Ezra- Nehemiah - Esther
August 8, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Nehemiah 8—10
In Nehemiah Chapters 8-10, we are given a glimpse into the spiritual rebuilding that Governor Nehemiah desired for his fellow Jews. As mentioned before, the rebuilding and the repairing of Jerusalem’s walls and gates is a metaphor for the spiritual rebuilding of the Jews as God’s chosen people; a light to the rest of the human race illuminating the One True God. Nehemiah believed that the true strength of the Jewish people was not realized in the fortifications of the Holy City, but in the faithfulness of their God as the people responded in faithful obedience. So, as the completion of the building project draws to a close, the priest, Ezra, takes to the stage and God’s word (given through Moses) is read for the people. They, just like us, must confront their own sin, embrace the gift of God’s grace and mercy, experience the joy of redemption, and finally covenant with God to live in faithful obedience.
Restoration begins with Repentance
August 1, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Nehemiah 5
Nehemiah was called by God and sent by the King of Persia to rebuild and repair the walls and gates of Jerusalem during the post-exile period from 444 to 432 BCE. The wall, though important, is in many ways a metaphor for the internal boundaries God's people needed to incorporate in order for future generations to live as God’s chosen among all the other nations of the world. The foundations of the Jewish faith being laid during this period would become the religious climate in which Jesus would minister 400 years later. Last week we learned how Nehemiah inspired the Jews to take action and face opposition in carrying out their task. Their enemies were strong and well organized, but easily identified. However, the biggest threat to Nehemiah and the remnant community was actually hiding in plain sight and would prove to be one of Nehemiah’s greatest challenges as a leader. This Sunday we will look at Nehemiah chapter 5 and explore how power and privilege intersect with responsibility and repentance, and how Nehemiah provides today’s church with a compelling call to action.
Inspiring action while confronting opposition
July 25, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Nehemiah 2
The book of Nehemiah explores the rebuilding of both the Physical walls of Jerusalem as well as the internal moral boundaries of God’s law for the betterment of the Jewish people. For all practical purposes, the Jews of Nehemiah’s day were seeking to rebuild the Jewish faith in a post-Jewish world. Such an undertaking required an honest evaluation of their reality, a firm conviction in their identity as God’s chosen people and a commitment to remain faithful to God’s will, even in the face of opposition. Many leading scholars are openly acknowledging that Christians in the West are now living in what can be described as a post-Christian world. The influences in our society are no longer tied to Christian moral values, and the idea of Christendom (the central role of Christianity in society) is no longer dominant. So where does that leave the Church? Much like Nehemiah, we too are faced with a daunting challenge of rebuilding, renewing and restoring. We are often stuck in remembering the past while longing to return to a world that no longer exists. Such backwards fixation can lead to despair and hopelessness. However, our current reality is also overflowing with possibility and promise if we have eyes to see. Can we, like Nehemiah trust God to give us eyes to see what is and what can be? Can we, like Nehemiah trust God to sustain us and inspire us to more than we ever asked or imagined possible? Can we, like Nehemiah, persevere in the face of opposition and find new solutions to current troubles?
Nehemiah 2 & 3
July 18, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Nehemiah 2
Nehemiah is best known for his efforts in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem following the exile and subsequent return of the Jews. Last week we learned how Nehemiah committed himself to months of prayerful discernment and heartfelt petition before approaching King Artaxerxes to commission him to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls and gates. Jerusalem’s wall, while crucial in the defense and reputation of God’s city, is really a metaphor for what was required of God’s people moving forward. Nehemiah’s commitment was not merely to physical reconstruction of a wall, but to practices and boundaries which will lead the next generation’s faith in the LORD. The community of faith, the Jewish remnant, would find its identity in the boundaries of God’s law; which was to be observed, kept and treasured. Rebuilding of such scale demands honest and humble evaluation of what really IS in order to properly rebuild what is TO BE. As Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem he must honestly address the reality of the situation, determine who his true allies are, and then rigorously resist those who would undermine God’s will from within.
July 11, 2021 • Pastor Dan May • Nehemiah 1
Over the last few weeks we have heard stories of people who were called out of a life of comfort to do the will of God. Ezra was called to leave his highly regarded role in Babylon to become the main spiritual guide in Jerusalem. We found Esther who had to make a choice which literally was for her life. And today we begin to journey into the life of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the King and as far as we know had a pretty cushy life. He, like those mentioned earlier, was called out to a higher purpose. But did he listen?
July 4, 2021 • Becca Gamboa • Esther
In the midst of what was going on in the book of Ezra, another story was unfolding during the reign of King Xerxes: the story of Esther. Esther (in Hebrew “Hadassah”) was an orphaned Hebrew girl, being raised by her cousin Mordecai, from a Jewish family living far away from Jerusalem. This orphaned Hebrew girl became Queen Esther “for such a time as this” just before a horrible plot to exterminate the Jewish people through mass genocide unfolded. Esther’s story was taking place after the Temple in Jerusalem had been completed, but Ezra had not yet arrived to teach in Jerusalem. Before moving into the book of Nehemiah, we will pause but only for a moment, in the book of Esther. One reason to pause is to recognize God’s providence in the midst of one man’s ravenous scorn toward the people of God. Another is to recognize God’s leading in our lives during times when He seems silent.
Leading in Reconstruction 1
June 27, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Ezra 7—10
Over the past month we have been studying the book of Ezra which up until this point, has focused on the efforts of the Jewish remnant to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It has been interesting to study a text named after a man that has yet to be introduced. Chronologically, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem 58 years after the temple has been completed, during the reign of King Artaxerxes. While the first six chapters of Ezra focus on the physical rebuilding of the temple and the first remnant of returning exiles, the second half of the book of Ezra focuses on a spiritual rebuilding, emphasizing a return to God’s law. Ezra is a highly regarded teacher of the Israelites in Babylon. The LORD calls him out of his comfortable life and commissions him to lead the second great migration of returning exiles and uses his gifts to restore the community to their moral center as God’s chosen people.
Conviction Courage and Civility
June 20, 2021 • Pastor Chris Pappenfus • Ezra 5—6
Throughout the book of Ezra the remnant people of Israel are reminded of God’s faithfulness, their identity as God’s chosen people, and their resulting purpose. As they return and rebuild in the face of opposition, they must carry themselves with conviction, courage and civility. Only when the people are unified under the common purpose of God’s calling and the protection of God’s blessing are they successful. This Sunday we will be exploring Ezra chapters 5 and 6. After a 16 year pause on the rebuilding of the Temple, the people of God have been roused from their apathy and selfishness and once again set to work. The difference in their resolve is evident. The leaders are focused and possess conviction, courage and civility which not only serve to advance the reconstruction efforts but further garners the support and favor of the highest earthly authority, King Darius.