Return from Exile
Open Your Bible
Ezra 1:1-11, Jeremiah 29:4-14, Psalm 122:1-9
Is there a season in your life that you look back on and think: Those were the good old days?
I remember the summer I was seventeen—old enough to have a driver’s license and a job; young enough to have no real expenses or responsibilities. My friends and I spent those months before senior year on the lakes (Michigan has 11,000 of them!), creating scavenger hunts around town, swimming in the downtown fountain, and buying half-price Chinese food at closing time. They were glory days for sure.
I now have a son who will be seventeen next month. He’s tall enough to give me big bear hugs, he drives his sister to school, and he meets his friends at Chile Burrito almost every day before lacrosse practice because his metabolism demands five square meals a day. These may be his glory days, but they somehow feel like mine too.
We love how things were. Sometimes we even love how things are. And, boy, does time have a way of softening our memories. When things are good, we want them to stay this way forever. And when things are bad, we long for the good old days.
But if I had stayed seventeen forever, I’d have missed out on having a seventeen-year-old of my own. And if I insist now that these are the best days of my life, I’d be doubting that God has new good for me still ahead.
In the book of Ezra, the returning exiles recalled the glory days of Jerusalem, some having firsthand memories. God’s presence was with them in the temple, the city was protected, and the favor of the Lord was on them and against their enemies. As they returned to the city, they found themselves caught in the tension of looking backwards to what used to be—even relearning the law they had forgotten—while believing God would carry them into a new future. There’s a wonderful moment when they reestablish Passover and confess their sin. But that would also mean continuing to trust God with their future as they walked forward in obedience.
Friends, not unlike the Israelites in the fifth and sixth centuries BC, by opening this book you are doing the important work of looking back to learn and remember what God has done. I’m so glad you’re here! My encouragement to you in this reading plan is to also keep your eyes up—at the yet-unfulfilled promises God has made in His Word. No matter what the seasons of your life have looked like or look like even now, know this for certain: Christ is indeed doing a new thing!