Hope in Ezra

Ezra for Advent  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Giving Moment

As Christians, we must continually grow and help others grow. Giving is a sacrificial activity, and that act of sacrifice is one way God uses to grow us and those around us.
And it’s worth it.
“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” - Hebrews 13:16


A couple of announcements for this morning:
Christmas Eve Services at Good News:
Okoboji - 4:00 PM
Estherville - 5:30 PM
Christmas Day Services at Good News:
All Locations - 9:30 AM

Congregational Greeting Time

Take a minute and greet those around you this morning!

Sermon Introduction

Good Morning, for those of you who may not know who I am, my name is Brandon and I’m glad you are joining us this morning. Each week we also have friends who join us online and we’re so glad you’re joining us.
This morning is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of Advent for the Christian is our January 1 — This is the New Year for the Church. We start our story over as we center ourselves on Jesus, and as any good story, we’re starting at the beginning.
Advent comes from the Latin term, “adventus,” meaning arrival. Advent is tasked with doing a very difficult, but a very needed task, taking the things that are really familiar to us, new again. At this point, the birth of Jesus, unfortunately feels, like a very familiar thing to us.
Advent does the beautiful thing by reminding us to cast our gaze to the stars, to see the light that guided wise men in search of the Savior of the World. Advent forces us to open our hands for how we’ll respond with great gifts for the birth of the King. Advent signifies, once again, that the Father thought you so worthy of saving, so that He sent His Son. The first Sunday of Advent is always about hope — that there are great things ahead for His people, and its only through Jesus that we’ll experience these great things.
This morning we’re going to break into the age old practice, one that the church has been doing for a long time, and make the familiar new again. And we’re going to do it by continuining in the Book of Ezra.
Yes, that’s right, Ezra for Advent.
Why? Because we can! Open up your Bibles to Ezra 7 and we’ll read out loud our key verse for this morning.
Let’s look at Ezra 7:27-28 this morning.
I’m going to read it from the ESV, — I invite you to stay seated this morning and hear God’s Word.
27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
[The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ezr 7:27–28.]
Let’s pray together.

Body of Sermon

Ezra Chapter 7 is a turning point in our story.
If you’re just joining us — we’ve been in a series through Ezra-Nehemiah where we’ve been witnessing God’s faithfulness to His people.
To catch us up, God’s people have recently been brought back into their promised land from the Lord. They are tasked with rebuilding their house of worship — and they’re doing so, so that they might experience the presence of God once again.
One thing we’ve learned is that there are always forces at work against what God is doing and against God’s people when they seek Him.
There’s one thing that keeps rising up above every obstacle, every unforeseen circumstance — and that’s the faithfulness of God — His ability to accomplish what He said He would accomplish.
There’s a continued, almost compounding, of God’s faithfulness. He’s faithful again, and again, and again, and again. And now… He gives them the gift of a guy named Ezra, the namesake for this book, and He comes with a job — He’s a teacher. Verse 10 of Ezra 7 tells us what Ezra brings to the table:
“10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ezr 7:10.)
In the middle of the story, we have a gift for ourselves, we see somebody who shows up — who champions truth, who not only holds up the value of truth, but is willing to show us how to live it.
This is what scripture has called “righteousness” — or another way to say it, would be, “right living” — and it’s the orientation of the heart around God’s pledge of affection for His people.
Sometimes when we think of truth, we think of it as very clear indications between what is right and wrong — but righteousness is God’s ability to make everything right, and if we’re willing to pair that with truth, God is making everything right through His Son, Jesus — truth is not some weird, abstract concept, based off of whatever we want it to be, truth is based on a person — Jesus.
Long before Jesus ever shows up — Ezra is helping to reorient this people around God’s righteousness and truth, when truth Himself does come, the world is always judged against the Truth of God, which is Jesus, that has been revealed.
Every little piece of anticipation, every little build up, every item of story and character development, in the Old Testament, is waiting to be fully realized in Jesus Christ.
Here’s what I mean...
Ezra has a wild devotion to the Word of God, and people are changed and transformed by it. Scripture is intended to change your life. — Scripture doesn’t have any power by itself. But the Spirit of God is always pushing us towards Jesus, the One who is changing your life.
Ezra 7 is a reorientation, like I said, it’s a turning point in our story, because it lights us up to the fact that there is something deeply central to the Word of God in the life of the church. It centers us. It points our attention to the focal point in the hopeful Word of God, that Jesus Christ Himself is the fulfillment of every word.
This is why I think Ezra 7 can help us during the Season of Advent, it orients us back on the Hope of the World, the very nature of truth — the person of truth, who has showed us how we are to rightly live in the world.
Let’s take a look at verse 27 and I want to show you what we’re talking about, how Ezra is pointing us to something beyond what’s going on in the moment. — I want to read it to you in two different translations to help build a better picture of what’s going on here.
In the English Standard Version, it says, in verses 27-28 “27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.”
Ezra 7:27–28 NIV
Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.
The King, a guy named Artaxerxes, has said, Ezra is here to teach you — so let him teach you. And verses 27-28 are a response from Ezra, a blessing back to God in response for His wonderful work.
But did you notice, there are some slight differences — and they’re not differences in meaning, as far as the two different translations are concerned, but I think the NIV translation, the second one we read, helps point us to something in the future.
In verse 27, in the NIV version, the thing that’s in the King’s heart is defined. God is bringing back honor.
It probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to us, that’s okay, but for the other times in the Old Testament, where “bring honor” is used, most often points to a future fulfillment, in which the Messiah, the Savior King of the world, will bring about Himself.
Let me give you another use of this word, “bring honor,” and in the passage I’m going to read, instead of bring honor, it says, “adorn.”
Isaiah 60:5–11 (NIV)
Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you,
the rams of Nebaioth will serve you;
they will be accepted as offerings on my altar,
and I will adorn my glorious temple.
“Who are these that fly along like clouds,
like doves to their nests?
Surely the islands look to me;
in the lead are the ships of Tarshish,
bringing your children from afar,
with their silver and gold,
to the honor of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.
“Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings will serve you.
Though in anger I struck you,
in favor I will show you compassion.
Your gates will always stand open,
they will never be shut, day or night,
so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations—
their kings led in triumphal procession.
Ezra is so hope-filled in the story of God’s people, because He knows something greater is coming.. and it would be His great privilege and joy to point them to that truth, in the Word of God, until the Lord Himself brings back the honor and adorns His people and His place with His glory.
This sounds like a story we’ve heard before.
John the Baptist, he came heralding a message of truth, but he said in John 1:27
John 1:27 NIV
He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
There have been legitimate moments for fan-girling in the history of the church. It’s okay to oooh and aaah about God doing great things, but we can’t dwell there. Jesus said John the Baptizer was the greatest man to ever live. He was okay to oooh and aaah at, and the same for Ezra — He was the right guy at the right time, and it’s always impressive when we see what God has been doing… but God is in the work of bringing back honor, of adorning His church with glory, and power, and righteousness — He is in the business of fulfilling His every promise to us.
As we dwell on the idea of “hope” on the first Sunday of Advent, we are considering that for everything taught in Ezra and by Ezra, will find its hope and fulfillment in the person of Jesus. In Ezra 7, Ezra is lifting up high the fact that something greater is ahead. I want to read to you a few verses from John 1 this morning — so we can remember what God is doing.
John 1:9–14 (NIV)
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We await, as we do every year, the glory that is in Jesus Christ.


1 Corinthians 11:23–32 (ESV)
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.


Go now and walk in the light of the Lord. Stay alert for the Lord is near. Put on the armour of light and live openly and honourably. Pray for peace for all God’s people.
And may God clothe you in the light of Christ; May Christ Jesus teach you his ways; And may the Holy Spirit keep you alert and prepared for the coming day of the Lord.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord, In the name of Christ. Amen. (Nathan Nettleton)
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