My husband and I have built two homes since we’ve been married. Each time the anticipation of our ‘move in’ date escalated with each month. When that day arrived we were ecstatic and ready to begin our new life in our new home. That’s a similar scenario, I submit, to the way Ezra and Nehemiah felt as they received the charge from God to return and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.
After 70 years of exile in Babylon God worked through the Persian (Iranian today) leader Cyrus to release the Jews to go home. Not all of the Jewish people were anxious to return to the land of their forefathers. A new generation had emerged and many had no desire to leave their new-found lives in Persia: only the remnant returned (Ez. 3:8; Is. 10:21-22). Even though only about 50,000 of the approximate 2 million wanted to return, those whose hearts God stirred were going home. But what were they going home to? What was left of their beloved city and Temple? Nothing. It would be their assignment, should they choose to accept it, to return, rebuild, restore, revive, and reform their land and their relationship with God. This assignment had one goal: get ready, spiritually and physically, for the appearance of Messiah.
Israel, the people and the land, worked hard and long but it would take another 400 yrs. of divine silence for God to move on a priest in Jerusalem: Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer. The chairos moment, a specific time set in history, will arrive and a virgin will conceive and bring forth a Savior, Jesus the Messiah (Luke 1-2). That’s where we find Jesus in these partner books; the same place we find ourselves in these end times: waiting for the arrival, the coming, the parousia, of Christ for the second time.
Ezra, a religious figure, and Nehemiah, a political figure, were used mightily by God in calling for a reformation through repentance much like that of Martin Luther several thousand years later. They called the people to look at themselves honestly and decide if their hearts were ready to receive Him. They interceded for the people, much like our leaders in the Church today, asking God for revival. Israel is no longer a divided land and a divided people; they became one again, unified, as in the time of David. The stage is set and life goes on as each generation stands in faith that God will complete the Plan of Redemption and visit His creation. As I mentioned earlier, it took 400 years for God’s divine time to arrive and He became flesh and lived among us.
Ezra and Nehemiah remind us of the importance of preparation and Jesus echoes that in the New Testament:
You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40 ESV)
What an exciting time we live in!