Hey Relentless Students! I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the beautiful weather over the last few days. Today we will continue our journey through the Bible seeing what happens after the exile of Judah.
We are looking at two books today, Ezra and Nehemiah. Originally they were written as one book, but over time were separated. They tell the story of what happened to the Israelites as they began to reenter Jerusalem. Within these books, there are really three stories: Zerubbabel and the temple, Ezra and the law, and Nehemiah and the wall. Each story follows a similar formula that shows the expectation of the people and the reality of their situation.
Zerubbabel was given permission by the king of Persia to go and rebuild the temple. So, he left for Jerusalem with a group of former exiles and they got to work. As they were rebuilding the temple there was an expectation that God's presence would come down and dwell among them. The reality was that God was with them in spirit, but there was no physical sign like clouds or fire coming from the altar. The people turned and blamed this on those born into exile working with them.
Ezra was then told by the king, 50-60 years later, to go to Jerusalem and instruct the people under God's law. So, Ezra takes a group of former exiles and heads to Jerusalem. He found that the people were had gone far from God. Ezra blamed this on the fact that the men had married women from other nations and called for them all to divorce their heathen wives. Some did divorce and others left Jerusalem. The expectation was that the people would be holy and Ezra saw their marriages as defiance and pushed the people to repent. Nowhere do we see God tell him to do this.
Nehemiah saw the state of Jerusalem and heard of their fallen walls. He reached out to the king and asked permission to go there and repair the walls. Permission was granted so he takes supplies and former exiles and headed to the city. They rebuilt the wall while having to fend off neighboring nations who disagreed with the erection of the wall. The wall is completed and the people are safeguarded, but they didn't agree with it. You see, during exile the prophets talked about accepting people of all nations and a wall felt to be in opposition to that idea. So, the expectation was openness, but the reality was a wall.
As Nehemiah comes to close we see him talking about concerns he has with the people residing in Jerusalem. The people aren't following the rules of the temple as they once did, they aren't keeping holy, and they don't seem to be following the law in the way he sees fit. He ends the book in Nehemiah 13:31b by saying, "Remember me, O my God, for good." He is saying that though the people may fail, remember that I tried. Remember my efforts to do your will. Remember that I was better than those around me.
For more info on these books check out this video: