Week 5 of our journey and finishing the history books!
Breadcrumbs for the Journey
This week we come to the last books of Israel’s history – Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Next, the poetical and prophetic books of the Old Testament will speak back into the history we have already read. Chronicles repeats the history of Samuel and Kings, but the chronicler is retelling the history after the Jewish people have returned from exile – it is a reminder of how they are to live as they return to the Promised Land. The purpose of Ezra and Nehemiah is to describe the restoration of God’s people to this Promised Land: the restoration of the temple (Ezra 1-6), the restoration of the community (Ezra 7-10), the restoration of Jerusalem (especially the wall in Nehemiah 1-7), and the restoration of the covenant (Nehemiah 8-13). And finally, Esther is a wonderful story about God’s providence while the Jews were in the Babylonian exile. Even though God’s name is not mentioned, the book of Esther shows how our Sovereign God was in control even in a pagan culture. I hope we realize that just like Esther, God has placed each of us where we are to work His purposes in this life. “And who knows but that you have come to your [current place in life] for such a time as this?” (adaptation of Esther 4:14)
Tip of the Week
Some of the actions of Ezra and Nehemiah might seem like too cruel and harsh a punishment for the sinful ways of God’s people while in exile (like beating the men or pulling out their hair). But we need to realize that this was describing a much different culture than ours today. The leaders of Israel were trying to restore the people back to the holy (perfect and pure) lifestyle that was described in the Books of Moses. God tried numerous times in the Old Testament to command holiness of His people. But the people failed every time, which foreshadows the need for God to provide a Savior who would die to make us holy.
Good to Know
The events described in Esther happened several decades before the events of Nehemiah. So, God’s sovereign hand portrayed in the life of Esther and Mordecai may have enabled or helped the events that occurred in Nehemiah.
Fun Activity For the Week
To help you get to know Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther better, here is a word search you can enjoy! Just right click, download and print (enlarge scale if needed). If you were stumped by last week's puzzles, scroll down for the answers. Don't get discouraged. Have fun!
Pressing on with you!