The books of Ezra and Nehemiah appear back to back in our Bible and are often linked together. They tell the stories of these two men who return home to Israel from Persian exile. Very early on these two books were combined as one. Josephus (A.D. 37 – 100) refers to the book of Ezra but Nehemiah. The oldest manuscripts of the Septuagint (a pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament) also treat the two as one book. The first distinction between the books comes from the early church writer Origen (A.D. 185 – 253). So even though we have two separate books, they are closely linked and therefore we are looking at them together this week.
The two books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell how God’s people were restored from their Babylonian exile. They are returning to their covenant land and community, even though it is not under their control. It was still ruled by foreigners. The books are about how these two men played a role in the restoration of Israel and specifically Jerusalem. There are five important themes that flow through both books:
Ultimately these two stories are about how God brought about a ‘return’ and ‘restoration’ to Israel. I think that’s something we are all looking for right now. A ‘return’ to normal life and a ‘restoration’ of our lives. We are not in political exile but our confinement can feel like an exile from normal life; school, work, friends, church, etc. So when that happens, what can we learn from these two books? Here is how we can look at those five themes mentioned beforehand from Ezra and Nehemiah and apply them to our current situation:
Our story of restoration and return will eventually happen, even if our new reality doesn’t quite look like our old one. What we need to remember is that God has been, is, and will continue to be with us and have a relationship with us. He is working behind the scenes to restore his world.
Questions for Discussion/Contemplation: