Read: Ezra & Nehemiah

Ezra-Nehemiah is historically understood as being written by one person and constitutes a cohesive narrative. The eventual outcomes of this narrative portray this idea: these narratives are what it looks like when gifted leaders take the promises of God into their own hands. Though God was with the people of Israel, we have the leaders of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah that were sent, with the blessing and resources of the Persian king, to go back to Jerusalem and work to rebuild its people and city. Though the Lord did protect them and show up at times, things did not happen as they thought they might because they thought they were helping to make happen the prophetic promises of the restoration of Israel. They took, ultimately, in their hands what they thought would need to be done in order to restore Israel, rather than truly looking at the promises that God made and how Israel was going to look different, and what really needed to happen for Israel to be restored. The rebuilding of the temple did not lead to the restoration of Israel. The re-reading and teaching of the Torah and legalism didn’t restore Israel. The rebuilding of the walls of the city did not lead to the restoration of Israel. None of those things mattered to the restoration of Israel unless the people of Israel allowed their hearts to be made new. Israel needed a new heart. Nothing on the outside mattered if that didn’t happen.

I wonder how we can see ourselves in this story? We can know and read of the promises of God and wish to see them come to fruition… but we are not always the most patient, and we have ideas of our own on how it is going to happen. It could be well intentioned but there is a particular way that God wishes to restore us and fulfill the promises that He has made to us. God wishes to make us into a new creation through the power of the Holy Spirit by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. What we witness through the narrative of Ezra-Nehemiah is what happens when people take the promises of God into their own hands… a burning of hope that ends in an anti-climax of, “remember me Lord, ‘I’ tried my best.”


  1. Have you ever studied these books before? What did you learn about them at that time?
  2. What do you think people of Israel learned from these stories when reading them?
  3. If you could imagine a different or better ending for these narratives, what would it look like? What do you think Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah could have or should have done differently?
  4. Have you ever tried to accomplish a promise of God without seeking God’s help? Explain.
  5. The people of Israel were full of hope at the thought of recommitting themselves to covenant relationship with Yahweh- but they quickly slid back into failure. Have you ever felt like this?
  6. What do you think needs to happen in order for someone to have a renewed heart toward God?

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