Making Sense of History: Zerubbabel and Ezra

Scripture: Ezra 1:2, Jeremiah 25:11-12, Daniel 9:1-2
Date: 10/05/2019 
Lesson: 1
'Our best performance comes from a realization of who God is and what He has done, and from knowing how He lovingly intervenes on behalf of His people.'
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Shawn Brummund: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the "Sabbath School Study Hour." We are so glad that you are joining us here today as we come together to be able to study my favorite book, which is the Holy Bible. And we are starting a new adventure as we started a new quarter for this year. We are looking at a new topic. Last quarter, we were looking at helping those in need. And we are studying a new subject now, and we're looking at two very critical books in the Old Testament entitled "Ezra and Nehemiah." And so, if you don't have a copy of the new quarterly yet, make sure you get a copy of it in your local church. If you're not a Seventh Day Adventist and you have a Seventh Day Adventist church in your local neighborhood or town, make sure that you go and visit them, and chances are that they'll have an extra copy to give to you. Now, we do have something that's available as well online. And so, if you don't have a local church that you can get a hard copy from, you can always get a digital copy at the website, which is I'll say that one more time, lesson.aftv, that's for Amazing Facts Make sure you get a copy as we continue this new adventure in Bible study.

We are just so glad to be able to have everybody that joins us of course locally here in the Granite Bay Seventh Day Adventist Church here in the greater Sacramento area of California. And then, of course, the Granite Bay Church has the privilege of having an extended family around the country and sometimes in different parts of the world, as we also welcome our online members that are joining us here for the program as well. All friends that are joining us from around the world, we want to welcome you as well. So good to be here, we look forward to our study.

But before we get into our study, we invite our singers out. We always have a free offer that we like to offer to you for your further study even after we spend this hour together. And so, today's study is entitled "Twelve Steps to Revival." And it's actually written by our senior pastor, our teacher today, which is the pastor Doug Batchelor. And so, the free offer is number 780. And so, when you call in, the best reference that you can make is to free offer number 780. And you can dial 1-866-788-3966. Again, that's 1-866-788-3966. Now again, we live in a digital world, and so some of you may not be in America or in the American territories or Canada to be able to get that hard copy sent out to you. But anybody in the world that has Internet can find themselves downloading a free digital copy. And so many of us have smartphones. You simply need to text the code SH001, that's SH001 and you want to dial that out to 40544, 40544. And you could receive a free digital download for that. So, please take advantage of that. I know you'll be blessed and your faith will be revived. Well, before we open with prayer and we invite our teacher out today, we want to invite our singers out as they lead us in praise. God bless you.

Female: We always love to sing together because that is truly part of worship. In this crazy world that we are living in, and it gets crazier every week it would seem, and I'm always grateful every time we get back together to study, "Nearer My God to Thee." We need to press closer and closer every day. And we're going to sing about that, hymn number 473, "Nearer My God To Thee." We're going to sing the first, the third, and the last verse.

♪ ♪ Nearer, my God, to Thee,

♪ ♪ nearer to Thee,

♪ ♪ even though it be a cross that raiseth me.

♪ ♪ Still all my song shall be nearer,

♪ ♪ my God, to Thee.

♪ ♪ Nearer, my God, to Thee,

♪ ♪ nearer to Thee.

♪ ♪ There let the way appear,

♪ ♪ steps up to heaven.

♪ ♪ All that Thou sendest me,

♪ ♪ in mercy given.

♪ ♪ Angels to beckon me nearer,

♪ ♪ my God, to Thee.

♪ ♪ Nearer, my God, to Thee,

♪ ♪ nearer to Thee.

♪ ♪ Or if, on joyful wing

♪ ♪ cleaving the sky,

♪ ♪ sun, moon, and stars forgot,

♪ ♪ upward I fly.

♪ ♪ Still all my song shall be nearer,

♪ ♪ my God, to Thee.

♪ ♪ Nearer, my God, to Thee,

♪ ♪ nearer to Thee.

Shawn: Well, thank you for that blessing. And as we have been fed with song and inspired, I invite you now to pray as we ask the Lord to be with us. Father in heaven, we are thankful for this opportunity to be able to study. We are thankful for Your Word. We're thankful for Your great servant Ezra, as well as Your servant Nehemiah. And as we read the life and teachings and the events that surrounded their lives, the ministry You've given them in such an instrumental time, want to pray that You will bless us, and teach us, and help us to be able to grow in our faith, and follow You even as they did during their time. We ask for the Holy Spirit as our teacher. We pray that You will be with our pastor that is going to be leading this lesson. In Jesus's name we pray, God, amen. Thank you so much for Pastor Doug, and he's going to be presenting our lesson here today.

Doug Batchelor: Thank you to our singers. Good to have Jodi here today, thank you for playing piano for us. Morning, everyone. Do you remember me? I've been gone. But it's good to be home again. And Karen sends her regards. Poor thing, we flew back from Asia, and then she had two days at home, and she got on another airplane. She's helping babysit her nephews in Phoenix right now, so hello dear. She said she might be tuning in depending on the time difference.

So, we're glad to be back with you. And the timing is great, we get to start. I'm glad that I can sort of do the introduction in our lesson on Ezra and Nehemiah, a couple of my favorite books in the Bible, and a very interesting time in biblical history. But with your permission, before we get into the lesson, you know, sometimes you go to Sabbath School and they have what they call a mission report. Is it okay if I give you a brief mission report on where we were the last couple of weeks and tell you some exciting stories? This, we just threw this together the last few minutes, so I'm going to ask Rosa to go ahead and put some of the pictures on the screen here, and we're going to give you a little report on our trip to Asia.

Now, what we did is we went to three countries. You can barely see them on the map there, but we went to Taiwan, which is technically part of China, but it really operates as an independent country. And we went to Singapore and Malaysia, not in that order. We went Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore. You may not know Singapore is a country, even though it is an island, it's very small. Matter of fact, right there it's one of the smallest countries in the world along with the Vatican and Monaco. But I'll get to that in just a minute. So, next picture. See, we've got a very sophisticated way of advancing the slides, I just say next picture.

So, first we went to Taiwan. And this was kind of neat for Karen because Karen worked in Taiwan doing some mission work and volunteer work about 30 years ago, so this is the first time she had a chance to go back. She volunteered at the hospital in the PT department many years ago. And I'm showing you there that building because while when we travel and we do ministry, we preach and we teach, we also record "Amazing Facts" wherever we go. So, one of the "Amazing Facts" we recorded was on this building, it's the Taipei 101, which for many years was the tallest building in the world. And we did an amazing fact about a man named Robert Alain, who climbed it. Matter of fact, he climbed virtually all of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. He climbed the--I think the Empire State Building, the Burj Khalifa, the Eiffel Tower, the Sears Tower. I mean, it's amazing, and most of the time he did this with no ropes, just did it freehand. So, we did some "Amazing Facts" while we were there.

Taiwan is a very interesting country, very clean. Karen said it's changed a lot, it's a lot cleaner than when she worked there. They've got an interesting habit in Taiwan. You'll never see garbage cans out on the street. People keep the garbage within the front doors of their home or their business. Five days a week, they have garbage pickup. In our town, they do once a week. Five days a week. And early in the morning, you'll hear the garbage trucks all going out up the street, and they play music like our ice cream trucks used to do. And I think they're going da da da da da da da da da, whatever it is. And that's your signal you better run out with your garbage and you toss it in the can. They do this, it keeps--there's no rats or cockroaches. It keeps a lot of the pests down. And so, it was a very clean city.

So, we did some speaking there at what they call an ASI Pacific, it's the Asia Pacific ASI meeting. For those of you who don't know, ASI is like Adventist Service Incorporated. It's Adventist businesspeople telling different ways they're sharing Christ in the marketplace. And so, we had leaders of Christian businesses from around Asia all descended here in Taiwan. And I was able to share with them, and we heard wonderful stories of how the gospel is going out in many different countries around Asia during that time. So, we were in Taiwan and very much enjoyed the food while we were there. They actually have quite a few veggie options in Asia because of both the Hindu and Buddhist influence. So, if you're a vegetarian, you eat pretty good, so I enjoyed it while I was there.

Let's go to the next slide. And we went from Taiwan to Malaysia, and this is the capital Kuala Lumpur. And there's another building there, it's called the Petronas Towers, which again was the tallest building in the world for awhile until it was surpassed by the Taipei building. And yes, Robert Alain climbed that building too. And so, now Malaysia is very different from Taiwan. There's a lot more freedom to preach the gospel. Even though it's technically Chinese, it's not governed by the communist China, it's really a republic. And so, Christianity is pretty freely proclaimed there in Taiwan.

But when you go to Malaysia, it's an Islamic country. It's about 32 million people in Malaysia. Interesting country because southern Malaysia is the northern island of Borneo, and northern Malaysia is the southern tip of the Asian peninsula. So, Malaysia is one country kind of spread on two or three different pieces of land, and many, many thousands of islands. Part of the reason we went there, and let's go to the next picture, is because "Amazing Facts," I'll just tell you this first and then I'll get to that. They took us there, we recorded an "Amazing Facts" of the Batu Caves. You can see there in this picture, there's a very large--they got this very large statue to the Hindu god Murugan. And so, we did an "Amazing Fact" on Daniel 3, you know, when Nebuchadnezzar made this big golden image. What else do you think about when you look at that? And but there's some caves up at the top, and you can look at the next picture. When you climb up those stairs, all these pilgrims go up and down the stairs, and there's massive caves up there. It's quite a job to get there. Forget how many hundreds of steps it is up there.

But and so we did some stuff on Hinduism, we did some recording and facts on Hinduism, we did a recording. And you'll see these come out on our websites in the months to come. And but Malaysia is--there are a number of Hindus there, there's a number of Buddhists there, but it is like 75% Islamic. And our work in Malaysia must be done very carefully so as to not offend and get people into trouble. Next picture, please. Now, there we have that's our team that was there. Of course, you got Karen and I. And on the fourth one there is Jared, he is a member here and works in the media department. He was with us doing some recording. In the middle, you have Aaron. Aaron runs our Amazing Facts Indonesia school. We have ongoing training that's happening. In fact, he sent me a picture this morning of a Bible camp that got 400 people that's going on right now.

So, Amazing Facts has an evangelism training school that operates in Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in the world, 280 million people. We've been there before in Jakarta, one of the busiest cities in the world. So, Aaron is a businessman who does this on his own dollar, but he runs a school and he's converted a lot of our material into Bahasa Indonesian.

And next picture, please. Oh, and the far right and before we get there is Pakrosh. He is running our new Malaysian--now we're launching an evangelism school in Malaysia, has 32 million people. The wonderful thing is that the languages between Indonesia and Malaysia are very similar. The people in Malaysia understand what they call Bahasa Indonesian. Next picture, please. And here we have in Malaysia our graduating class of Amazing Disciples. I like going to Asia 'cause I'm tall in Asia. It gives me the illusion that I'm tall. And so, we had about 25 students, young people that graduated the Amazing Disciples program. They're learning how to share their faith in a largely Islamic country, and they must be very careful. You're not allowed in Malaysia to have a manger scene, for example. When we hand out our literature in Malaysia, you know how cigarette packs here have a warning, says this stuff can kill you? In Malaysia, we have to put a sticker on all our material that is a warning that it is Christian material, that it is not Islamic. And so, it's very interesting doing the work there. We have had some pastors arrested and worse in the past.

Next picture, please. While we were there, we also had some evangelistic presentations that were done in a Christian center. They got a Christian center that is shared among several churches because they really restrict how many places Christians can meet in Islamic countries. And they won't let you put a church right on a main road, so we're sort of off the road, and several churches often have to share. Works for Adventists because we're meeting usually on Sabbath, and the other Sunday churches fight among themselves more about who gets it on Sunday. But so, we had a good group there for Malaysia, so there--probably have 30,000 Adventists in Malaysia. We were in Kuala Lumpur, where you've got the smaller number. Most of them are by the islands.

Next picture, please. Here's an example. For instance, our "Amazing Facts" magazine, this actually may be the cover for the "Amazing Facts" DVD on final events. And we also have the magazine, we have our lessons, all our Bible studies are all in Bahasa Indonesian, and they do very high quality. Sometimes as we travel into other countries and we see they've translated our material, it's really sad 'cause it's like very cheap newspaper, it's black and white. But our team in Indonesia is doing an excellent, professional job in translating it. And so, it's going not only all over Indonesia, but Malaysia as well. We just put one thing of their--one printing example up there for you.

Next picture, please. And this is the picture I got this morning. So, it's going on as we speak. Aaron said this is our Bible camp that's happening now in Indonesia. I think it's near--well, there it is, Kupang, Indonesia. And this is a lot of people there. This is an Islamic country, so it's just wonderful to see the work going forward. That may be the last, do we have other pictures?

Oh yeah, we got Singapore coming. This is--well, that was still--there's Singapore. That was also our other meeting in Malaysia. Singapore is an interesting place. You don't hear a lot about mission work in Singapore because it's very hard to get missionaries to go to Singapore and pastors because it is one of the top three most expensive cities in the world to live in. Those three cities are Hong Kong, Paris, and Singapore, and Singapore may be number two. It's very expensive.

Singapore is an incredibly important international city. Of everything you buy, one out of four shipping containers in the world goes through the Singapore harbor. Because of where it's located in Asia strategically, it is the busiest harbor in the world. It is a very wealthy city. There are banks--the skyline is covered with bank buildings. There's an incredible amount of money. So expensive, a lot of missionaries just can't afford to live there. A lot of pastors, they don't want to go to Singapore because it's so expensive that they can, you know, barely make ends meet. And so, but we have had a lot of people there who have been watching our programs either on satellite or on the Internet. They got very good high speed Internet in Taiwan and in Singapore, not so much Malaysia.

In Malaysia, they're not allowed to have the satellites. There's only one government satellite allowed in Malaysia. If you're found with a satellite that is picking up Christian programming--you could put one in, but if you're caught with it, very serious fines or imprisonment. And but it's not so much so in Singapore and Taiwan. They can get it on satellite. Internet's very fast, very modern cities. So, we ran into a lot of people--please advance.

We ran into a lot of people there that were watching our programs. We spoke--I spoke 14 times in 14 days. I mean, some days were travel, so some days we doubled up the speaking and teaching. We were teaching AFCOE students. We were speaking to Christian businessmen. We were doing evangelism training and an evangelistic meeting. We did an evangelistic meeting in Singapore, kind of an abbreviated meeting. We met in the Thomson Chinese Church. It's called the Thomson because it's on Thomson Road, but it's a Chinese church. But Singapore, they speak English. It used to be an English colony, so except for Sabbath morning, there was no translation. They all understood me, which is always nice, it saves time.

Next picture, had hundreds of people, church was full. And this was one of the evening meetings. Sabbath morning and Friday night, they had overflow rooms downstairs that were full. And heard some wonderful stories. Next picture, I might have--yeah, here's some of the people. I think there were about six baptisms. Two of the people in this baptism came to the Lord from "Amazing Facts." One learned about the Lord in China, and then they got from China to Singapore, and we heard the story. But they were reading our material, looking at the websites in China. Then they led their fiance to the Lord, and I baptized the fiance. The girlfriend is not in the picture.

I heard another story--go to the next picture, I don't know if I have--if I put them up. Oh, this is one young man named Matthew. We got to the airport and Singapore airport is--people actually go to Singapore to look at the airport. It is considered the most beautiful airport in the world, not one of, it is the most beautiful airport in the world. They have rainforests, they've got the tallest manmade waterfall, just the monorail goes through the airport, it's just amazing. So, they took us to the airport early so that we could look at the airport. I've never gone to an airport to look at the airport. And I usually want to get out of there when I get to the airport. But it really was beautiful.

And we finally go to the immigration. Everybody must funnel through these one doors when you leave the country, and there had been a young man there named Matthew, been waiting for us for two hours just so he could say thank you. He had been raised a Christian, drifted from the Lord, was lost, and he ran into some Amazing Facts material. In fact, I think it was the Amazing Facts Final Events DVD got him back watching material again, studied his way back into the faith, and now he's solid in the Lord. He just wanted to thank us and he waited two hours. And we thought that it was so nice.

Met another--well, here's a neat story. Couple in the Philippines raised Catholics, this is going to be my last story and we'll get to the lesson. Don't worry about the lesson, just introduction today. And so, this couple was very devout Catholics, and they just weren't happy. They're going to church and they said, "We went through the rituals, we made our donation, we left, we just felt empty." They thought, "Isn't there more to God than this?" So, they're just searching, very honest, hardworking couple, young professionals. They ended up then going to some evangelical churches and they all taught different things.

And finally, they got on their knees and said, "Lord, what is the truth? Show us the truth." And after this, they ran into the Amazing Facts material, they started searching for preaching online. They ran into our material online. And they said, "This makes sense." They kept watching and listening, they're watching, and then they started just binge watching, went through all of our beliefs. But they said they watched for a year and a half, they never heard that we were Seventh Day Adventists. I guess I need to mention that more often. And then finally I said something, they said, "Oh."

So, by this point, they're living in Singapore, and so they said, "Let's go check out one of these Adventist churches." And so, they were so afraid, they went in, thought, "What are they like?" You know, and they didn't want to tell anyone they were visitors, they wanted to first check everybody out. But after the second or third week there, the pastor, and their names were Arlyn, Cherry, husband and wife, and the pastor was Pastor Egan. They went to the Filipino church in Singapore. He spotted them as visitors and they said, "Well, we're kind of interested." They started studying together and I had a chance to meet them. He baptized them and he said, "You know, I didn't have to study much with them because they knew it all from just watching online." And now they're leading a whole 'nother group in the church. So, we just saw there in their life, we saw the whole story of people who study their way in, they came in, they got baptized, they got grounded, and now they're out doing evangelism work.

So, it was really exciting for us. I'm just sharing you--with you a few stories of things that were happening there. And so, it was a thrill to be there, and thank you. I can promise you we're seeing lots of people come to the Lord through the public evangelism and even the ministry of Amazing Facts.

All right, so in our study today, our lesson title is talking about making sense, speaking of making sense, making sense out of the history of Zerubbabel and Ezra. A little later, we'll get more into Nehemiah. We have a memory verse, and the memory verse is from Ezra 1, verse 2. If you've got your lessons, you can say it out loud with me. Or if you got your Bible, here it's from the New King James Version, Ezra 1, verse 2, you ready? "Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia, 'All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God has given me, and He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.'"

Now, the story of Ezra and Nehemiah are best summarized by reading the passage together, the timing of it. If you go to the last chapter in the last book of--last chapter in the last book of the history, which is called Chronicles, 2 Chronicles. If you turn to 2 Chronicles and we're going to look at verse, let's see here, we'll start with verse 11. 2 Chronicles 36, forgot to tell you the chapter, 2 Chronicles 36, verse 11. "Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king." Now, Zedekiah is one of the sons of good King Joash. Sorry, Josiah rather, good king Josiah. "He became king and he reigned 11 years in Jerusalem, and he did evil in the sight of the Lord his God. And he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God, but he stiffened his neck and he hardened his heart against--and turning against the Lord God of Israel. Moreover, all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more according to all the abominations of the nations. And they defiled the house of the Lord, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem."

So, it's telling you that Zedekiah, he had made a vow that he would serve and pay taxes to Nebuchadnezzar. He broke his vow, he believed the false prophets that said, "No, God's going to deliver us from Nebuchadnezzar. Egypt's going to attack them, we'll be free, don't pay taxes to them anymore." And Jeremiah said, "No, the prophets are lying to you. Nebuchadnezzar's going to come and destroy the city." You read last half of Jeremiah, he's pleading with Zedekiah, "Don't listen to the false prophets. If you serve the king of Babylon, you will be free, you'll be safe. If you don't, he'll destroy the city, he'll burn the temple." He didn't listen. The priests didn't listen. All the leaders and the priests and the people transgressed more and more. They defiled the house.

Go to verse 15, "And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers rising up early and sending them because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people till there was no remedy." You can reach a point of no return, and this is what happened to the nation. "Therefore he brought against him the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword and the house of the sanctuary, and had no compassion on young men or virgin, on the aged or the weak. He gave them all into his hand. And the articles from the house of God great and small, the treasures of the house of God and the treasures of the king and the leaders, all these he took to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem."

This is important, you want to know why Nehemiah is building up the walls? It's because Nebuchadnezzar broke them down. They--you know, you really got to be mad at a nation once you've conquered them, then you send your soldiers in with a wrecking crew and say, "Break down the walls so they can't make a city out of this again." You know, the Romans did that to Jerusalem too. They said, "Not only are we going to conquer you, not only are we going to burn the city, not only are we going to not leave one stone upon another," the Romans also did this, "we're then going to sow the land with salt so nothing will grow."

Have you ever wondered why Jerusalem seems so bleak and barren for so many years? The Romans wanted to see to it that they would never be the Promised Land again. Boy, that's a big government investment to do that. I mean, so they were really committed to teaching a lesson. You can almost see a diabolical rage of these nations against God's city. "He broke down the wall, destroyed all its possessions, and those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia." This is a great chapter to even overrule after Persia conquered Babylon, "To fulfill the Word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she laid desolate, she kept Sabbath to fulfill 70 years."

I want to pause right now. As long as it was a desolate, it was keeping the Sabbath. Why was God putting this enforced Sabbath? You know, God had said in His law, "You farm the land for six years, you let it rest every seventh year," right? They weren't keeping--they weren't allowing for that agricultural Sabbath every seventh year. And God says, "Well, I'm going to enforce that Sabbath." Now, a day with the Lord is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like a day, right? How old is the world biblically right now approximately? Just about 6,000 years if you add up the ages in the Bible. We don't know exactly because there's some grey area around Noah and a few places. So, it's about 6,000 years old, it's like six days. How long do we spend in heaven during the millennium? A thousand years we live and reign with the Lord. What is the condition of the world during the 1,000 years? Desolate. The world is keeping a 1,000 year Sabbath.

See, Jesus has been farming the land for 6,000 years with the seed of the gospel, that's Christ's own parable. He's coming in Revelation to harvest. We live and reign, He says, "I've gone to prepare a place." He takes us to the place that He's prepared, we live and reign with him for 1,000 years. The world is keeping Sabbath while it is desolate. The end of the 1,000 years, he makes a new heaven and a new earth. We then build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.

So, there's a parallel here between 2 Chronicles and even what happens in the end of the world. As long as it laid desolate, it kept Sabbath. Now, go to verse 22. "Now, in the first year of king Cyrus, king of Persia, the Word of the Lord came by the mouth of Jeremiah that it might be fulfilled. The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, the king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all of his kingdom. And he put it in writing, saying, 'Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia, all kingdoms that are on the earth the Lord God has given to me. He's commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is Judea. Who among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him and let him go up.'" That's the end of the book of Chronicles. So, this is really the last thing you find of the kings until there really is no more lineage of the king's ruling per se until you get to King Jesus. But this gives you an overview of what happened.

At the end of that 70 years, what happened is in the first group, there are three groups that come from Babylon back to the Promised Land. You've got one that comes during the time of Zerubbabel. It's kind of a fun numb to say--fun name to say. Some say Zerubbabel, some say Zerubbabel, and it depends on what part of the US you're from. And then you've got those who came back during the time of Ezra, and then another group came during the time of Nehemiah. Actually, Nehemiah came and then Ezra. And so, you've got these groups that continue to come back in just three waves. And there's so few that come back compared to how many were in Babylon.

Now, here's the problem. If you go somewhere to live for 70 years, what would you do? Would you make yourself comfortable? Would you get a business? Would you raise a family? Would you plant a garden? Would you plant fruit trees? And after you've been somewhere 70 years, you put down roots, do you learn the language? You get comfortable, you learn the customs, you know your way around, it's your home. All of a sudden, the king says, "You can go back to your ancient Promised Land." And a lot of the Jews were going, "That's nice, thank you very much, but I think I'll stay right here." And so, God's people were in Babylon, He told them, "Come out of Babylon into the Promised Land," and they didn't want to come out. So, when you get to Revelation, it says, "Babylon has fallen, has fallen. Come out her, My people, lest you partake of her plagues."

Terrible things were going to come on the nation of Persia after these kings, and they were not going to be safe, and they needed to get out of Babylon. God said, "I'm going to bless you in the Promised Land. Come back to the Promised Land." They don't want to come back. They've gotten comfortable in Babylon. And so, when you're reading about these waves of Jews that came, it's not very big. I think one group, they had like 50,000. I mean, compared to the millions that lived there, it was comparatively small. So, a lot of them settled in Babylon and they sort of became Babylonians. Is God telling us to come out of Babylon? Isn't that a message in the second angel's message? Babylon has fallen. Come out of her, My people.

All right, so that kind of gives you an overview of what's happening. So Zerubbabel, he leads out in this first wave that comes back. And he is--interesting thing about Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel, he is an ancestor of Jesus. If you look at Luke chapter 3, you're going to see that he is mentioned among the ancestors of Jesus.

So, there's two groups that come back. One is Joshua, the high priest, who is a descendant from Aaron, so a leader from Aaron. The priests come back, and Zerubbabel comes back and he is a leader from the lineage of the kings. And so, you've got the church and the state. They come back again, but they operate separately like in the United States. And they lead the people, Zerubbabel is given permission by the king of Persia to sort of act as a governor, and Joshua is acting as the priest.

Now, I think it's interesting that there are three Joshuas in the Bible. You know who they are? You've got Joshua, who is the general, who also is the attendant of Moses, he later is appointed general. He leads the people from the wilderness into the Promised Land, correct? Then you've got a Joshua who is a high priest, who leads people from Babylon into the Promised Land. And then you've got Joshua who is Jesus. You see, Jesus's name is Yeshua, who saves people from slavery and brings us into the Promised Land. So, you got three interesting people who are named Joshua. One is a general, one is a priest, and then of course you got our Lord, who is the ultimate judge and prophet.

So, then you hear about Zerubbabel, let me just read something about him. He was the head of the tribe of Judah during the time of the return from the Babylonian exile. He was the prime builder of the second temple. Well, when you say second temple, second permanent temple. You're talking about the tabernacle in the wilderness, then Solomon's temple, then Zerubbabel builds a third temple. It was later remodeled and it was Herod's temple, but Herod's temple was really the third temple, it's just a major upgrade, very expensive upgrade. So, it was in the same location, they just completely redid it.

You remember during the time of Christ, Jesus said, "Destroy this temple made with hands and I'll make one without hands." And they were aghast that He should say that. They said, "Forty-six years it took to build this temple, You're going to raise it up in three days?" That's because King Herod the Great had spent 46 years refurbishing and remodeling Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel's temple that they had built following the captivity. Interesting, that temple was partly subsidized by the kings of Persia. They helped provide some of the money to build the temple. They said, "We'll help you build it. You've got to promise to pray for us. Sacrifice to your God for us. We'll even give you the sacrifices." So, they were very interested.

Why were these kings of Persia so impressed with the God of the Jews? You remember Darius? Was he a Babylonian king or was he a Persian king? And what happened to him in chapter 6 of Daniel? He threw Daniel in a lion's den, Daniel lives. And at the end of the chapter, he says, "There is no God like the God of Daniel. And I make a decree throughout my whole empire that if anyone speaks against the God of Daniel--" What did Nebuchadnezzar do in chapter 3 after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survive the fiery furnace? He issues a decree that goes out to the world. These Persian kings knew about Jehovah. And they knew he was very popular, powerful God I should say. And so, they helped subsidize their return and the building of the temple.

And who did the king of Persia marry? Let me get--let me get out my little cheat sheet here. I'm going to give you some of the history real quick. You've got Xerxes I, who's got another name, Ahasuerus, who did he marry? Esther. So, you got a Persian king married to a Jewish queen. And so, did God's people have a major influence on these Persian kings? They did.

Let me give you an overview just of what we've talked about here so you understand the time that our book is covering in Ezra, Nehemiah, and even--there is no book called Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel is mentioned in the book of Haggai, and but which comes later. So, what we're reading is not chronological, so let me give you a quick chronology. In 587 BC, the Babylonian power captures Israel. Now, these dates, some of them are still approximate. Then in 539, Babylon is conquered by the Persian king, you know the story of the handwriting on the wall. And that's when king--the combined Median-Persian empire under Darius and Cyrus, they conquer Babylon. In 539, Israel captives are released to return home. That's when Cyrus issues his decree. And 538, Zerubbabel leads the first wave and he returns, first wave of Jews largely from the tribe of Judah, from exile, and he builds this third temple, the third tabernacle, it's the second permanent temple. That's about 515 BC.

In 520, the books of Haggai and Zechariah are written, that's why you find Zerubbabel mentioned in these books. In 478, Esther becomes queen of Persia. 458, you realize you're going from BC, you're counting backwards as going forward in time, 458, Ezra leads the second wave of the Jews who return from exile to reestablish the Torah and the worship. He brings the sacred books with him. Now, where were the books kept, the sacred books of Israel, where do they keep them? In the temple. So, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple, it says he took all the sacred articles from the temple, what did he take? Have any of you ever been to a Jewish synagogue and the primary object in a Jewish synagogue is the Torah up in the front? And it's often in a gold case, in a very ornate container. So, Nebuchadnezzar carried off their sacred books.

Now, among the things that they were allowed to bring back were the sacred writings of Moses. Ezra brings them back with him. And he was--Ezra was probably foremost in helping to organize the books and edit the books of the Old Testament the way we have them today. Ezra is a priest, he's from the linage of Aaron, and he is a scribe. And most scholars agree that Ezra probably had a very prominent role in organizing the books of the Old Testament the way the Jews have their Old Testament, the exact same Old Testament you have, you realize that. When you see new books in the Old Testament from the apocryphal books, like a Catholic Bible has different books in the Old Testament, it's not quite the same as the Jewish Bible.

All right, 445, Nehemiah leads the third wave of Jews that come from exile. And his job is to rebuild the walls. And probably about 444 BC, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were written and edited. And then by the time you get to 397, you've got the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi is written. So, that just kind of gives you a little overview of what's happening here. There's a quote from the book "Prophets and Kings" page 677. It says, "The work of restoration and reform carried on by the exiles unto the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah present a picture of a work of spiritual restoration that is to be wrought in the closing days of earth's history."

Why do we need to study these books? Because we need revival, we need restoration. What they went through and the challenges they faced are some of the same things we're going to face in the last days. "The remnant of Israel were a feeble people exposed to the ravages of their enemies. But through them, God purposed to preserve in the earth a knowledge of himself and his law. They were guardians of the true worship and keepers of the holy oracles."

So, here we are, God's people in the last days like a remnant. There's opposition in the culture and even sometimes from the religious groups around us, but God is calling us to be faithful and to be called repairers of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in. We are to build up the temple and restore the walls. What is that temple? You are living stones in that temple of the household of God. We are a royal priesthood, the Bible says. So, as in the next 13 weeks, 12 weeks we study the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, just keep in mind we're kind of reliving some of that history. God is calling people out of Babylon, he's calling us to a work of restoration, he's calling us back to keep his law.

And you know, one of the interesting things, I'm getting ahead of myself, when you get into the book of Nehemiah and Ezra, you're finding the very same challenges for revival we face today they faced then. They were forgetting to keep the Sabbath. Nehemiah's got a whole chapter where he talks about that, they've got to return and start keeping the Sabbath. They had started to compromise in their marriages. Ezra talks about that. So, there's just a lot of the same issues that these books you're going to find are very relevant.

All right, under the section of the first return of the exiles, you can read in Jeremiah 25, verse 11, "And this whole land will be a desolation and an astonishment. These nations will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years." Now, this is a prophecy. If you go to Daniel 9, Daniel says, "I was reading the prophecy of Jeremiah." Daniel start praying for deliverance of God's people that they could be going home. And you know, by the time you get to the end of the book of Daniel, they have been liberated by the Persians. In fact, when you read in Daniel chapter 1, you know what it says there? That Daniel--what's Daniel chapter 1 dealing with, prophecy or health? It's about the diet.

Remember the challenge over diet? The very first thing it says in Daniel chapter 1, it says, Daniel 1:21, "Daniel continued till the first year of King Cyrus." Now, Cyrus the Great, who let them all go home, he reigned about his--sometimes called Cyrus II, but he's the one we call Cyrus the Great. He consolidated the kingdom, I'll say a word about him. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, it encompassed all of Babylon, and expanded vastly. And eventually, he conquered most of western Asia, much of central Asia from the Mediterranean Sea and Hellas Point in the west to the Indus River in the east, all the way to the borders of India Cyrus reigned. It was one of the most vast empires in the world to that time. And so, Daniel lived until his reign.

Sometime during the reign of Cyrus, Daniel died because when Cyrus began to reign, Daniel was probably 85, 90 years of age. So, it tells you his health kept him alive even into the reign of Cyrus. When you get to Daniel chapter 6, again it says, "Daniel continued until the time of Cyrus." Some have wondered, why does it say that twice, Cyrus is the one who issues the decree they can go back? Did Daniel, in spite of his age, decide to go back with some of the captives? The Bible's really silent on this. There is one Daniel who's listed in the record of Ezra and Nehemiah, but they don't believe that's the same Daniel. It wasn't that uncommon of a name. There was a tribe called Dan. So, makes you want about--makes you wonder about that. Again, just reviewing.

After Cyrus the Great, then you have Cambyses II, he reigns from 530 to 522. You have Darius I, 522 to 486. Xerxes I from 485 to 565. And I think that's the same Xerxes that gets into a war with the Spartans. You've heard about the 300 Spartans. But he also marries Esther. And then you've got Artaxerxes I, he's the one who writes the famous decree that you find in the book of Ezra chapter 7. That is the starting point for the 490-year prophecy. From the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem, that's the one given during the time of Artaxerxes.

So, there are really three decrees that you find in the book of Ezra that tell them in different degrees that they can go back, they can build the temple, they can fix the walls. That all happened in stages. There are about 12 families that are specifically mentioned when they return in the book of Ezra, which is interesting because there were 12 tribes. And there were about 1,500 men when Ezra came back. That would approximate about 5,000 to 6,000 people when you include young men, women, and children. And then you can read in Ezra, I'm looking at the clock, Ezra chapter 7, verse 12 to 17, there it says, "Artaxerxes king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of God."

You know why I love the book of Ezra and Nehemiah? Because there is so much overlap with history we do know about these Persian kings. How many of you studied the kingdom of Persia when you were in school, like fifth grade somewhere? World history. I mean, I didn't go to a Christian school. I went to a couple Catholic schools, but mostly public, but I remember studying these kingdoms. I remember looking at the maps. So, when I started reading the Bible and it's talking about the decrees of these kings, I thought the Bible really meshes with history.

And he says, "To Ezra the priest, scribe of the law of God of heaven, perfect peace and so forth, I issue you a decree that all those people in Israel and the priests and the Levites in my realm who volunteer to go up to Jerusalem," they weren't forced, "may go with you. And whereas you are being sent by the king and the seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the law of your God which is in your hand." He took the law with him. "And whereas you are to carry the silver and gold which the king and his counselor have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem." Look at his faith in the God of Israel. "And whereas all the silver and gold that you may find in all the province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and the priests, are to be freely offered for the house of their God in Jerusalem. Now therefore, be careful to buy with this money bulls and rams and lambs with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the house of your God." Goes on to say, "And pray for me and my sons." So, it's just a wonderful book.

You know, I see I'm out of time. Let me just read, I did get through a lot of what I wanted to say here, let me read something just here at the end, a quote from the book "Prophets and Kings" page 608. "Born of the sons of Aaron, Ezra had been given a priestly training. And in addition of this, he had acquired a familiarity with the writings of the magicians and the astrologers and the wise men of Medo-Persian realm." One says magicians there, that was the magi. It didn't mean guys that pull rabbits out of hats. "But he was not satisfied with the spiritual condition. He longed to be in full harmony with God. He longed for wisdom to carry out the divine will. And so, he prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it. The history of God's people as recorded in the writings of the prophets and the kings, he searched the historical and poetical books of the Bible to learn why the Lord had permitted Jerusalem to be destroyed and his people carried captive into a heathen land." Just tells you that Ezra went through a real conversion. And the rest of his life, his passion was to bring the people back to the truth of the Word and the God of the Bible.

Anyway, that gives you I think kind of an overview of the time and the times, and what was going on that led to the writing of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. When you look at your Bible, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah do not appear in chronological order of where those things happened. And so, just keep that in mind.

With that, I want to just re-mention our closing appeal, our closing offer. We have a book that we're offering, it's called "Twelve Steps to Revival," free. If you'd like a copy of this, you can call, ask for it. That's 866-788-3966. That translates into 866-STUDY-MORE. And ask for offer 780 when you do it. You can also get this anywhere in the world, just download it by texting SH001, and text that number to 40544. You can download and read it wherever you are. Thank you very much, friends. We are out of time, we'll study God's Word together again next week.

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Announcer: Amazing Facts changed lives.

Justin: Growing up as a kid, my mother was on drugs and alcohol, lots of fighting in the home. My mom would be abused mentally, verbally, physically. Went from California to Oregon, spent some time in Oregon, and it was just the same cycle of drugs, alcohol, violence. My mom's boyfriend would go to jail at times. She would wait until he would, you know, get out of jail and it was back to square one. The drugs and the alcohol escalated to a lot harder drugs, crystal meth, cocaine, and lots and lots of alcohol. So, I started using the alcohol too as a medication. It was like it took the misery and the fear that I had, I wanted to drown all that misery. Times I would just grab, you know, a bottle of beer and go out into the desert and just drink until sometimes I'd just pass out in the desert somewhere and wake up the next morning. And you know, and I just couldn't find rest.

My stepdad had got me a motorcycle, and so I started riding motorcycles. I'd drink a lot of beer, get on the motorcycle, ride into the desert, do donuts and just--you know, just ride on private property. People would chase me off and I was just causing, stirring up dust and rocks and just causing chaos. And the adrenaline rush that I had was so exciting and the feeling of it was so intense that I loved it, and I forgot about all my problems, you know, at the moment. And I thought that material things would make me feel so good, you know? And so, I started working, started making money, had a responsibility.

But as time went by, I had more money, so I would use my money that I made to buy drugs and alcohol. Got pulled over, drinking and driving, ended up going to jail for a couple days. I lost my job because I missed work for a few days. Lost my girlfriend, lost all the money that I had. So, once again I was empty, no money, no drugs, no alcohol, and that was a turning point in my life. At this time, I was living with my grandfather. And as I was flipping through the channels on the satellite system, I found "Amazing Facts." Pastor Doug Batchelor was telling his--sharing his testimony about how he was living in a cave. And he was--he struggled the same struggles of alcohol and drugs, and I continued to read the book "The Richest Caveman," and it really impacted my life, and really related to the things he was struggling with and all the events that took place in his life.

And when I started reading the Bible, Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." And I recognized that I had no strength. I was weak and I was wretched and I needed help. So, I just asked the Lord, I said, "Just help me, Lord." And the Holy Spirit convicted me, and I decided to be baptized and to give my life to Jesus Christ. A few years after the Lord took the temptation of drinking and doing drugs, he gave me a beautiful wife I met at church. Now, I have a beautiful baby boy, two-year-old baby boy.

It's just exciting to see, you know, what God is doing in my life and my family. I met with some friends from my local church that I was attending and they had told me about Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism Training Seminar. The AFCOE to Go program really inspired me and motivated me to tell young people about, you know, the same struggles that I was struggling with, to help these kids give their life to Jesus Christ. And there's nothing else that you could ask for. I'm Justin, and God used you to change my life.

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