As we begin our study of the book of Ezra, I want to make a few observations about this book as a whole and then move into asking some interpretive questions about the text before us today and wrap things up with some personal application.

FIRST OF ALL, it is important to note that Ezra himself does not show up until chapter 7 and when he does show up, we learn that Ezra is a priest (pastor) and a scribe (biblical scholar) who had “set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:1 – 10).

So, Ezra was a man who was devoted to not only learning God’s Word and to teaching God’s Word, but he was also devoted to living obediently to God’s Word.

SECONDLY, it is important to note that chapters 1 – 6 cover a period of about twenty years of Israel’s history from the point of their release from exile to the end of the rebuilding of the altar and the temple; then, there are nearly sixty years of time that elapses between chapters 6 and 7 when Ezra arrives in Jerusalem to call God’s people to repentance so that they may be restored (rebuilt) just as the altar and the temple had been restored (chs. 7 – 10).2

So, in the book of Ezra, God is faithfully restoring his family here on earth, beginning with the altar and the temple (chs. 1 – 6) and then continuing into the community of believers (chs. 7 – 10); through the work of one man, Ezra, God is restoring a community of worship in a place of worship at a specific time in history when the worship of the God of Israel was at an all-time low.


The storyline of these verses is fairly simple: 1) The king makes a proclamation about Israel’s release from exile (vv. 1 – 4); and 2) Israel responds to the proclamation of the king (vv. 5 – 11). Look at Ezra 1:1 – 11 with me…

EZRA 1:1 – 11

1In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 2”Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” 5Then rose up the heads of the father’s houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem. 6And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. 7Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 1030 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; 11all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up when the exiles were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

IN VERSES 1 – 4: The word of king Cyrus sets the restoration of God’s altar, temple, and family into motion but this word from the king is predicated nearly seventy years earlier by the Word of God to the prophet Jeremiah.

We will look at God’s Word to the prophet Jeremiah shortly but for now it is important to recognize that an earthly king who did not serve the God of Israel has just made a proclamation because his heart was stirred up by the Spirit of the one and only true King of Israel; he even recognizes that the God of Israel has provided his earthly possessions and he believes that God has instructed him to send the exiles home to rebuild/restore God’s house of worship which is why he gives instructions for financial assistance for the returning exiles.

What we need to see here is that God can and will and often does use any means necessary to accomplish his plan of redemption.

IN VERSES 5 – 11: Israel responds to the word of the king. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be an Israelite hearing the word of King Cyrus and comprehending that after nearly seventy years of captivity in a foreign land, the nation of Israel was now being released to go back to their home and rebuild their place of worship.

The journey would not be easy, and this generation of Israelites had most likely never even seen Jerusalem or its temple; everything they knew had been handed down to them by a previous generation.

So, the journey ahead would have to be a journey of absolute faith and obedient trust. Faith and obedient trust are always a response to the stirring of the Spirit of God. This is why, beginning with the leaders, God’s people rise up in preparation for the journey ahead as everyone else around them contributes from their wealth to support them in their journey; King Cyrus even gives back all of the temple furnishings that had been captured nearly seventy years ago.

What we need to see here is that when the King speaks, his people respond obediently.


In verse 1 we read that “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing”. What is the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah and why is it so important to note here?

Jeremiah was a prophet whom God raised up to confront Israel for her sin, warn her of impending judgment and promise her that God would redeem her after the discipline had produced its cleansing and corrective design.

Do not miss the purpose of God sending a prophet to speak to you; God’s purpose of raising up prophets in the Scriptures is always to confront your sin, warn you of impending discipline and to remind you of God’s promise of redemption.

The end goal of a prophet is always to correct you, to refine you, to instruct you and to encourage you as you fight against the effects of Satan, Sin and Death.

This is exactly what the reference in Ezra 1:1 would have reminded the people of Israel of. As soon as the name, Jeremiah, was uttered, the people of Israel would have remembered his prophecy nearly seventy years earlier.

In summary, Jeremiah confronted Israel’s sin of adulterous idolatry under the reign of Kings Josiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah (Jer. 1:3; 13:15 – 27). Jeremiah confronted Israel and her kings, and he warned them of upcoming judgment and discipline through Babylonian captivity which he also promised would end after seventy years (Jer. 25:11 – 12).

In fact, Jeremiah promises again in 29:10 – 11 that God would release Israel after seventy years of Babylonian captivity. You may be familiar with the famous passage that says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).

This famous passage is the promise that God gives to his people after confronting them for their sin and after warning them of impending judgment and literally right before the judgement began with King Zedekiah watching his sons getting executed before the Babylonians gouged his eyes out with hot irons leaving the memory of his murdered sons seared on his memory as the last thing he ever saw before the Babylonians nearly decimated the nation of Israel and hauled the survivors off to seventy years of captivity (2 Kings 25:7).3

In summary, Jeremiah confronted Israel for her sin and called her to repent. When Israel refused to repent, Jeremiah warned her that judgement was coming. When they still refused to repent, he reminded them that even though they had blown their chance to repent, that God was a promise keeping and redeeming God and that their punishment would only last seventy years.

This is why Ezra 1:1 mentions Jeremiah’s name. We need to understand that God is a promise keeping and redeeming God who uses consequences to correct his people and to help them trust in him for their cleansing redemption.


I do not know what you are facing in this season of your life right now. I do not know what your ongoing battle with sin looks like. I do not know what God has been saying to you in your private moments of prayer and desperation. I do not know what God is calling you to do in this season.

But I do know this, if the text we have just studied teaches us that the Spirit of God stirs up the hearts of unbelievers like king Cyrus and believers like the nation of Israel, then I know that He is speaking to you and I today. He is speaking to you and I about our issues with control or powerlessness or helplessness or acceptance. God knows that we are prone to wander off in search of some sense of control, power, comfort and acceptance. We look to the darkest corners of this earth to satisfy those hungers.

It is highly possible that some of you are entrenched in some deep dark sinful pattern, and you have not been taking repentance seriously. Others of you may be in a season of repentance from years of sinful living and it is excruciatingly hard to stop what is wrong and start living rightly. Still, some of you may find yourself in a season of reaping the consequences of unrepented sin and you are wondering if there is any light at the end of the tunnel.

What is the King saying to you right now? What sin is he calling you to turn away from? Where do you need the King’s strength?


Regardless of whether your circumstances have to do with some addiction, or some relationship, or some health issue, or some financial issue, the truths we have learned from our text today should be encouraging and challenging at the same time.

We have learned that God can and will and often does use any means necessary to accomplish his plan of correction and redemption.

We have also learned that when the King speaks, his people respond obediently.

We have also learned that God is a promise keeping and redeeming God who uses consequences to correct his people and to help them trust in him for their cleansing redemption.

Although the story of our text is ancient, the truths of our text are timeless. God will do whatever he needs to do to correct you and I and bring us to himself.

Although the story of the text depicts a human king speaking and humans obeying, the real story of the text is that God has spoken and when he speaks it is vital that we obey him as we entrust our lives to him.

When you and I begin to get a grasp on the truth that God is a promise keeping God who has provided a way to escape the consequences and the powerful hold of our sin through the cross and the empty tomb of Christ, then and only then can we obediently trust him to cleanse us, to redeem us and to release us from what has held us captive for so long.

Just as the Israelites in Ezra set their faces towards Jerusalem where God was about to restore not only their place of worship but also the entire worshipping community, so too, Jesus also set his face towards Jerusalem with his heart full of joy so that he could die in our place at the cross so that we could come to him in faith and be restored by our Heavenly Father (Luke 9:51 – 53; Heb. 12:22).

If you have been running from Jesus your entire life or if you have recently come to Jesus because your sin nearly crushed you or if you are currently facing the consequences of your sin as you work to repent, please do not ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit as he stirs your heart towards the cross, the empty tomb, and the promise of Heaven.

The way that you and I turn our hearts away from captivity in Babylon (our earthly struggle with sin) is to look to the one and only King whose Word to you and I is salvation, freedom, and power at the foot of the bloody cross, in the doorway of the empty tomb as we look forward to the new Jerusalem, our promised eternal home in Heaven.

As we wrap this up, I think it is appropriate to encourage all of us to write down and maybe even confess or share one thing that God has been confronting, warning and promising to you.

And then look to the cross, the empty tomb and the promise of Heaven, look to Christ, who accomplished everything necessary for you to come into your Father’s presence, look to Christ and be encouraged, for as the promise foretold, God says “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).

This promise is bound up in the crucified, risen and returning Christ. Look to him in faith. Look to him in obedience. Look to him for help with your sin. Look to him for comfort when things are hard. Look to him for strength to endure. Look to him for the hope you need to put one foot in front of the other as we journey towards Heaven together. – Love you guys!

Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).

2 Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2002), 508.

3 Derek W. H. Thomas, Ezra and Nehemiah: Reformed Expository Commentary, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2016), 4.