The story of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah is a story of restoration, a time of spiritual reformation.
Why is it a reformation? Because God restored them from a bad situation in exile to a better one back to their own land. That it is God’s work is very clear from the beginning of the book of Ezra, “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…” (Ezra 1:1). King Cyrus issued a decree, by the Lord’s prompting, telling them to go back to their land. It is therefore a change for the better compared to their situation in exile.
However, the story is not just about the rebuilding of the temple, the rebuilding of the city, and the resettling of the people. It is a restoration of their good and intimate relationship with God. That’s God’s intention in this story.
And this is what we all need to realize in God’s intention for us even until today. Our greatest need is not economic reformation, not a change in our education system, not physical health improvement, not recovery from sickness, not development of talent and skills, and not social status upgrade. Above everything else, we all need a spiritual reformation.
Spiritual reformation is the work of God in restoring us to himself and to his purposes.
So, before we ask ourselves, “What do we need to do?”, we must ask first, “What is God doing?” Why is that? The story of Ezra-Nehemiah (and the rest of the Bible!) tells us what God was doing to restore people back to himself. It is first a work of God even before we do something. From Cyrus’ decree to the response of the people to that decree, it is undeniable that it is the hand of the Lord at work. Those who responded were “everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:5).
What is spiritual reformation? It is the work of God in restoring us to himself and to his purposes. It is God’s work. So as you read and listen to the story of Ezra-Nehemiah, keep asking yourself, “What is God doing here?”