Category: Ezra-BibleTrekToday

Trek through Ezra

Thankful for men who weep!

Scripture reading for May 8th:  Ezra 8-10, Nehemiah 1-2

Key Scriptures:  Nehemiah 1:3-4  “They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”  When I (Nehemiah) heard these things, I sat down and wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”

Nehemiah was a servant (cup-bearer) to the king of Persia.  He heard a report from Jerusalem that the rebuilding of the city and its walls had stopped and the people there were demoralized and in trouble.  This caused him to weep and fast before the Lord.  He repented of sin and confessed wickedness. He poured out his heart in prayer and opened his life for God’s purposes.

Thankful for men who weep:  Jesus Christ, too, wept, over Jerusalem and then offered Himself as the One who would give His life to save His people!  “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  (Luke 19:41-42)

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Thankful for devoted teachers!

Scripture reading for May 5th:  Ezra 4-7

Key Scriptures:  Ezra 7:9-10  “He (Ezra) had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.  For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

Ezra, the priest, was a devoted student and teacher of God’s Law.  He also diligently observed it as part of his teaching, setting a good example.  As a result, God’s hand was upon him and he was called by God to return from Babylon and assist in the rebuilding of the temple of the Lord.

Thankful for diligent teachers:  “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”  (2nd Timothy 2:24-26)

 

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Praise for our Cornerstone!

Scripture reading for May 4th:  2nd Chronicles 35-36, Ezra 1-3

Key Scriptures:  Ezra 3:10-11  “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David, king of Israel.  With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:  “He is good; His love to Israel endures forever.”  And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”  

Ezra and Zerubbabel organized the workers to rebuild the temple of the Lord at the decree of King Cyrus.  They began the work in the second month of the second year of their arrival.  The first stone laid was the cornerstone and then the rest of the foundation.  When this was laid, the Levites and priests blew trumpets, crashed cymbals, and raised a great song of praise to God for His goodness and love!

Rejoice in our foundation:  “For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious Cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”  Not to you who believe, this stone is precious. . .” (1st Peter 2:6-7)

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Trembling at the Word!

Scripture reading for May 7th: Ezra 9-10

“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

Ezra was a devoted man with a calling on his life.  He understood from the study of God’s Word, that obedience brought blessing and disobedience brought a curse. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 14-15)  He had devoted himself to obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those in Israel to do the same.  God’s gracious hand was upon him as he set out for Jerusalem.  (Ezra 8:22)  His task was primarily spiritual restoration.  The broken down state of the Temple was a symptom of the deterioration of the spiritual life of God’s people and the result of forsaking obedience to the Law of God.

As Ezra arrived in Jerusalem and  he began to set things in order.  It came to his attention that the priests and Levites had not kept themselves separate from the pagan peoples and practices of the Canaanites.  They had inter-married and this had led to idolatry and unfaithfulness to the Lord.  (Ezra 9:1-2)  Ezra responded by an immediate humbling of himself before the Lord.  He tore his clothes, pulled hair from his head and beard, and sat down appalled until evening.  Others who “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” sat with him.  (Ezra 9:3-4)  Ezra then prayed a prayer of confession and repentance that pours out the grief and anguish that they were feeling for the sins  among God’s people.  (Ezra 9:6-15)

Repentance isn’t complete with just “trembling at the Word of God”.  Conviction of sin is only the first part and if genuine, it leads to action.  In this case, a convocation was called in three days to deal with this situation and an investigation brought out those who had disobeyed the Lord.  One hundred eleven men are listed as guilty of mixed marriages and they agreed to send their wives away.  What a serious turn-around and costly action was taken to bring God’s blessing on His people again!  Would that we all would “tremble at the Word of the Lord!”  May our trembling lead to action that brings true repentance that leaves no regrets.  (2 Corinthians 7:9-11)

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Fasting for protection!

Scripture reading for May 6th: Ezra 7-8

Were you ever in a strange land and carrying lots of money?  Mary and I went to Russia in 1999 to adopt our two daughters.  We had to travel by plane and train literally half-way around the world.  We were told that we needed about $3000 dollars in cash to use in the process.  For us this was a lot of cash to carry around in a strange part of the world where the average wage was around a hundred dollars per month.  We knew we needed God’s gracious hand on us as we traveled and we prayed for that!  God answered our prayers and we have two beautiful daughters as proof of God’s favor and protection!

The book of Ezra records another trip taken by God’s people where they traveled by caravan across 800 miles of dangerous territory with lots of valuables–25 tons of silver and nearly 4 tons of gold.  (Ezra 8:26-27)  Ezra had spoken to the king about the power of his God–the creator of Heaven and Earth.  Ezra had told the king about God’s power to save His people and now the rubber met the road.  He called the people together who would be taking the trip and asked them to fast and pray for God’s protection over their caravan.  (Ezra 8:21-23)  They set out after consecrating themselves and their valuables to the Lord for His protection.  Their trip was uneventful and nearly 4 months later they arrived safely in Jerusalem!

We are reminded today of the importance of being consecrated to the Lord.  Prayer and fasting are not ancient disciplines that are outdated in the twenty-first century.  They are as needed today as ever.  We travel this world that is full of dangers both physical and spiritual.  We have valuables more precious than gold and silver–our sons and daughters, our grand-children, our fellow human beings!  Prayer and fasting are needed to preserve their lives and souls!  In God’s gracious hands, we will arrive safely at our destination in the heavenly Jerusalem!

“The gracious hand of our God is on everone who looks to Him, but his great anger is against all who forsake Him.  So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer.” Ezra 8:22-23

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Attitude adjustments!

Scripture reading for May 5th: Ezra 4-6

In today’s political climate, Christians often feel that elected officials are against them and hinder the work that they are called to do.  For example, Christians have been working to reverse the law concerning abortion and have made much progress.  The current administration has sought to reverse the progress and make abortion on demand available for everyone.  It would be easy to get an attitude and loose heart!

Ezra recorded the spiritual battle for the rebuilding of the temple.  When the Jews came to Jerusalem armed with the orders from Cyrus, they were immediately opposed by local political enemies.  These enemies offered to help with the work, but really intended to hinder it.  After they were refused, they changed tactics and wrote letters to the next king, Artazerxes.  These letter brought accusations against the builders and caused the work to cease.  (Ezra 4:18-23)  The builders stopped work and left it unfinished for a time.  Discouragement set in because of political and spiritual opposition!

God’s word cannot be hindered, however. God had spoken through Cyrus that His temple would be rebuilt!   God raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people.  (Ezra 5:1-2)  The eye of their God was upon them and another letter was sent to the next king, Darius.  Darius made a search, found the decree of Cyrus, and enforced it!  (Ezra 6:6-12)   God does know how to change attitudes in political power!   Where He guides He also provides!  Darius ordered the bills paid by the royal treasury!  (Ezra 6:8)

We must be careful to not become discouraged or let our attitude droop.  God is in charge and can change the hearts of those in authority.  God’s people must heed the prophetic word to continue the work on His house!  Our focus must not change and our attitude must be positive!  God watches over His word to bring it to pass!

“For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.” Ezra 6:22

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The heart of the King!

Scripture reading for May 3rd: Ezra 1-3

The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” Proverbs 21:1

Are you worried when the politician of the ‘wrong’ party gets into office!  Are you concerned when a leader may not make decisions you agree with or like.   Even then, God is in control of pagan kings and He can turn their hearts to do His work.  We are to pray for our leaders and trust the Lord to turn their hearts to do His will!

Cyrus, King of Persia was named by the prophet Isaiah as the one God would choose to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  (Isaiah 44:26-28)  This prophetic word occurred over 15o years before in 688 B.C. when Babylon was the ruling world power.  Cyrus began fulfilling this prophesy by making the decree in 538 B.C. to rebuild the temple.  (Ezra 1:2-4)  He released Jews who wanted to go and was generous with them.  He sent 5400 articles made of gold and silver from the temple which had been taken by King Nebuchadnezzar some 70 years earlier!  (Ezra 1:9-10)

Ezra listed the numbers of people who returned as well.  Priest, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants were all accounted for.  The whole company was 42,360 Israelites, not counting servants.  (Ezra 2:64-67)  King Cyrus was generous with the people of God as well!

As we look at what transpired after the decreed 70 years of captivity (Jeremiah 29:10), we are amazed at how accurately God predicted what would happen and how and when it would come about!  God is able to turn the hearts of those in leadership.  It doesn’t matter if they are believers or not.  It doesn’t matter what their background or nationality.  God knows each person and uses them to fulfill His purposes.

Take time today and pray for our nation and it’s leadership.  We are far from where God wants us to be and our leaders are doing things that are contrary to God’s word and will.  Remember how God uses leaders and nations.  When His people pray, He hears and acts.  “The heart of the king (president, judge, senator, congressman) is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse where ever He pleases.” Proverbs 21:1

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Willing to die!

Scripture reading for May 15th: Esther 3-4

As God’s people, we should try to be the best citizens we can be.  We are to be known as people who obey the law and serve and pray for those in authority.  We  promote respect for those in authority and aid their proper rule.  However, when a civil authority gives orders to disobey the law of God, we must respectfully decline and obey God!  This can bring trouble and wrath from authority!

Haman was a man who was exalted by King Xerxes to a place of honor above all others.  All officials in the king’s palace knelt down and paid honor to Haman  (Esther 3:2)  except one man.  Mordecai, Queen Esther’s Jewish uncle, would not bow his knee before a man because of his faith in God and God’s word. (Esther 3:4)   This infuriated Haman and he devised a plot to eliminate all Jews from Persia.  He offered the king 375 tons of silver to allow him to eliminate these disrespectful people.  (Esther 3:8-9)  For those in authority to feel secure, any threat to their power or position must be removed! (Remember that King Xerxes removed Queen Vasti for her disrespect!)

How did Mordecai react to the decree to kill all Jews?  He immediately began to fast and pray, calling other Jews to join him.  (Ester 4:1-3)  He asked his niece, Queen Esther, to help.  She would have to exercise some wise “civil disobedience” herself if she were to approach the king.  She asked for prayer covering as she prepared for this potentially life-threatening task of asking the king for help.  (Ester 4:15-17)  Her attitude was one of faith and of willingness to die to protect her people!

Queen Esther could be a type of the Church.  The Church has been placed by God in places of influence to be a witness for God and His people.  The Church is to be submissive to the authorities of the world in all things except where that compromises faithfulness to God.  The Church is to be willing to die for what is right, rather than compromise the truth for the passing pleasures of sin for a season.  The Church must speak up or loose its place of influence for God!  Ask God what other lessons might be here for you as you read this story of God working through ordinary people to accomplish His purposes!

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Trembling at the Word of God!

Scripture reading for May 7th: Ezra 9-10

“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

Ezra was a devoted man with a calling on his life.  He understood from the study of God’s Word, that obedience brought blessing and disobedience brought a curse. (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 14-15)  He had devoted himself to obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those in Israel to do the same.  God’s gracious hand was upon him as he set out for Jerusalem.  (Ezra 8:22)  His task was primarily spiritual restoration.  The broken down state of the Temple was a symptom of the deterioration of the spiritual life of God’s people and the result of forsaking obedience to the Law of God.

As Ezra arrived in Jerusalem and set things in order, it came to his attention that the priests and Levites had not kept themselves separate from the pagan peoples and practices of the Canaanites.  They had inter-married and this had led to idolatry and unfaithfulness to the Lord.  (Ezra 9:1-2)  Ezra responded by an immediate humbling of himself before the Lord.  He tore his clothes, pulled hair from his head and beard, and sat down appalled until evening.  Others who “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” sat with him.  (Ezra 9:3-4)  Ezra then prayed a prayer of confession and repentance that pours out the grief and anguish that they were feeling for the sins  among God’s people.  (Ezra 9:6-15)

Repentance isn’t complete with just “trembling at the Word of God”.  Conviction of sin is only the first part and if genuine, it leads to action.  In this case, a convocation was called in three days to deal with this situation and an investigation brought out those who had disobeyed the Lord.  One hundred eleven men are listed as guilty of mixed marriages and they agreed to send their wives away.  What a serious turn-around and costly action was taken to bring God’s blessing on His people again!  Would that we all would “tremble at the Word of the Lord!”  May our trembling lead to action that brings true repentance that leaves no regrets.  (2 Corinthians 7:9-11)

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Fasting for safety!

Scripture reading for May 5th: Ezra 7-8

Were you ever in a strange land and carrying lots of money?  Mary and I went to Russia in 1999 to adopt our two daughters.  We had to travel by plane and train literally half-way around the world.  We were told that we needed about $3000 dollars in cash to use in the process.  This was a lot of cash to carry around in a strange part of the world where the average wage was around a hundred dollars per month.  We needed God’s gracious hand on us as we traveled!  God answered our prayers and all went well and we have two beautiful daughters according to God’s plan!

The book of Ezra records another trip taken by God’s people where they traveled by caravan across 800 miles of dangerous territory with lots of valuables–25 tons of silver and nearly 4 tons of gold.  (Ezra 8:26-27)  Ezra had spoken to the king about the power of his God–the creator of Heaven and Earth.  Ezra had told the king about God’s power to save His people and now his faith was being put to the test of reality.  He called the people together who would be taking the trip and asked them to fast and pray for God’s protection over their caravan.  (Ezra 8:21-23)  They set out after consecrating themselves and their valuables to the Lord for His protection.  Their trip was uneventful and nearly 4 months later they arrived safely in Jerusalem!

We are reminded today of the importance of being consecrated to the Lord.  Prayer and fasting are not ancient disciplines that are outdated in the twenty-first century.  They are as needed today as ever.  We travel this world that is full of dangers both physical and spiritual.  We have valuables more precious than gold and silver–our sons and daughters, our grand-children, our fellow human beings!  Prayer and fasting are needed to preserve their lives and souls!  In God’s gracious hands, we will arrive safely at our destination in the heavenly Jerusalem!

“The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him, but his great anger is against all who forsake Him.  So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer.” Ezra 8:22-23

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