“Israel is a scattered flock…” (Jeremiah 50:17a)
Years before the the book of Ezra begins, the prophet Jeremiah foretold events leading up to our study. His prophecy showed that God would take drastic measures to protect His people from destroying themselves — but He would mercifully preserve those who were willing to turn back to Him.
Prophet: Jeremiah — wrote the book of Jeremiah, which contains prophecies that are fulfilled in Ezra
Scribe: Ezra — wrote the book of Ezra
Ezra will arrive in chapter 7 of his book, to teach the people to follow God.
Scattered Flock: Israel — Israel (a.k.a. Jacob) was a founding father of God’s Chosen People. Israel had 12 sons whose descendants (tribes) settled in the Promised Land. Both the nation and the land are called “Israel” (same as today).
How the Flock of Israel was Scattered:
10 Northern Tribes — Ten of the tribes of Israel, living in the northern part of the land, split off from the others and stopped following God. These tribes were conquered and taken captive first. Their land was never recovered, and most of the survivors were lost to intermarriage.
Southern Kingdom of Judah — The remaining tribes living to the south are referred to as “Judah.” The capital city of Jerusalem is here. Eventually the Judeans (Jews) stopped following God, too. They were taken captive, but God promised He would bring back a small remnant of them. This is what happens in Ezra.
– God chose Israel/Jacob to be a founder of His Chosen People.
– Israel had 12 sons.
– The descendants of these sons settled the Promised Land.
– They fought and split into two kingdoms.
– All of them started worshiping other gods.
– All of them were eventually conquered and/or carried off into captivity.
– A small remnant of the Southern Kingdom was allowed to return to their land. This begins the book of Ezra.
Is it egotistical or ethnocentric for God to ask people to worship only Him?
The twelve tribes had been turning away from God for many years, while He patiently tried to show them that they would only destroy themselves this way.
Sure enough, they began sacrificing their own children in the fire to foreign gods (among other injustices)! Oppression of the weak is one of the top sins that makes God so flaming mad in the Old Testament.
“…they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire… the LORD was very angry…” (2 Kings 17:17-18)
“You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.” (Ezekiel 16:21)
Worshiping man-made idols makes no sense:
“Doesn’t it occur to them to say, ‘Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I’ve used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!'” (Isaiah 44:19, The Message)
We become like whatever we worship:
“They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” (Jeremiah 2:5, NIV)
“Those who make idols end up like them. So does everyone who trusts them.”
(Psalm 135:18, God’s Word Translation)
There is always hope:
But now listen…
This what the Lord says, the one who made you,
formed you from the womb,
and who will help you…
…apart from me there is no God.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim
and declare it…
And let him speak future events;
let them tell him what will happen…
Didn’t I tell you and announce it long ago?
…I have formed you;
…Return to me;
because I’ve redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:1-8, 21-22)
My idol worship may not be as obviously destructive as the Old Testament variety, but any time I value something more than I value God, I end up making unhealthy choices. God promises His help, if I return to Him.
If today were my last day on earth, I would:
…be sure that I understand, live in, and demonstrate God’s forgiveness.
This is the beginning of a study that is too big and complex for me. My first task now is to worship You alone, above anything else that catches my attention. You are the only living Creator. Only You know how I am formed and what will happen in my future. Only You have the power to help. Thank You for choosing to be merciful and welcoming.
For Jesus, who effectively covered my sins and made them whiter than snow. Amen.
All verses are NASB unless otherwise noted.