Out of Chronicles, Into Ezra
Our daily reading is taking us out of Chronicles and into Ezra. This brings us into a new era of Israelite history. I call this era the “post-exilic era.” As we saw at the end of both Chronicles and Kings, Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and took the Israelites to Babylon. This is the Babylonian Exile (sometimes called the Babylonian Captivity). After some 70 years, the Persians defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Israelites to return home, bringing the exile to an end. While everything that happens in Kings and Chronicles was before this exile, everything that happens in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther is after it. So as we come into Ezra, we are done with the pre-exilic Israelite monarchy and are dealing with the post-exilic Israelite refugees. It is a pretty dramatic shift.
His Love Endures Forever
But while the era changes, the spirit and style of the book remains the same. Ezra was written by the same people who wrote Chronicles. Although Chronicles covers the pre-exile monarchy era , it was actually written in the post-exilic era. For that reason, we find some of the same characteristics in Ezra that we found in Chronicles, particularly the extensive lists and genealogies.
Not only so, but we find the same theme in Ezra that we found in Chronicles. That theme is “God is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” This line is stated in Ezra 3:11 just as it was stated many times in Chronicles, and it means the same in both books. When the post-exilic people looked back at where they had been and what they had been through, they saw God’s goodness and love in a way they never saw before. They recognized that God was indeed good to them and did indeed love them.
These similarities were on my mind as I started Ezra today, and they led me to a couple realizations. These realizations encouraged me, and I think they might encourage you as well. So I want to share them with you.
The first is that the consistency of the writing style of the post-exilic books is evidence of the trustworthiness of the Bible, that is, the fact that the Bible is the inspired and accurate word of God it claims to be. Our faith hinges on the Bible. This is why those who hate our faith attack the Bible. They know that if they can undermine the Bible they can undermine our faith.
Now there are many ways to answer these attacks, to prove that the Bible is trustworthy. And I saw today that the consistency of style between the post-exilic books is one of those. If the Bible is indeed a series of books written by many people over time and not just a story written by one person at one time, then we would not only expect those books to have different characteristics but we would expect the books written at the same time to have the same characteristics. And that is exactly what we find.
The books written by Moses are not like the books written by the post-exilic authors. Joshua and Judges are not like the books written by the post-exilic authors. Kings isn’t even like the books by the post-exilic authors, and it covers much of the same material. Only the post-exilic authors write like the post-exilic authors, and all the post-exilic authors (which includes the prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and several of the Psalms) write like the post-exilic authors. There is a consistency to their writing not shared by other writings.
You can easily tell a post-exilic writing from any other writing in the Old or New Testaments. To me, this indicates that they are what they say they are. They are legitimate writings of this time period, not fictions from another time period.
Names That Make a Difference…to God!
The second is a new implication of the genealogies. I always knew the genealogies had a point. Likewise, I knew they meant something to somebody but, never thought they meant much to me. As we read through Chronicles this past month (as well as Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3), I saw that the genealogies indicate we are part of God’s story, which was encouraging. But today I saw something else equally encouraging. Now I see that these genealogies indicates God knows these people.
One of the big problems we modern readers have with the genealogies is that we don’t know who these people are. We can’t even pronounce their names. But God knows who they are. While we have forgotten them, He has not. Even though we never knew them, He did and still does. And while there are too many of them for us to keep track of, there are not too many for God to keep track of. These genealogies show that God knows who His people are and what they have done for Him. And that truth includes us. God knows all of us just as He knows all of them. God has all of us on His genealogy.
So those are a few encouraging things I saw I today’s reading. I hope they encourage you, too. I also hope you will keep reading with me and keep being encouraged!