Trek through Ezra
Scripture reading for June 12th: Ezra 9-10, Nehemiah 1-2, Acts 28
Key Scriptures: Acts 28:23-24 “They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.”
The Apostle Paul made it safely to Rome and was placed in a rented house under guard. Many Jews came to visit him and he preached Christ to them from the Scriptures. Some believed and others did not. The power of the Gospel was spread in Rome as God had directed.
Nehemiah 1:5-6 “Then I said: “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before You day and night for Your servants, the people of Israel.”
Prayer: Lord, great and awesome God, Lord of heaven and earth, grant boldness to me today to preach Your word to all You send me to. Amen!
Scripture reading for June 11th: Ezra 6-8, Acts 27
Key Scriptures: Acts 27:22-25 “Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”
Paul was aboard a ship caught in a terrible storm. All despaired of life, expecting to drown at sea. But Paul was visited by an angel who gave him a Word from God. All would be saved but the ship would be lost. They were not to be afraid!
Ezra 8:22-23 “For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way; since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek Him, and the power of His wrath is against all who forsake Him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and He listened to our entreaty.”
Prayer: Lord, thank You for listening to the prayers of your people. You are awesome and we have faith in Your Word. Amen.
Scripture reading for June 8th: Ezra 2-5, Acts 26
Key Scriptures: Acts 26:27-29 “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian? And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am–except for these chains.”
Paul made his defense before King Agrippa and appealed to the King about his knowledge of the prophets. He invited him to believe but Agrippa resisted, saying that he needed more time. Paul stated that his prayer was for him to become a believer in Jesus, whether sooner or later, as well as all who heard him.
Ezra 5:1-2 “Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the Name of the God of Israel who was over them. . . .and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.”
Prayer: Lord, thank You for prophetic support in preaching Your Word! May prophesy flow through me as I testify of Your Gospel. Amen.
Scripture reading for June 7th: 2nd Chronicles 35-36, Ezra 1, Acts 25
Key Scriptures: 2nd Chronicles 36:15-16 “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, until there was no remedy.”
The writer of Chronicles summed up the captivity of God’s people. God had been persistent and merciful to His people. But His people mocked the messengers God sent them and despised His Word. This left them under God’s wrath, from which there was no remedy!
Acts 25:11 “”If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.””
Prayer: Lord, thank You that we can now appeal to You through Your Son Jesus Christ. Keep us from the temptation to despise Your Word and those who speak it. Amen.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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