While I was on my brief sabbatical respite, I read through the book of Ezra who is a new Biblical hero. I am beginning Nehemiah and think Ezra might soon have company!
Nehemiah took on the responsibility of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and today in my reading of chapter 2, I believe I have discovered one of the most profound and significant and overlooked chapters in Scripture.
For let’s be honest – many believers want to read only the New Testament books because they “talk about Jesus” or “are comforting during the hard times” or “are understandable.” By the way, most preachers stick to NT passages for the same reasons….
Additionally, the books in the Old Testament have all those really hard to pronounce names, especially Ezra! However, when we skip over the historical books or the “tough” books of the Tanakh we are missing some of the most meaty and memorable texts of Scripture and today I want to share with some of the insights I found for myself for the first time at the age of 46 (SHAME ON ME!)
- There has been a long-standing debate between Jewish evangelists and anti-missionaries about Daniel 9:24-27 and WHEN the decree to rebuild the city took place. Believers in Jesus have often argued (except Arnold Fruchtenbaum) argue for 444/45 BC as this is when is the “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was given in Daniel 9:25. We will then argue than that the literal interpretation of the 483 years of the Hebrew calendar overlaid on the Gregorian/Julian calendar will place you in Jerusalem around AD 29/30 for Messiah Jesus’ arrival. Anti-missionaries will argue that the Daniel passage should either be understood allegorically because the fulfillment of the passage Ezra 1:2 when Cyrus decreed that the Temple was to be rebuilt and Cyrus fits the motif of a Messianic figure and the dates don’t match up. HOWEVER, there is a problem or two or more with the anti-missionary approach. (1) How could a foreign king who never acknowledged the LORD God be “messiah” in any capacity? (2) Why was Daniel SO SPECIFIC about those prophetic time frame if it was to be allegorical? (3) The specificity of Nehemiah’s request in 2:5 is to rebuild Jerusalem which sets the clock ticking on Daniel’s prophecy. Scripture sides with Jewish evangelism and not anti-missionaries.
- There is an interesting phrase in 2:6 that validates the historicity of the book of Esther, which some today want to deny. “The queen also sitting beside him [Artaxerxes].” In this time period, no one would care where the queen was sitting … unless the WHO of the queen was very important! Esther’s influence to the Purim story is obvious; therefore, can we doubt that Esther helped nudge this story along (and by all understanding Ezra is the author of Esther)? Therefore, Esther saved the Jewish people at Purim and most likely influenced a wall building and prophecy!
- Nehemiah upon his return to Jerusalem encounters 3 opponents that have modern implications – two from what will become modern Jordan and one from what become modern Saudi Arabia. He tells them in 2:20 that Israel alone will rebuild the wall and something will extremely modern significance: they have no portion, right and/or memorial/historic claim to the land. WOW!!! Perhaps a lot of the Middle East chaos today could be solved if we just returned to Nehemiah 2:20 and believed it!
So … Return to the lost chapters of Scripture. We just might learn something. We might just solve some of the world’s and evangelism problems.