Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday - Ezra 3 - Tears of Joy

fter spending some time settling back into their homeland, the remnant of Jews re-gathered in Jerusalem to commence the building project.  The temple of God was going back up!

The first thing to consider about this endeavor is the fact that these Jews willingly proceeded despite the dangers which they perceived to be all around them (Ezra 3:3). Or, maybe we should say that they proceeded BECAUSE of their fear of the menacing realities all around them. Sometimes difficulties drive as more quickly to the throne of grace.

So, the people made sacrifices to God, and they got busy preparing to build. Then, they began to build. With live sacred music being played to accompany their efforts, they laid the foundation of the temple.  Oh, what a wonderful effect that had on the congregation of Jews. The sound of the workmen and the musicians soon gave way to the sounds of spontaneous praise. Both tears and laughter were mixed together at that scene. Then the people exploded into shouts of joy and cries of release.  Surely there was a deep mixture of emotions within the hearts of those holy people. Relief that God's promises were being realized; sadness and shame in being reminded of the past failures of the nation; gratitude for a second chance; sorrow in understanding that things would not be like before... it was a lot to take in.

You know something... all of us react differently to the glories of God's goodness. Some weep, some shout, others laugh or maybe even pass out. But, surely our emotional idiosyncrasies are all but irrelevant when compared to the condition of our hearts. Whether we sob or shout, our hearts should be pure, humble, grateful and submissive as we are blessed with God's grace.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday - Ezra 2 - Zerubbabel of Zion

here were nearly 50,000 people who left Babylon as part of the plan to rejuvenate Israel (Ezra 2:64 & 65). Their main objective was to go to Jerusalem to build another temple in the name of Jehovah. God's objectives were various. He wanted to gain the loyalty of His own people.  He was also simply keeping His promises.  And, there were preparations to be made for the coming of the Messiah.

It is apparent (from the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah) that the leader of the returning remnant was Zerubbabel. He became the governor of Judah. Now, before he could begin building a temple, Zerubbabel had some other matters to deal with. Obviously, the journey of 50,000 people over a span of 700 miles (or so) was not a minor undertaking. Additionally, there were problems with some of the Jews not being able to prove their lineage (Ezra 2:59 & 62). In fact, that problem was so significant that it ended up costing some of the priests their position and office.

Upon the arrival of the great caravan of Jews to Zion, a couple of other issues were immediately important. Appropriately, worship through the collection of freewill offerings on the holy ground of the holy city was immediately commenced (Ezra 2:68 & 69). And, of course, the people had to settle in and find a place to live (Ezra 2:70). Obviously, Zerubbabel would have been very busy. But, the mission was surely worth the effort. They were only a shadow of what they had been centuries earlier, but their faith was alive and God was still the same. It was a good time to be alive in Jerusalem.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday - Ezra 1 - A Returning Remnant

ust as God was big enough to remove the entire nation of Israel out of their homeland... He was also big enough to bring them back again. That's the story that we find here in Ezra; at least, part of the return is recorded here.   Nehemiah will tell us more.

After having spent 70 years in Babylon, some of the people were sent back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (which Nebuchadnezzar had formerly destroyed). There were even a few old Jews who had survived the entire time of captivity and were literally returning to their own property.  In other words, they were old enough to remember what Solomon's temple had looked like.

Jeremiah had prophesied that someday God would bring the Jews back into their land. And, as it is recorded here in Ezra 1:1-3 (as well as back in II Chronicles 36:22-23) God used Cyrus, the king of Persia, to bring about the reviving of Judah and Jerusalem. In the meantime, the Babylonian empire had been replaced by the Persian. And, most notably, the great Jew Daniel had risen to great significance during that period of captivity and had received wonderful prophecies from Jehovah.  Certainly the 70 years were not wasted.  God had accomplished great things even in the disciplining of His children.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday – 2nd Chronicles 36 - Judah's Last Kings

he last kings of Judah were all worthless. Josiah had been the last good Judean monarch.  His sons Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah were nothing like him. Neither was his grandson Jehoiachin.  Jehoahaz (known also as Shallum) only survived for 3 months on the throne before the Egyptians removed him.  He was replaced by his brother Jehoiakim (also called Eliakim).  After 11 years, the Babylonians removed him from Jerusalem and allowed his son Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah or Coniah) to sit on the throne briefly.  Shortly thereafter, his uncle Zedekiah (known also as Mattaniah) was given his spot (Jeremiah 1:3).

During all this time, Jeremiah was the mouthpiece of God warning these men of the impending invasion of the Babylonians and admonishing them to surrender willingly to Nebuchadnezzar.  They didn't.  And, they paid for it: especially Zedekiah.  Of course, there is one more Jewish king yet to come, and He paid for the sins of Israel more than all of the rest combined. 

The Jews had been commanded by Moses to allow their fields to lie fallow every 7th year (Leviticus 25:4).  They had not been faithful in that area.  So, (2nd Chronicles 36:20-21) God allowed the people to be captured and removed from the land for 70 years. 70 Sabbaths would take 490 years at a 1 in 7 year rate.  God willing, we will study that matter in a little more depth when we get into the book of Daniel.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday – 2nd Chronicles 35 - Why the Hurry?

osiah celebrated the Passover with great intensity.  As you surely know already, the Passover feast hearkened back to the days when the Jews were delivered out of Egypt during the days of Moses.  At that time, there was an extreme urgency in the hearts of God's people.  In fact, that urgency was exactly what God wanted. Exodus 12:11 tells us that the original Passover meal was to be eaten quickly.  After all, the salvation of the nation was as imminent as the danger was.  Deuteronomy 16:3 tells us that when the nation of Israel did start out of Egypt, they didn't lollygag.  Their departure was a hurried one.  And no wonder: it was a matter of life and death.

Now, in the days of Josiah, some of the same sense of exigency was renewed.  2nd Chronicles 35:13 says that the Passover meat was "divided... speedily among all the people."  It had been approximately 900 years since the first Passover.  And, as the events recorded at the end of this chapter (concerning Necho king of Egypt) demonstrate, the Jews were still under the threat of Egyptian harassment.  Just like in the days of Moses, the only hope for Israel was faith in God and obedience to Him (2nd Chronicles 35:21 & 22).