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Getting Started

Welcome to the Bible Reading Plan! We are so glad you are joining us for this journey through all ten chapters of Ezra over the next couple of weeks. Each day, you will read one chapter of the Bible followed by a short devotional, answer a few questions, and if you want, record any observations or insights using the interactive comments section. We believe God will use this resource to grow our knowledge and affection for Him. We know God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Sign up with a friend, your Life Group, or your family, and let’s dig in!

Make sure to download our Harris Creek App and turn on push notifications, or visit us at biblereadingplan.org and sign up to receive the BRP in your inbox. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram (@harriscreek) for some fun, creative ways to interact with the readings. 

Let’s Go, Church!

Ezra Preview

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, much like 1 and 2 Samuel, originally started off as one long story that was eventually split up into two separate books. Ezra, which came first, covers a span of roughly 90 years, beginning in 538 B.C. following the original destruction of the first Jewish temple. After decades of exile in Babylon, it was time for God’s people, the Israelites, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Enter Ezra and Nehemiah.

These two books fall under the category of a historical book, similar to Joshua or 1 and 2 Samuel. Ezra and Nehemiah are interesting reads because they tell us different parts of a story that can, at times, appear somewhat unresolved. While you read, parts may even feel anticlimactic. So why are these two books important? These books give us a guide to revival within God’s people. It’s far too common to let apathy and the desire to go through the motions creep into our lives, our small groups, and our churches. Ezra and Nehemiah both call the people of God towards spiritual revitalization, and there is much we can learn from their stories.

As we read, grab a journal and take good notes. What do these chapters teach you about God’s character? What does it teach you about humanity? What are the implications for you today? We have said it before, but it’s important to remember the significance of these Old Testament books. Too often we get confused by the Old Testament because some of the names sound funny and because we equate “old” with “irrelevant.” There are so many things we can learn about God and ourselves through the lens of this book. As we read the book of Ezra (and then Nehemiah), start each day with a prayer asking God to open your heart to what you need to learn today. Thanks for reading along with us! 

Read Ezra 1

Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.

Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

This was the inventory:

gold dishes30
silver dishes1,000
silver pans29
10 gold bowls30
matching silver bowls410
other articles1,000

11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Go Deeper

Ezra 1 introduces us to a notable person and a notable group of people. While this book is named after Ezra, we won’t actually meet him until chapter 7. The first person we’re introduced to is King Cyrus, the new Persian king in the first year of his reign. The Jews had lived in exile for decades, and finally, the new king was allowing them to return home. Not only did King Cyrus allow them to return to Jerusalem, he also gave them an important instruction—go rebuild the temple. 

The notable group of people we meet next are the Israelites—God’s people. For some, this was an answered prayer! For others, the news was met with a shrug. Many were comfortable with their new lives in their new lands. The idea of going to Jerusalem to build a temple wasn’t appealing—they would rather just stay where they were. But for some, Scripture tells us that their hearts were moved (v. 5). Those who were ready to go back to Jerusalem were a minority, but they were a faithful minority. As we have seen time and time again throughout Scripture, you can never underestimate what God can do through a faithful group of people. They loaded up their belongings and made the trek back to Jerusalem to begin working on the task at hand. 

So, what can we learn from these faithful few? They were obedient when God started moving in their hearts. Oftentimes we feel that same stirring—our hearts are moved—yet we don’t respond with full obedience because it requires us to give up something. While exiled, Israelites built homes and established livelihoods. To return to Jerusalem meant sacrificing comfort and their new normal, but God stirred their hearts and the faithful responded with obedience. As we go about our day today, pay attention to those nudges from God. He could nudge us to pray for a person whose name comes to mind, to call or text a friend, or he could move our hearts to respond to a need. It may not be as drastic as uprooting your family (although it could be), but obedience is God’s expectation every time. 

Questions

  1. Why do you think so many of the Israelites in exile didn’t want to go back to Jerusalem?
  2. When was the last time God moved your heart? How did you respond? 
  3. What does this chapter teach you about God? What does it teach you about humanity?

Did You Know?

Curious why King Cyrus was so willing to send the Israelites home to Jerusalem? According to Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, Cyrus was familiar with the prophecies about him found in Isaiah 44 and 45. Whether or not he was a follower of Yahweh we can’t know for sure, but he had seen enough evidence of God to implore God’s people to rebuild the temple.

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21 thoughts on “Ezra 1”

  1. My biggest personal takeaway from today’s reading is that when the Lord is getting ready to work, sometimes there is a season of preparation. I often desire revival immediately, but there may be times where the Lord is doing a work – either in the hearts of his people, or just to get all of the necessary pieces in order – before the actual work is done. I want to be patient in the Lord and hold on to his promises, even when we may be in a season of preparation.

  2. I’m so thankful we serve the God of second chances. He often uses the most unlikely means to accomplish His work. Today’s reading begins the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar when the Israelites were taken into captivity. V1 says “the Lord put it in the mind of King Cyrus” to issue a proclamation allowing the Israelites to return home for this important task. Our God always does things above and beyond what we could ever imagine. Today, I’m motivated to join God wherever He is at work around me, by paying attention to the nudges He will surely provide to respond with the hope we has given me. What will you be moved to do today for the kingdom?

  3. I was thinking about how some of the Israelites didn’t respond to God’s stirring of their hearts. Had they been gone from God for so long that they did not recognize Him anymore? Had they become so entrenched in “the world” that they forgot where they belonged? It is easy to get wrapped up in our surroundings so that we forget to listen, or just get lazy and don’t want to listen, to God telling us to go somewhere or do something that is out of our comfort zone. Maybe we feel like we are the only one being called on to do something. I’m recognizing the bigger blessings when I step out in faith and obedience. Sometimes those first steps are scary but when you get back on the path God has planned for you, you see other people there, too, and you realize you’re not alone. 🙂

    1. My perspective is different and the way I interpreted it was that God allowed those who didn’t want to go stay. They still participated in a way by giving any gold and silver they had. My take away was that He was an understanding God. After all He is omnipresent!

    2. Lisa, i appreciate your thoughts on this. When we take the heavily traveled road, we seem to feel things get easier, better, for a time. They do not.
      When we find ourselves walking back through the narrow gate however, into the arms of our Father, the load lightens. Maybe not immediately but when we rest there, it does for sure.
      Thank you for your words!

  4. I love how it mentions that Cyrus “also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods” God in His wisdom and power not only provides a future, but redeems and restores the past!

  5. This chapter reminds me that God is always at work- even, especially when, we can’t feel Him or see it. The Israelites had probably all but given up on returning home…. But, God. He moved King Cyrus’ heart who was then used by God to make a way for other Israelites’ hearts to also be moved by God, so that they could return home & rebuild His temple. God is always at work, but He often uses people to accomplish His task.

    The question I want to ask myself today, throughout my day, is: where is God already at work?! How can I join Him in it? Oh God- give us eyes to see what you’re doing! Give us hearts soft & moldable by you. Help us pay attention today & respond to you in obedience.

  6. Having an infants grasp on the stories of the Bible, this one initially stumped me.
    God, what are you trying to teach me in this historic text? With my lack of contextual understanding, I just wasn’t sure. And then, thankfully, it was broken down for me and it all became clear.
    I am the Israelite that pushes back and doesn’t make the moves when God calls.
    I am the one that believes my choices, my constructed path is better.
    But, I KNOW!!!! I know I am wrong when I make those choices that go counter to what God is calling.
    My heart wrestles with the good of God and I try so feverishly to maintain my place in this world.
    Today God, I aim to listen. I seek the fruit of your spirit today and look for the opportunity to follow faithfully.
    I beg of you God to continue to shine light in my heart, illuminate my darkest places that I may live free with you!

  7. “The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia….”
    “everyone whose heart GOD had moved”…..
    Sometimes I feel it is my responsibility to move/change hearts. Heart of those I’m sharing Jesus with. It is God who moves hearts. It is mine to listen to his voice and follow where he tells ME to go.

  8. Wow. I love how we see that God stirs up Cyrus’ spirit in verse 1. We may not know Cyrus’ ultimate reason for allowing the Israelites to return to Jerusalem, but we know that God stirred his spirit to lead him to that decision. Cyrus may not have even been a follower of God, yet God used him. How much more could God use us, His followers, if we would obey His stirrings and callings in our own lives? I am as guilty as some of these Israelites who pushed back on God’s call to move. I am often content sitting in my comfort zone. I must remind myself that God’s way is better. What God calls me to and asks me to do is better than anything I could come up with on my own. I am inspired by the faithful Israelites’ obedience. Lord, please help me be more attuned to Your nudges in my life. Help me recognize those nudges as I go about my day today. I want to step out in obedience, even when it’s new and uncomfortable.

  9. This chapter was very interesting! I love how much we are able to learn from the Old Testament; too often, we tend to stick to the New Testament because it seems easier or more comfortable. The historical context helps me understand Ezra in a deeper way. My takeaway from this chapter is that the Lord literally expects obedience from us. Why do I prefer being comfortable to being a seeker of plans greater than my life? Today I am praying that God will nudge my heart & move in me. I am praying that He will help me to see with His eyes to pursue His plan & leave comfort behind.

  10. This reading comes a day after a sermon at my church about God’s promise of restoration. The Israelites had been exiled for a long time but God used King Cyrus to put things right. In our own lives, we may be faced with a season of darkness and loss but God is working to restore us. It may take longer than we want, but we will be delivered out of whatever afflicts us.

  11. What really stood out to me about this text was how some Israelites didn’t want to leave exile (captivity) to go back to the promised land and start the Lord’s work. God had literally used a Pagan King to tell them to go Home and they stayed! It makes me think of how when I get caught up in the world around me. I get settled in sin, being a slave to it and not even realizing that the path to freedom has been set for me. I watch others go take the path and serve God, but I shrug my shoulders and think “Next time” “I’m feeling comfortable here – serving myself”. Let’s all stop watching and start doing. Let’s all respond to those nudges and step on the path Home to freedom.

  12. Something I took away from this chapter is that God is constantly trying to incorporate us in His greater plan. We just have to say yes. I think we often like to play it safe and do things that are comfortable and familiar to us. However, you never grow by staying comfortable. I think our faith only gets stronger by doing something that requires you to let go of all control you’re holding onto and give it to God. We have to trust that regardless of the situation, God is going to remain faithful and provide for us.

  13. It’s interesting to see the Israelites’ hesitant response to God fulfilling His promises and bringing them back to the land He has for them. Makes me wonder, what is God calling me into now that I am hesitant to obey because I feel so comfortable where I am at.

  14. I loved the last question — what does it teach you about humility? There are times where I feel like God is nudging me in a direction and I say to myself “no that isn’t really what I want to do because that is uncomfortable.” But the humility we need is to lay down our own selfishness and take up our crosses daily and be obedient to our Lord. Definitely not easy.

  15. First off, WOW! So encouraged by everyone coming together to dive into this text. Something that hit me was, some of the Israelites didn’t want to help rebuild the temple. There were only those faithful and willing few. Question 1 was interesting to me. A: Because it would have been hard/new, and they didn’t want to leave their nice, comfortable lives.
    Wow, how often do we do this, say no to something JUST because it is hard and uncomfortable…Truth is, most good things will be hard and uncomfortable, but that does not mean they’re wrong. Lord, help us to truly want what you have for us. Despite the challenges required to get there. Though it will be hard and uncomfortable on this side of eternity, it will be worth it because through it we were living in obedience to You.

  16. I love that God not only uses a secular king to do His will, but he also uses an oppressor. Too often we dismiss lessons and messages from God because we expect them to be wrapped up in a Christian package through a specific church or ministry. God uses the greatest enemy of the Israelites to give them their freedom, and provides all the blessings they need for the journey. When God is ready to move in our lives, he can (and will) use any resource!

  17. I was recently nudged by the Holy Spirit to call someone – I didn’t and they died this week. This little Bible study is just the reminder from God that I needed to hear.

  18. What stands out most to me is how God moved Cyrus’ heart. It’s incredible to think that this man may not even have been a follower, yet that is how powerful our God is. It’s a reminder that God uses unpredictable ways to speak. We have to trust that when it comes to our faith, we are never left in the dark. God finds a way and he uses ALL of creation for his glory.

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