Restoration and Renewal in Ezra-Nehemiah

Ezra-Nehemiah Restoration and Renewal

October 25 Nehemiah 2:1-8, 11-16; 3:28-32 “Balancing Act”

Verse 4: “Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Even though Nehemiah had already begun to enact his plan, part way through, when the stakes are at their highest, he again pauses to pray to God.

-How do you like to prepare for situations that you now might be stressful?

-How natural is it for you to pause and seek God’s support throughout your day?

Back in Ezra 8, we saw Ezra choosing not to receive protection from the king, because he felt that decision was most consistent with his proclaimed faith. Here, Nehemiah willingly accepts favors from the king, but explains the king’s favor as God’s graciousness.

-How might we understand the different approaches of Ezra and Nehemiah when it comes to receiving help from kings versus trusting in God?

-When faced with similar decisions today, what is your process for discerning what is the right path forward?

-What are some ways that God might be providing for us through other people?

In verses 11-16, Nehemiah seems to be behaving in a sneaky, even suspicious manner sneaking around in the middle of the night in order to get the full picture of the task before him.

 -Do you agree with Nehemiah’s choice to make a secret inspection?

-What might Nehemiah have gained through his approach? What might be the harm, if any, of his approach?

-How important is it for congregations to have a complete picture of the landscape before entering into a discernment process?

-How well do you feel CCC has done historically in painting a complete picture? How might CCC do better in the future?

He then also wisely breaks the work up into manageable pieces, putting those with special talents to work in their area of expertise.

-Discuss Nehemiah’s wisdom in making each person’s task small and located physically close to their own house?

-Those with special skills and talents were assigned specialty tasks in the rebuilding. How does the church today parallel that idea in recognizing spiritual gifts?

-Discuss how well CCC helps people identify and use their spiritual gifts as well as other skills and talents. How might we do better as a community?

-Would you say that you are using your gifts for the ministry of God to the best of your ability? If not, how might you utilize them more fully?

Close by thanking God for providing each person and their gifts to this community and ask the Spirit to help us give our utmost for God’s glory.



Ezra-Nehemiah Restoration and Renewal

OCTOBER 18 Ezra 10:1-5, 9-16a “Facing Setbacks”


Chapter 10 opens with Ezra, and then “a very great assembly of men, women, and children” who are all weeping bitterly over their sins. 

 -When we make confession today, do we feel the full weight of our sins?

 -How can our church today create more space for communal confession and lament?

“Then all the people of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days” (verse 9).

-Once sin was identified, all of the people were gathered within 3 days. Do we feel that same sense of urgency to seek correction of our sinful actions?

-Beyond just confessing and lamenting sin, Ezra and the leaders sought to have the people turn away from sin and set a new course of obedience. How easy is it for you to not just confess sin, but actually work to change your sinful behaviors?

-How might the church spur people on to grow in obedience?

“Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice” (verse 12).

-How well does the church today do in gathering the whole assembly of believers for confession and repentance?

-How important is it that all of the community is gathered together to make decisions?

-Once the people discerned their next steps, they moved forward together to implement them. Particularly in our current season, how might CCC gather the whole community together for discernment? How do we work to move forward in a unified way, even when we cannot all gather physically together?

“Then the returned exiles did so” (verse 16).

-Throughout much of this chapter the people have been identified by tribe, but here their identity lies in their previous status as exiles. Why might the author have wanted to highlight this aspect of their identity here?

-How often do we reflect on the aspect of our identity that names us as sinners in need of God’s grace?

-How might this identity offer us hope and strength in the midst of setbacks?


Close your time together praising God for his faithfulness in the midst of setbacks and asking the Spirit to bring unity to believers in times of discernment. Pray for the grace of Jesus to transform your life such that obedience becomes easier day by day.



Ezra-Nehemiah Restoration and Renewal

OCTOBER 11 Ezra 8:15-30 “Living the Law”


Every job has as part of it those dull tasks, and the same is true for Ezra. Even though he was leading the people in an exciting time of restoration and renewal, there were still everyday tasks like “reviewing the people and the priests”.

-Are there aspects of Christian life, or being a part of the community of believers, that feels like mere busy work to you?

-How might we see these tasks as contributing to the building of God’s kingdom?

 

When Ezra had reviewed the people, he found that there were no descendants of Levites, the only tribe from whom priests could be called. Even though he might have been tempted to train others as priests, Ezra put in the extra work to stay obedient to God’s word.

            -Are there times that you are tempted to cut corners on obeying God’s word?

            -What might be some consequences of taking the easy way out?

 

“For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and calvary to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him…so we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”

-Obedience to God’s word also means trusting God’s promises to his people. Discuss how easy or difficult it is for you to trust in God’s promises and protection.

-How does our trust in God provide a witness to non-believers about who God is?

 

Ezra trusted God and was willing to put his life fully in God’s hands. Ezra, however, also understood that despite the people’s desires to obey God, they were still subject to the power of sin. Verse 34 shows us how Ezra put accountability structures in place to help the people remain obedient.

            -What accountability structures do you have in place in your life?

-In your relationships with others, what does it look like for you to be trusting but also an accountability partner?

            -How might the church balance trusting God, but also holding people accountable?

 

As a group, close in a time of prayer for individual and communal obedience and trust. Lay before God any areas of anxiety and ask the Spirit to give you peace and comfort. Ask for God’s wisdom to see how you can balance trust and accountability in your own life.



Ezra-Nehemiah Restoration and Renewal

OCTOBER 4 Ezra 5:1-5 & 6:6-18 “Restarting – Again”

(The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah provide more context)

 

We left off last week with the people celebrating the completion of the temple foundation. Chapter 4 conveys that the people began to encounter resistance to the rebuilding, and ends in verse 24 with this sad summary: “at that time the work on the house of God in Jerusalem stopped and was discontinued until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia”.

This week, Ezra 5 picks up with two prophets having been called by God to call the people back to the work of rebuilding.

            -Discuss times in your life that you have gotten sidetracked from a project?

            -In Ezra 5, who initiates the rebuilding?

-How easy is it for you to pick back up where you left off? What finally motivates you to start again?

-Are there times you have seen that the church needed prodding to “start a task again?”

 

Read Haggai chapter 1.

            -Having received these words from the Lord, how might the people be feeling?

            -Do you imagine that the people might have had to process some shame and guilt?

-Discuss how easy or hard it is for you to be present in situations where you feel ashamed or guilty?

 

Ezra 5:5 suggests that once again, resistance began against the rebuilding effort, but that “the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop…”

            -What does this phrase “the eye of their God was upon the elders” mean to you?

-Psalm 33:18 says, “truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love”.

-Discuss what it means to fear the Lord and hope in his steadfast love.

-Do you trust that God’s eye is also upon you and upon his church today?

            -Does trusting in God’s protection enable you to live more boldly for him?

 

In Ezra 5:16, the people once again turn to celebrating and rejoicing, even though it took them a very long time to make progress.

            -How important is it for us to celebrate progress even after a time of stagnation?

 

Spend a few minutes as a group discerning if there are areas where we are stuck and if God might be calling us to become unstuck; give thanks for God’s faithfulness to his people, and celebrate the progress toward faithfulness you have seen at Christ Community Church and in the church universal.


Ezra-Nehemiah Restoration and Renewal

SEPTEMBER 27 Ezra 3:1-13 “Firming Up Foundations”

Right away in verses 1 and 2, we see how the people begin the work of rebuilding by first seeking to obey the law of Moses. As we continue reading through verse 7, we see that the first steps of rebuilding were offering right worship to God.

-When you undertake any new endeavor, do you begin by worshipping God?

-Since we no longer offer burnt offerings to God, what practices shape our worship?

In verse 3, the author notes that “they set the altar on its foundation”. Even though the temple had been destroyed and the people had not worshipped there in a long time, they began again by connecting to the foundations of the past.

-How can we as individuals and as a church body, connect to the foundations laid by those who went before us?

-What is the history of Christ Community Church?

-How do we discern which parts of that history to bring forward and which parts to celebrate but let go of?

“When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord…and all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord” (v. 10, 11).

 -Do you make it a part of any plan to celebrate completing each step?

-How can the church be more intentional about making celebration a part of our routine?

-How might the church improve incorporating everyone into celebrations?

Chapter 3 sweeps us up in the progress the people are making, and then seems to reach a high point with all the people celebrating the completion of the foundation. And then verses 12-13 knock us down from that emotional high: “but many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house…”

-Even though a wonderful new temple was taking shape, it could not erase the history of losing the first temple and suffering in exile. How well do we lament in the church today?

-What might it look like for us to healthily lament parts of the past we have been called to leave behind?

-The picture we get in verse 13 is of people rejoicing and lamenting side by side. How well does the church today create space for this sort of cooperative worship? How might we do better?

-How do both praise and lament keep us grounded in God?

Spend a few minutes as a group praising God for his faithfulness to Christ Community Church over the years, lamenting what has been left in the past, and seeking wisdom on where He will lead us tomorrow.

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