Lent 2024 – Four Post-Exilic People – Part 1

Selections from Ezra 1-6

Zerubbabel: The Temple Building Governor

I. The JOY of coming HOME. (Ez. 1-3)
A. The FULFILLMENT of the PROPHECY . (1:2-4; Jer. 25:12; Is. 45:13)
B. It’s the EXODUS all over AGAIN. (1:5-11; Ex. 12:35-36)
C. The RENEWAL of temple WORSHIP . (3:1-6)
D. The TEMPLE rebuilding BEGINS. (3:7-11)
E. A HINT that all is not WELL. (3:12-13)

As we enter Lent we move from the familiar stories of the life of Jesus to the less familiar history of the Jews returning from exile in Babylon. While we may not know all these stories well, we do appreciate the feelings of coming home after a long time away. The Jews are coming back to Jerusalem.

1. Kid’s Question: When have you been homesick? What was it like when you finally got back home?
2. In your own spiritual life when have you felt a longing for a sense of peace and stability? Did God meet you in that desire or by fulfilling that desire?

II. A CONFLICT (?) and its RESOLUTION (?). (Ezra 4-6)
B. Two LETTERS out of CONTEXT. (4:6-24)
C. Two PROPHETS speaking TRUTH. (5:1-2; Hag. 2:7; Zech. 2:11; 8:23; 14:16)
D. Two MORE stories to COME. (Ezra 7- Nehemiah 13)
E. Finally the TEMPLE does get REBUILT. (6:13-22)

Joy always seems clouded by something in our broken world. The story of the returning exiles is no different. Opposition to what they are doing arises…and that complicates things. What makes it even more complicated is that there are several ways to think about what is happening. Don’t you wish is was just more simple?

3. Do you ever wish that understanding the Bible was more simple? What would be the benefit of that? What might be the negative aspects of greater simplicity?
4. When has you lack of clarity on something taught you something new, maybe something you didn’t have room to accept prior to your struggle and questioning?
5. What do you think God wanted the temple and the worship of the Jewish people to accomplish in the world? What does He want to do through the church today?

III. LENT and our spiritual QUESTIONING. (Mark 9:24)
A. Tension: The POWER of “UNSETTLEDNESS”. (Heb 12:26-29)
B. Our tendency to DEFINE and CONFINE God. (Is. 66:1-2; Acts 17:24,25)
C. Seeing the UNCERTAINTY as an INVITATION. (Jn. 7:17; Jn 21:21-22)

The season of Lent is specifically designed to walk us through these confusing times – times when we aren’t sure which way to turn or what believing in Jesus actually looks like in this broken world. We want it all tied up in a package of clarity. But Jesus often refuses to do that to invite us deeper into a relationship of trust with Him.
6. What has been your experience of Lent in the past? What questions do you have about this season of the Christian Year?
7. Where do you find yourself attempting to “define and confine” God?
8. Is certainty or confidence a bad thing? What are the good things about uncertainty? Should there be room for both in our Christian journey?