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Author: E. DENNETT

Pages: 144

Publisher: Bible Truth Publishers

Publish Date: 1977

Edition: Unknown

Condition: New.

Binding: Hardcover

Markings: N/A.


An exposition of Ezra and Nehemiah

The book of Ezra marks an important epoch in God's dealings with His people Israel. Although seventy years had elapsed, it is yet the continuation of 2 Chronicles; for time does not count with the Jews when in exile from the land of promise. They had lost everything by their sins and apostasy, and God had sent Nebuchadnezzar to chastise them, to destroy His own house which His people had profaned and polluted, to carry them away captive to Babylon, and "to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths." (2 Chr. 36: 21.)
Nothing could be sadder than the record of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the termination of the kingdom as entrusted in responsibility to the hands of man, except indeed the still more fearful accounts of the siege and capture of Jerusalem by Titus soon after the commencement of the Christian era.
The long-suffering of God had been tested in every possible way. In His patient grace He had borne with the high-handed rebellion of His people; He had lingered with a yearning heart, like the Saviour when He was upon earth, over the city which was the expression of royal grace; He had sent to them by His messengers, "rising up betimes and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling-place; but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought upon them the king of the Chaldees," etc. The sword of His justice thus fell upon His guilty people; for their sins had exceeded those even of the Amorites whom God had driven out before them. (See 2 Kings 21: 11) God's throne on earth was henceforward transferred to Babylon, and the times of the Gentiles — which still continue, and will do so until Christ Himself shall establish His throne, the throne of His father David (see Luke 1: 32, 33; Luke 21: 24) — commenced. Lo-Ammi (not my people)* was in this way written upon the chosen race, and they entered upon the sorrowful experience of captivity and banishment under the judicial dealings of the hand of their God.
*It is on this account that God never, in these post-captivity books, whatever His care over them, addresses the Jews as His people.
But now, when the book of Ezra begins, the seventy years of their exile, which had been foretold by Jeremiah, had been completed, and Ezra relates the acting of God in connection therewith for the accomplishment of His own sure and faithful word; and it is the character of these which explains the attitude of God towards His people during the times of the Gentiles, and also, to some extent, the peculiarity of this portion of the Scriptures, as well as Nehemiah and Esther. In these books God is no longer seen actively interposing in the affairs of His people, but He works, as it were, behind the scenes, and at the same time, recognizing the new order which He Himself has established, He uses the Gentile monarchs, into whose hands He had committed the sceptre of the earth, for the execution of His purposes.
Bearing these principles in mind we shall be the better able to enter intelligently upon the study of this book. The book divides itself into two parts. The first six chapters give the account of the return of the captives who responded to the proclamation of Cyrus, and of the building of the temple; the last four of the mission of Ezra himself.
In commencing an exposition of the book of Nehemiah, a few brief remarks may be permitted by way of introduction to its study. Scarcely thirteen years had passed since Ezra had gone up to Jerusalem, armed with royal authority and impelled by his godly zeal for the glory of Jehovah in the welfare of His people, "to teach in Israel statutes and judgment;" to seek, in a word, to re-establish over the people the authority of the law.And now in His grace and tender mercy God prepared another vessel of blessing for His beloved people.* This fact illustrates in a striking manner a divine principle. It might have been thought that Ezra would be sufficient for the work; but, as is so often seen in the history of God's ways in government, a servant who is suited to one state of the people may be altogether unadapted for another, and even be a hindrance to the work of God if he continue to occupy his position or to assert his claims to leadership. How often has this been seen even in the assembly! More than this may be said. It will sometimes be the case that a less spiritual servant can be divinely employed where one who is more spiritual would be utterly out of place. Thus if a comparison is instituted between Ezra and Nehemiah, devoted as the latter was, and habitually turning to God as he did, as the source of all his strength, it will be at once perceived that Ezra walked on a higher level than his successor. (Compare Ezra 8: 21-23 with Nehemiah 2: 7-9; Ezra 9: 3 with Nehemiah 13: 25.) Yet, though Ezra was still at Jerusalem, it was Nehemiah who is sent at this especial moment. Happy is it when the servant receives his work from the hands of the Lord, and, discerning when his mission for any particular purpose is ended, can retire.
*As a matter of fact God never addresses Israel in this book as His people. The sentence of Lo-Ammi (Hosea 1) was still unreversed, whatever His gracious intervention and actings on their behalf.
In the book of Nehemiah, as well as in that of Ezra, it will be observed that God is ever watching over His people, and sustaining them by the successive interventions of His grace. First, He sent Ezra, and afterward Nehemiah, to revive His work and to effect the restoration of His people. But as in the book of Judges, so at this period; and as it ever has been in the experience of the church, every successive revival, when the energy that produced it has died away, has left the people in a lower, a worse state than before. The reason is evident. The need for a revival springs from the fact of increasing corruption and decay. By the revival the downward tendency is for the moment checked or arrested; and hence the moment the force which came into conflict with the evil is expended, the corrupt stream sweeps onward with increased power and volume. Such is man; and such is the patient grace of God that, spite of the unfaithfulness and even apostasy of His people, it unweariedly continues to busy itself with their interests and blessing.
As to the character of the book itself we may quote the words of another. He says, "In Nehemiah we witness the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and the restoration of what may be termed the civil condition of the people; but under circumstances that definitely prove their subjection to the Gentiles." This will be unfolded to us as we pursue our consideration of the book.