Ezra / Nehemiah

Worship Renews Our Joy (Ezra 6)

Sermon Recap

Ezra 6 is the climax of Israel’s return. They were sent home to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem; now it is complete. And with the restart of worship comes its natural outflow: joy. In Ezra 6 we learn that worship renews our joy.

1. Our Joy Is God’s Agenda

In this story, God reveals what he is most interested in. He uses the most powerful empire in the world to decree and finance the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Politics, economics, wars and civilizations are not ends in themselves. God bends them all in the direction of the worship and joy of his people (see James 1:2-3 and Romans 8:28).

2. Our Joy Is Word-Produced and God-Directed

No building methods are discussed in this chapter. We don’t know how many people it took to build the temple or what they built it with. But Ezra 6:14 says that “the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai… and Zechariah.” God’s Word is what built his house of worship and gave such joy to his people (Ezra 6:16). And when the Word came centuries later, He gave abundant joy to his people (John 10:10, 15:11).

3. Our Joy Comes From Obedience

God’s people had great joy when they obeyed God’s commands and celebrated the Passover (Ezra 6:17-22). Obeying God meant they had to have a party! Our joy comes from our obedience to Him in Christ.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What do you think God is most interested in the world? Why?

  2. Why is God’s agenda our joy? What does that tell you about the kind of God he is?

  3. How does God’s agenda give us hope in the midst of trial?

  4. Where do we tend to look for joy? Why are worldly sources of joy bound to fail us?

  5. How does this passage show us that God is our source of joy?

  6. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our obedience to God. How does God use our obedience to give us joy?

Worship is the Only Option (Ezra 4-5)

Sermon Recap

Not long after the Israelites put down the foundation for the new temple, they were opposed and forced to stop. The foundation remained untouched for almost 100 years before they began rebuilding. What does it take for God’s people to worship again and why is it necessary for their life?

1. Worship Defines Our Opposition

God’s church has always faced opposition to worship yet only in America do we not really sense this. We’re much closer to the apathy of Israel living around temple ruins, forgetting why worship matters in the first place. How much of our lack of opposition toward our worship reveals how careless our attitudes are toward honoring and glorifying God?

2. Worship Demands Our Repentance

If we desire the presence of God, we must worship. That often means learning to repent from our prevailing postures. This is not simply grieving over our disobedience but also entrusting ourselves to God again in worship, knowing He is good. Very often, worship and repentance go hand-in-hand with one leading to the other.

3. Worship Displays God’s Victory

The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah immediately play out as the Babylonians help supply the building of the temple in the reconstruction. It’s God’s Word immediately bearing fruit. Yet the beauty is that the greater victory promised in their promises would fully bloom in Jesus Christ, our true temple where we encounter God’s gracious presence and receive His peace.

Reflection and Application

  1. What does opposition to worship look like to you today? What are the “options” you have in life that often tempt you from wanting to worship?

  2. Do you feel like you’re building on the foundation of faith in your life or has it remained untouched for quite awhile now? What is worship necessary to change that?

  3. What is the relationship between repentance and worship? Why do they need one another?

  4. Why is worship not an option for the discouraged and the broken?

  5. How is Christ the true fulfillment of Haggai’s and Zechariah’s prophecies to re-establish the temple of God?

  6. What does it mean in Heb. 12:28 to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken? How should this affect how we worship?

Living Sacrifice (Ezra 2)

Sermon Recap

Ezra is about the renewal of God’s people in worship. But in order to bring them to renewal, he brings them through deep sacrifice. The Christian life is one of sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), because worship requires sacrifice.

1. They sacrificed their homes to worship God

God’s people had to leave the home they knew (Jer. 29:5-7) for one they did not for the sake of God’s worship (Ezra 1:5).

2. They sacrificed their comfort to worship God

Ezra 2:64 tells us 42,360 people made a 1678 mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem on foot in order to give themselves in worship to their God.

3. They sacrificed their wealth to worship God

Israel gave extravagantly in order to give God the worship he deserved (Ezra 2:68-69)

4. They sacrificed their individualism to worship God

They gathered as one man (Ezra 3:1) in order to worship God around his altar and promote the unity of his church.

5. They sacrificed their security to worship God

Jerusalem was not a safe place for God’s people (Ezra 3:3). They gave up safe neighborhoods for a ruined city surrounded by enemies—all so they could worship God!

6. They sacrificed their dignity to worship God

They let their emotions out in a lavish display of worship (Ezra 3:11-13). We can sacrifice in these and countless other ways because “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Christ died as a sacrifice so we could live as one.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Why did God require Israel to sacrifice so much in order to worship him?

  2. Why does he call us to live lives of sacrificial love to him?

  3. What have you sacrificed in worship to God in the past? What are you sacrificing in your life right now?

  4. What has God perhaps called you to sacrifice but that you have not wanted to? What is stopping you from sacrificing? Why?

  5. Which of the things that Israel sacrificed in our passage would be the hardest for your to give up? Ask God to give you the faith required to be able to sacrifice in worship!

  6. Why must Christ’s sacrifice precede our own? Why should our worship begin with what Christ gave up for our sake?

Worship Is… (Ezra 1)

Sermon Recap

Ezra is about the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem after it had been destroyed by Babylon in 587 B.C. The temple was where God met with his people, and where they gathered to worship him. We can get a compelling definition of worship from Ezra 1.

1. Worship is the only right response to the presence of God

From Moses to Isaiah to Ezekiel to Peter with Jesus, when people discovered they were with God, they fell down and worshiped.

2. Worship shapes the universe

God raised up one empire and destroyed another (as he said he would in Jer. 25:12-13) so that his worship could continue in Israel!

3. The Word invokes worship

God spoke the universe into being, and calls us in his Word to worship him.

4. Worship is love freely given to God

That was the response of Israel (Ezra 1:5-6). That should be the response of all who worship.

5. Worship is costly and sacrificial

God gave his best for us (Rom. 8:32). We should do the same (Ezra 1:4, 7ff).

6. Worship is by God’s people in God’s place

Worship requires people and place (Ezra 1:3; Heb. 10:25), because we are embodied creatures.

7. Worship gives purpose and meaning to human existence

We are God’s temple now (1 Peter 2:4-5). It is by God’s grace that we are caught up into his purpose for the whole universe, the praise of his glorious grace.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What did you learn about biblical worship that was new or surprising?

  2. Are you conscious of God’s presence in your life? Why or why not? Does this lead to worship?

  3. Why must worship be love freely given to God? What would it be if it were coerced?

  4. Why should worship be costly and sacrificial? Does your worship meet this criteria? How is God calling you to change?

  5. Why is people and place so important to God? To us? Do you view yourself and worship like this?

  6. Does worship give meaning and purpose to your life? What competes with worship for meaning and purpose? How can you repent of this and redirect your heart toward worshiping Christ?