stopping our feeble attempts to interfere with his control, will give us a future greater than any human can conceive of or acquire. And if we fail to “turnover” control will provide a future that wee do not desire.
Who am I going to get help from?
If we were offered an equivalent choice on earth, no one would refuse it. But because it is not of this earth we do not accept it. Is there any doubt that we have earthly preferences. And if you believe what has been stated and in God, how can you not want to learn how to change your earthly preferences to heavenly ones; by committing your life to God’s training plan.
Behind the laws of Deuteronomy lies the basic rules of the creator of this world, which start as the life of obedience on the part of his people. Our pattern of obedience must of necessity be different since we live in different times and in different places. But it still is the same God, we try to serve; therefore we can profit from the deep sense of love to God and neighbor which complete basic human needs; and we can learn that the obedience of God is something which involves every aspect of human activity. This reflects the complete submission of a life which desires to be joined with our God in heaven. Jesus is more concerned about our walk than our talk. He wants us to do right not just say the right words. What you do cannot be separated from what you believe.
(Matthew 7:21)”Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.”
How would you sum up the attitudes Jesus is encouraging?
Submission and obedience is required of us. But just as a young child we wish to control the world around us. And as a young child we become frustrated when we cannot. When a child trusts his parents he loses that frustration and becomes peaceful.
Ezra Book Overview
|586 b.c.||Jerusalem destroyed; exiles go to Babylon
|539||Babylon overthrown by Cyrus|
|538||Exiles return to Jerusalem|
|536||Temple construction begins
|530||Temple work halted
|522||Darius I becomes king of Persia|
|520||Temple work resumed/messages of Haggai, Zechariah|
|458||Ezra comes to Jerusalem
|445||Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem|
|Purpose:||To show God’s faithfulness and the way he kept his promise to restore his people to their land|
|Author:||Not stated, but probably Ezra|
|Date Written:||Around 450 b.c., recording events from about 538-450 b.c. (omitting 516-458 b.c.); possibly begun earlier in Babylon and finished in Jerusalem|
|Setting:||Ezra follows 2 Chronicles as a history of the Jewish people, recording their return to the land after the captivity.|
|Key Verses:||“The Passover meal was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile and by the others in the land who had turned from their immoral customs to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. They ate the Passover meal and celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. There was great joy throughout the land because the Lord had changed the attitude of the king of Assyria toward them, so that he helped them to rebuild the Temple of God, the God of Israel” (6:21, 22).|
|Key People:||Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Darius I, Artaxerxes I, Ezra|
|Key Places:||Babylon, Jerusalem|
|Special Features:||Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible, and, with Esther, they comprise the post-captivity historical books. The post-captivity prophetic books are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Haggai and Zechariah should be studied with Ezra because they prophesied during the period of the reconstruction.|
Martin Luther you’ve heard of. Philipp Melanchthon, probably not. But Luther knew Melanchthon. And Luther was a better person as a result.
Melanchthon was the intellectual of the Reformation. He authored the Augsburg Confession. He was the first to put into writing an evangelical theology.
He was only eleven when his father died, only twelve when his grandfather presented him with a Bible and a Greek grammar. The next fifty years the three were inseparable. Melanchthon’s one great love was to teach the word of God.
He didn’t just read the Bible, he devoured it. By the age of seventeen he was a faculty member at the University of Wittenberg. Though he was small of frame and frail of health, he was keen of mind.
And even more important, he was keen of purpose.
He lived to study and teach the Bible. He commanded the respect of Martin Luther. “I was born to fight,” he said, “but Master Philipp, he comes along sowing joy.”
The prophet Ezra was the Philipp Melanchthon of his day.
Ezra was the second of three key leaders to leave Babylon for the reconstruction of Jerusalem. Zerubbabel was first. Than Ezra and then Nehemiah. Zerubbabel reconstructed the Temple, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls, and Ezra restored the worship.
Any person who tackled the task of presenting the Bible to people will find a friend in Ezra. He was a student. He was an interpreter. In fact, the clearest Old Testament reference to exposition is attributed to Ezra. He was the head of the Levites who “read from the book of the Teachings of God and explained what it meant so the people understood what was being read” (Nehemiah 8:8).
Don’t you appreciate the last phrase, “and explained what it meant so the people understood…”? Don’t you appreciate the person who can take the Word and reveal it for your life?
Perhaps you can do that. If so, stay faithful. There is no higher task.
Perhaps you have a teacher like that. If so, be grateful. There is no greater friend.
Name the truly great men and women of your lifetime. Celebrities, including politicians, war heroes, sports figures, and maybe your parents and special friends come to mind. You remember them because of certain acts or character qualities. Now, name some biblical heroes—figures etched in your mind through countless sermons and church school lessons. This list undoubtedly includes many who served God faithfully and courageously. Does your list include Ezra? Far from being well known, this unheralded man of God deserves to be mentioned in any discussion of greatness.
Ezra was a priest, a scribe, and a great leader. His name means “help,” and his whole life was dedicated to serving God and God’s people. Tradition says that Ezra wrote most of 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Psalm 119 and that he led the council of 120 men who formed the Old Testament canon. The narrative of the book of Ezra is centered on God and his promise that the Jews would return to their land, as prophesied by Jeremiah (see the third note on 1:1). This message formed the core of Ezra’s life. The last half of the book gives a very personal glimpse of Ezra. His knowledge of Scripture and his God-given wisdom were so obvious to the king that he appointed Ezra to lead the second emigration to Jerusalem, to teach the people God’s Word, and to administer national life (7:14-26).
Ezra not only knew God’s Word, he believed and obeyed it. Upon learning of the Israelites’ sins of intermarriage and idolatry, Ezra fell in humility before God and prayed for the nation (9:1-15). Their disobedience touched him deeply (10:1). His response helped lead the people back to God.
Second Chronicles ends with Cyrus, king of Persia, asking for volunteers to return to Jerusalem to build a house for God. Ezra continues this account (1:1-3 is almost identical to 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23) as two caravans of God’s people were returning to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel, the leader of the first trip, was joined by 42,360 pilgrims who journeyed homeward (chapter 2). After arriving, they began to build the altar and the Temple foundations (chapter 3). But opposition arose from the local inhabitants, and a campaign of accusations and rumors temporarily halted the project (chapter 4). During this time, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people (chapter 5). Finally, Darius decreed that the work should proceed unhindered (chapter 6).
After a 58-year gap, Ezra led a group of Jews from Persia. Armed with decrees and authority from Artaxerxes I, Ezra’s task was to administer the affairs of the land (chapters 7, 8). Upon arriving, he learned of intermarriage between God’s people and their pagan neighbors. He wept and prayed for the nation (chapter 9). Ezra’s example of humble confession led to national revival (chapter 10). Ezra, a man of God and a true hero, was a model for Israel, and he is a fitting model for us.
Read Ezra, the book, and remember Ezra, the man—a humble, obedient helper. Commit yourself to serving God as he did, with your whole life.
|A. The Return Led by Zerubbabel (1:1–6:22)
1. The first group of exiles returns to the land
2. The people rebuild the Temple
|Finally given the chance to return to their homeland, the people started to rebuild the Temple, only to be stopped by opposition from their enemies. God’s work in the world is not without opposition. We must not get discouraged and quit, as the returning people did at first, but continue on boldly in the face of difficulties, as they did later with the encouragement from the prophets.|
|B. The Return Led by Ezra (7:1–10:44)
1. The second group of exiles returns to the land
2. Ezra opposes intermarriage
|Ezra returned to Jerusalem almost 80 years after Zerubbabel, only to discover that the people had married pagan or foreign spouses. This polluted the religious purity of the people and endangered the future of the nation. Believers today must be careful not to threaten their walk with God by taking on the practices of unbelievers.|
|The Jews Return||By returning to the land of Israel from Babylon, the Jews showed their faith in God’s promise to restore them as a people. They returned not only to their homeland but also to the place where their forefathers had promised to follow God.||God shows his mercy to every generation. He compassionately restores his people. No matter how difficult our present “captivity,” we are never far from his love and mercy. He restores us when we return to him.|
|Rededication||In 536 b.c., Zerubbabel led the people in rebuilding the altar and laying the Temple foundation. They reinstated daily sacrifices and annual festivals, and rededicated themselves to a new spiritual worship of God.||In rededicating the altar, the people were recommitting themselves to God and his service. To grow spiritually, our commitment must be reviewed and renewed often. As we rededicate ourselves to God, our lives become altars to him.|
|Opposition||Opposition came soon after the altar was built and the Temple foundation laid. Enemies of the Jews used deceit to hinder the building for over six years. Finally, there was a decree to stop the building altogether. This opposition severely tested their wavering faith.||There will always be adversaries who oppose God’s work. The life of faith is never easy. But God can overrule all opposition to his service. When we face opposition, we must not falter or withdraw, but keep active and patient.|
|God’s Word||When the people returned to the land, they were also returning to the influence of God’s Word. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah helped encourage them, while Ezra’s preaching of Scripture built them up. God’s Word gave them what they needed to do God’s work.||We also need the encouragement and direction of God’s Word. We must make it the basis for our faith and actions to finish God’s work and fulfill our obligations. We must never waver in our commitment to hear and obey his Word.|
|Faith and Action||The urging of Israel’s leaders motivated the people to complete the Temple. Over the years they had intermarried with idol-worshipers and adopted their pagan practices. Their faith, tested and revived, also led them to remove these sins from their lives.||Faith led them to complete the Temple and to remove sin from their society. As we trust God with our hearts and minds, we must also act by completing our daily responsibilities. It is not enough to say we believe; we must make the changes God requires.|
|Prophecies Fulfilled by the Return of Israel from Exile|
|Reference||Prophecy||Approximate Date||Fulfillment Date||Significance|
|Isaiah 44:28||Cyrus would be used by God to guarantee the return of a remnant. Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the Temple restored.||688 b.c.||538 b.c.||As God named Cyrus even before he was born, God knows what will happen—he is in control.|
|Jeremiah 25:12||Babylon would be punished for destroying Jerusalem and exiling God’s people.||605 b.c.||539 b.c.||Babylon was conquered by Cyrus the Great. God may seem to allow evil to go unpunished, but consequences for wrongdoing are inevitable. God will punish evil.|
|Jeremiah 29:10||The people would spend 70 years in Babylon; then God would bring them back to their homeland.||594 b.c.||538 b.c.||The 70 years of captivity passed (see the third note on 1:1), and God provided the opportunity for Zerubbabel to lead the first group of captives home. God’s plans may allow for hardship, but his desire is for our good.|
|Daniel 5:17-30||God had judged the Babylonian Empire. It would be given to the Medes and the Persians, forming a new world power.||539 b.c.||539 b.c.||Belshazzar was killed and Babylon was conquered the same night. God’s judgment is accurate and swift. God knows the point of no return in each of our lives. Until then, he allows the freedom for us to repent and seek his forgiveness.|
|God, through his faithful prophets, predicted that the people of Judah would be taken into captivity because of their sinfulness. But he also predicted that they would return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city, the Temple, and the nation.|
Originally this work was one book along with Nehemiah. In the Latin/Catholic Bible, Ezra and Nehemiah are entitled 1 and 2 Esdras. This book chronicles the restoration of Israel after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. This is accomplished through the help of three Persian kings (Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes I). Cyrus was an enlightened king who reversed the oppressive policies of his Assyrian and Babylonian predecessors and encouraged the return of the exiles and the rebirth of their religion. There is some question as to when Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes I (458 B.C.) and Nehemiah in the twentieth year of that reign (445 B.C.).
This book weaves together various lists, the fhe first person and third person memoirs of Ezra and official documents. These documents include; (1) the decree of Cyrus (1;2-4); (2) the accusation against the Jews (4:11-16); (3) the response of Artaxerxes (4:17-22); (4) the letter of Tattenal to Darius (5:7-17); (5) a memo (6:2b-5); (6) Darius’ reply to Tatternal (6:6-12); and (7) a letter from Artaxerxes 1 to Ezra (7:12-26). God is shown using Persian kings and Jewish leaders both to bless and to discipline his people. Ezra is often seen as the “father of Judaism” because he promotes a way of live renewed by and centered on unswerving allegiance to the Torah. Ezra’s policies saved Judaism from oblivion in the crucial period of transition.
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.
2 The wise person makes learning a joy; fools spout only foolishness.
3 The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.
4Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
5 Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; whoever learns from correction is wise.
6 There is treasure in the house of the godly, but the earnings of the wicked bring trouble.
7 Only the wise can give good advice; fools cannot do so.
8 The Lord hates the sacrifice of the wicked, but he delights in the prayers of the upright.
9 The Lord despises the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue godliness.
10Whoever abandons the right path will be severely punished; whoever hates correction will die.
11 Even the depths of Death and Destruction£ are known by the Lord. How much more does he know the human heart!
12 Mockers don’t love those who rebuke them, so they stay away from the wise.
13 A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.
14 A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.
15 For the poor, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.
16 It is better to have little with fear for the Lord than to have great treasure with turmoil.
17 A bowl of soup with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.
18A hothead starts fights; a cool-tempered person tries to stop them.
19A lazy person has trouble all through life; the path of the upright is easy!
20 Sensible children bring joy to their father; foolish children despise their mother.
21 Foolishness brings joy to those who have no sense; a sensible person stays on the right path.
22 Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success.
23 Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!
24The path of the wise leads to life above; they leave the grave£ behind.
25 The Lord destroys the house of the proud, but he protects the property of widows.
26The Lord despises the thoughts of the wicked, but he delights in pure words.
27 Dishonest money brings grief to the whole family, but those who hate bribes will live.
28 The godly think before speaking; the wicked spout evil words.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous.
30A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.
31 If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.
32If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.
33 Fear of the Lord teaches a person to be wise; humility precedes honor.
Have you ever tried to argue in a whisper? It is equally hard to argue with someone who insists on answering gently. On the other hand, a rising voice and harsh words almost always trigger an angry response. To turn away wrath and seek peace, choose gentle words.
At times it seems that God has let evil run rampant in the world, and we wonder if he even notices it. But God sees everything clearly—both the evil actions and the evil intentions lying behind them (15:11). He is not an indifferent observer. He cares and is active in our world. Right now, his work may be unseen and unfelt, but don’t give up. One day he will wipe out evil and punish the evildoers, just as he will establish the good and reward those who do his will.
What we feed our mind is just as important as what we feed our body. The kinds of books we read, the people we talk with, the music we listen to, and the films we watch are all part of our mental diet. Be discerning because what you feed your mind influences your total health and well-being. Thus, a strong desire to discover knowledge is a mark of wisdom.
Our attitudes color our whole personality. We cannot always choose what happens to us, but we can choose our attitude toward each situation. The secret to a happy heart is filling our mind with thoughts that are true, pure, and lovely, with thoughts that dwell on the good things in life (Philippians 4:8). This was Paul’s secret as he faced imprisonment, and it can be ours as we face the struggles of daily living. Look at your attitudes and then examine what you allow to enter your mind and what you choose to dwell on. You may need to make some changes.
The “path of the upright” doesn’t always seem easy (15:19), but look at the alternatives. Hatred (15:17), dissension (15:18), and laziness (15:19) cause problems that the upright person does not have to face. By comparison, his or her life is a smooth, level road because it is built on a solid foundation of love for God.
People with tunnel vision, those who are locked into one way of thinking, are likely to miss the right road because they have closed their minds to any new options. We need the help of those who can enlarge our vision and broaden our perspective. Seek out the advice of those who know you and have a wealth of experience. Build a network of advisers. Then be open to new ideas, and be willing to weigh their suggestions carefully. Your plans will be stronger and more likely to succeed.
The godly weigh their answers; the wicked don’t think before speaking because they don’t care about the effects of their words. It is important to have something to say, but it is equally important to think about it first. Do you carefully plan your words, or do you pour out your thoughts without concern for their impact?
|Wisdom and Foolishness|
|The wise and foolish are often contrasted in Proverbs. The characteristics, reputation, and results of each are worth knowing if wisdom is our goal.|
|The Wise||The Foolish||Reference|
|Characteristics||Give good advice||Lack common sense||10:21|
|Enjoy wisdom||Enjoy foolishness||10:23|
|Consider their steps||Gullible||14:15|
|Avoid the wise||15:12|
|Hungry for truth||Feed on foolishness||15:14|
|Value wisdom above riches||16:16|
|Receive life||Receive punishment||16:22|
|Respond to correction||Respond to punishment||17:10|
|Pursue wisdom||Pursue illusive dreams||17:24|
|Blame failure on God||19:3|
|Profit from correction||An example to others||19:25|
|Are proud and arrogant||21:24|
|Despise wise advice||.23:9|
|Make truth useless||26:7|
|Repeat their folly||26:11|
|Trust in wisdom||Trust in themselves||28:26|
|Control their anger||Unleash their anger||29:11|
|Reputation||Admired as counselors||Punished as servants||10:13|
|Crowned with knowledge||Inherit folly||14:18|
|Cause strife and quarrels||22:10|
|Receive no honor||26:1|
|Keep peace||Stir up anger||29:8|
|Results||Stay on straight paths||Go the wrong way||15:21|
|Lash out when discovered in folly||17:12|
|Endangered by their words||18:6, 7|
|Their wisdom conquers others’ strength||21:22|
|Avoid wicked paths||Walk a troublesome path||22:5|
|Have great advice||24:5|
|Will never be chosen as counselors||24:7|
|Must be guided by hardship||26:3|
|Persist in foolishness||27:22|