Introduction: Imagine being a citizen of Jerusalem when Babylon
captures your city and destroys the temple constructed by King David
and King Solomon. Could there be anything worse? Yes, actually. What
is worse is that in Jeremiah 25:11 God tells His people that the
“whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations
will serve the King of Babylon seventy years.” Guess where you will
die? In captivity in a foreign land. What lessons can we learn from
this difficult time? Let’s explore the Bible and see what we can
- Read Jeremiah 25:3-5. What does God promise His people?
(That they can live in their land forever.)
- What was required of God’s people? (To turn from evil
habits and practices.)
- The text says that God’s people did not listen. Why
do you think they failed to listen?
- Read Jeremiah 25:6-7. What, specifically, were the evil
habits and practices of God’s people? (They follow other
gods. These are gods that they have made with their own
- Put yourself in God’s place. How insulting is this?
- The Future
- Read Jeremiah 25:8-9. What logic do you find in God having
a pagan king destroy the land of God’s people? Does it fit
the sin? (This makes perfect sense to me. If God’s people
are going to rely on something they have made instead of
the power of God, then God says, “Let’s see how you do
under your own power?”)
- What is the lesson for us today? What might we rely
on that we have made?
- Why do you think God calls Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan
king, His “servant?”
- Last quarter we studied “The Least of These.” There
is a lot of instruction in the Bible about being
blessed if you are faithful and cursed if you are
not. What does the situation that Jeremiah writes
about teach us? (On the one hand it confirms that
obedience brings blessings. But, it creates a
warning that just because we think we are God’s
faithful people, we might not be correct. We might
have a problem with listening to God.)
- Notice that pagans who make no pretense of
following God destroy God’s people. What does
that say about the bad being cursed?
- Read Jeremiah 25:11-12. What does the long-term future
hold? (After 70 years an end will come to Babylon. The
pagans will be punished. There is hope for the future.
There is the promise that the pagans will not win in the
- Read Daniel 9:1-2. What is Daniel’s understanding of the
prophecy of Jeremiah that we just read? (He understands it
to mean that punishment will last only 70 years.)
- Reliance on God
- Read Daniel 9:3-6. How does Daniel approach God? Does he
trust in his works? (No. Daniel confesses that they failed
- Read Daniel 9:17-19. How would you characterize Daniel’s
plea to God?
- Read Daniel 9:20-23. How soon does an answer come to
- Does this reflect the travel time between earth and
- Read Daniel 9:24-25. What great news does Gabriel bring?
(He brings lots of great news, but we will only focus on
the nature of Daniel’s prayer – Jerusalem will be restored
- The Return
- Read Ezra 4:1-2. What has happened? (God’s people have
returned to Jerusalem and are starting to rebuild the
- Isn’t it great when you move into a new neighborhood
and your new neighbors offer to help?
- Why do the existing residents want to help? (They say
that they have been sacrificing to the true God ever
since they were brought to this place.)
- Read Ezra 4:3. Are God’s people being rude and obnoxious?
Why turn down a friendly offer of help? (This is where
things get complicated. The existing residents are
“Samaritans,” Gentiles who have intermarried with the Jews
the Babylonians did not think worth taking as slaves.
Their offer of help may have been motivated by a desire to
be allowed to worship in the new temple. It might have
been motivated by a desire to dominate the returning
- Read Ezra 4:4-6. Are the Samaritans being vindictive
because they have been rejected? Or, does this show the
true nature of their offer? (If the Samaritans wanted to
worship the true God, if they wanted to be helpful, they
would not have taken all of these measures to stop the
- Let’s skip ahead. As a result of the efforts of the
Samaritans, the rebuilding gets stopped. Ezra chapters 5
and 6 record the back and forth battle to rebuild. We
won’t get into this in more detail because one reliable
source states that chapters 5 and 6 take place before the
writing of the official accusation letter mentioned in
Ezra 4:6 and recorded and the verses that follow.
- Read Ezra 7:6 and Ezra 7:10-13. What important event is
this? (Things are changing. King Artaxerxes, the King of
the Persia ( Ezra 7:1), has now decreed that Ezra and any
volunteers can return to Jerusalem. The roadblocks coming
from Artexerxes have now been lifted. Joy!)
- Have you ever experienced the government being a
roadblock for building your church? (When we were
building a church, the government was a regular
source of concern and delay. When we wanted to
improve our church school, the government stopped the
construction and the improvement was never made.
Local government making trouble for church building
was such an issue in the United States, that the
federal government passed a law allowing churches to
sue local government for creating unwarranted
- Read Ezra 7:15-16. Is there anything wrong from God’s
perspective with the government helping to support the
church? (This governmental aid is reported with approval.
There is no theological problem with government giving
back to God what is already His.)
- Notice how Artaxerxes refers to the God of the Bible.
Does he accept the God of Israel as being the true
God over all other gods? (No. This languages suggests
just the opposite. This reference seems to say that
He is God of one country. God lives in Jerusalem.
This reflects the ancient view that a god had
jurisdiction over a certain territory.)
- Is the fact that Artaxerxes is a non-believer a
problem with accepting help from him? (Once again,
God is sovereign over all. The fact that pagans
advance God’s kingdom is not a problem. It is the way
life should be.)
- Read Ezra 7:21-23. What motivates Artaxerxes to be so
generous to Ezra and the God of Heaven? (He is concerned
about God’s wrath falling on him and his sons.)
- Let’s look at this more closely. Is it a problem that
the government supports God’s program out of fear?
Should help be based on love? (What most Christians
are concerned about is the joining of church and
state to eliminate religious freedom for minority
views. Having the government operate from the fear of
God is probably a good thing. It is likely safer than
the government loving a specific religion and trying
to enforce its religious practices.)
- Friend, do you face problems in life? Has your world been
turned upside down, and the “bad guys” have come into
power? Rest in the knowledge that God is in charge. Will
you trust Him with your future?
- Next week: Nehemiah.