A fresh start - the Lord remembered Ezra 1
A Fresh Start
The covenant God remembers his promises
Doxology Hymn no 329: “Be still and know that I am God” (Three verses!)
Call to worship
One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. (Psalm 62:11-12)
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us unite in praying the prayer our Saviour taught his disciples:
Hymn No 330: “God Himself is present”
Dedication of Barbara Burns as SUPA officer of Scripture Union
Hymn No 352: “The Lord bless you and keep you
Scripture Reading 2Timothy 2:8-13
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Declaration of pardoning
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. (Psalm 130:3-4)
Hymn No 413: “Jesus My Lord will love Me forever”
Offering and Dedication
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Prayer for others
Scripture Reading Ezra 1:1-11
My dear Brother and Sister in the Lord,
Today we will commence a series of sermons I have titled “A Fresh Start”. From the Word of God we will hear the Gospel concerning the dealings of God with his people as they return out of captivity and bondage to once again be his covenant people, to worship Him and to be a witness of his mercies to the nations around them.
The verses we have read from the New Testament, 2Timothy 2:8-13, reminds us of the faithfulness of God towards those He elect. The apostle Paul encouraged the young Timothy to endure hardship. In Paul the young evangelist Timothy would find an example of endurance for the sake of the elect.
In some sense Paul would be to Timothy like Jeremiah to the returning leaders of Israel in the years 539 B.C. Zerubbabel and Joshua, together with Sheshbazzar, Ezra and Nehemiah could take the scrolls written by Jeremiah and Isaiah and read the message:
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
So, in this series of sermons, we will read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah; we will also hear the Word of God as spoken to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. We will hear about their victories in God and their failures because of their disobedience. In all, we will draw conclusions from the lessons to help us open our eyes to the greatness of God and the wonder of his promises – and what they mean to us as his New Covenant Church today.
Today then the theme: A Fresh Start: The Covenant God remembered his promises.
8 The covenant God
It is important that we understand what the Bible means by the term “covenant God”.
8 God made a covenant with Adam, with Noah, Abraham and David. In essence this covenant is the same covenant under different dispensations and with different people representing the covenant people of God.
8 In this covenant God promised to be the God who save, cared, loved, provided, nurture and protected his people. He saved them by grace out of slavery and bondage and made them his own peculiar people.
But this covenant had the stipulation that God’s redeemed people were called to live a 8 life holy and obedient unto the Lord. They were called to be different; they were called to live by the stipulations of the covenant. For as long as they would be obedient to do this according to the expressed will of God, these people, saved by grace, would enjoy the blessings of God. But God, as the superior partner in this covenant, also stipulated that He would punish them when they would break covenant with Him. One of the consequences of covenant-breaking was that they would be carried off to a foreign land to serve in bondage foreign kings. God promised to turn his back on his people and send the curse of the covenant upon them.
8 But a remarkable aspect of the promise God made with Israel was that He, although He would punish them severely, would never forget them. Some of them would perish and never return to the land of their forefathers; but other, 8 God would purify and cleanse and bring back to their promised land. There was the promise that God had made to David – 8 there will always be someone on the throne [ all of this pointed forward to the new Head of the Covenant, Jesus Christ].
In the opening verse of Ezra 1 we Name of the covenant God is mentioned. Look very closely in your Bible and you will the 8 Name of the Lord spelled Lord – all in capitals. The Hebrew word for this Name of God is Jhwh. This is the same name Moses heard when God appeared to him when he was called to lead the chosen people of God out of bondage and slavery in Egypt. This Name is translated as I AM.
There is are few similarity between the salvation of God’s people then, and now again in the time of Ezra.
The covenant people
• Out of Egypt
– 8 God remembered
God said to Abraham in Genesis 15
“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (Genesis 15:13-14)
When the time as God promised was fulfilled, God did as He had promised. God is faithful.
– 8 God had pity
We read that God did not forget his people. More than that, He had pity on them. Listen to Exodus 3:
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. (Exodus 3:7)
– 8 God provided
The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:35-36)
– 8 Salvation to worship God
But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the Lord our God. Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the Lord our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the Lord.” (Exodus 10:25-26)
• 8 Out of Babylon
– 8 God remembered
As the Israelites became rebellious and did not serve the Lord in holiness and obedience, the Lord did as his covenant with his people required: He sent them into captivity. This was announced by the prophet Jeremiah.
This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. (Jeremiah 25:11)
But God had promised that he would return his people because He would be faithful to the promised He had made to David – all pointing forward to the Kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Two hundred years prior to the captivity of Judah the Lord sent his word through Isaiah:
[The Lord] who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’ (Isaiah 44:28)
And God was faithful to his promise as made through Jeremiah:
But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. (Jeremiah 25:12)
All this happened in the year 539 when God raised up a servant for Himself: Cyrus. In the very next year this king proclaimed that Israel was free to go back to Israel. This came about because God moved is heart. We read in Ezra 1:
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 to put it in writing: (Ezra 1:1)
– 8 God had pity
Why would God such a thing to forgive his people and bring them back to the Promised Land? Purely because God had pity on his people. Purely because God is faithful and He can’t deny Himself. He is the covenant God who is gracious and long-suffering. He is the covenant God who forgives, who rescues and restores.
– 8 God provided
And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’” (Ezra 1:4)
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. (Ezra 1:6-7)
– 8 Salvation to worship God
Why were the Israelites rescued and saved out of bondage of Egypt? To serve God and worship Him. To Moses God gave the law as God’s instruction book of the covenant: this is how He wanted to be worshipped.
When He rescued his people out of Babylonian slavery, He had only one purpose in mind: That his people would worship Him; that his law would once again life in their hearts and would govern their every though, action and motive.
The heart of Cyrus was moved by God to issue the edict with this purpose:
Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:3)
The Covenant God and his New Covenant people
• 8A perfect Salvation
– 8God remembered
– 8God had pity
– 8God provided
– 8Salvation to worship God
• 8A future salvation
– 8God will not forget
– 8God is gracious
– 8God provides
– 8Eternal worship
God is faithful. He does as He promised. He saves in Jesus Christ. He is coming again. His church must trust and obey Him living holy lives.
Hymn No 105: “O praise the Lord”
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.(Numbers 6:24-26)