We now immerse ourselves in the story of Israel’s return from captivity. For 70 or so years the nation has been scattered, and now certain parts of a “remnant” make their way back to the promised land.
There are three books of the return. In Ezra some of the captives find their way home and the people begin to rebuild their worship connection by restoring the temple. Under Nehemiah the walls of the city are rebuilt. Babylon had trashed the city and the temple as they carried the nation away 70 years earlier.
Three prophets encouraged the workers as they took on the monumental and sometimes frightening task of rebuilding. The stories of Ezra and Nehemiah set the tone, and Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are appointed by God to direct the hearts of the people to return Him. The story and words of these books are helpful as we live our own lives of building Christ’s Kingdom.
The book of Esther occurs during the same timeframe. God’s name is never mentioned in the book, yet every chapter reveals His power and favor. Choose one book or all six – you will grow as God’s Kingdom builder as you invest your time and heart. Look for the woven God-Story threads!
Here are reading guides for Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, as well as two brief videos about the story-purpose of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Also three brief videos describing the impact of these three awesome prophets.
Let’s read together!
In what ways do you see God’s hand moving here? What would be the practical challenges of this undertaking?
Why the Temple before the walls? What was the nature and reason behind the push back they are getting?
What issues were the people encountering? How do these correlate with being distracted in our world?
What impact would Haggai’s words have had on the people who were engaged in the hard work of building in the midst of opposition?
What do each of these visions tell us about the future? What impact would this have had on the builders?
Try to imagine the circumstances of the people and what each vision would have sparked regarding questions, introspection, and encouragement.
What will be the place of the Jewish nation in the coming Kingdom? What will be made new? What will be put right?
What is the nature of God’s blessing and connection in the future? What would it have been like to be Zechariah?
What promises are made here? What things are being revealed?
How many years have elapsed? Remember the influence Daniel had on Darius!
There are some connections here to the book of Esther. Can you see them? God is weaving His power into this process.
What’s the problem(s)?
What is the solution?
What do you learn about Nehemiah? About God’s plans? About His intervention?
What is the scoop of this work? What were the conditions impacting the builders? What was the result of the criticism?
What was Nehemiah hoping for? What was the impact of the project being completed? Why was a census necessary?
What do you think is happening in the hearts of the people? Ezra and Nehemiah? The people in the area?
What was being restored? What conditions were being imposed and why? Do these seem severe to you?
How do you see God’s hand moving here?
What do you learn about Esther on the inside? What would her life have been like? Where was she from?
How does the situation with Haman make you feel?
Why was this punishment so severe? How many lives do you think were saved by God’s intervention?
In what ways are the tables turned? God is not mentioned in Esther, yet every chapter reveals His Hand.
Bonus minor prophet!
What was God’s expectation? What was the situation?
What are we to surmise from Jonah’s prayer in the belly of the great fish?
How does this event make you feel about the power of God?
Why did Jonah respond as he did? How do you think things ended for Jonah?
A great storm song
Enjoy! Dave & Burnadette