Ezra

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“They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” (Ezra 8:8 ESV)

August 14, 2016

Bible reading and exposition was a central feature of the worship of the returning remnant to Jerusalem. The sense of the Word so affected them that they began to weep. This is still the calling for today, that the Word of God would be read and clearly preached with a goal of understanding. The timeless principles of the Word are to be understood in context, carried across the “Bible bridge” and applied to today’s congregation in the power of the Spirit. The New Testament preacher is to be “devoted” to the public reading and exhortation of the Word (1 Tim. 4:13). In like manner, the members of the body of Christ are to be devoted to the Word as well.

“Now 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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom” (Ezra 1:1 NKJV)

August 5, 2015

King Cyrus of Persia enabled the Jews who had been captured by the Babylonian king to return to Jerusalem for the rebuilding of their temple. Persia (modern day Iran) overthrew Babylon (modern day Iraq) and showed favor to the Jews by not only allowing their return, but also giving back whatever temple implements that had been stolen and offering aid in its rebuilding. This Jewish return from exile was prophesied by Jeremiah.
I was recently reminded of this history by an Iranian named Reza that I met at a London coffee shop. When he suggested that I visit his country, I told him that I didn’t want to end up in an Iranian jail. “No!” he insisted. “We love Americans. It’s the politics, the mullahs that stir up trouble between us. Remember, we were Persians before we became Muslims. We were the ones who helped the Jews return to Jerusalem. Ninety-nine percent of Iranians love Americans!” I was surprised by his distinction of identity based on being Persian more than Muslim, and by his declaration that Iranians love Americans. I suppose the Jews were surprised by Cyrus’s favor too. It reminds me that things are not always as they seem and that God is still at work in this world and that one Day all prophecies will be fulfilled in Christ.

“O Lord, God of Israel, you are just. We come before you in our guilt as nothing but an escaped remnant, though in such a condition none of us can stand in your presence” (Ezra 9:15 NLT)

August 9, 2014

When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem with offerings for the Temple, he discovered that many of the priests and leaders had led the people into sin. In response, he tore his clothes, pulled out his beard and prayed a prayer of repentance. In his prayer, he spoke of the reality that their “condition” of guilt prevented them from standing in God’s presence. This sad reality continued until the Lord Jesus offered Himself on the cross for our sins and the Temple curtain separating us from a holy God was rent. Our “condition” of sin, separation and death was placed upon Christ, while His righteousness, Sonship, and life were ascribed to us who believe.

“The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the Lord, the God of Israel” (Ezra 4:1 NLT)

August 6, 2014

When the enemies of God hear there is a new work being planted, they often volunteer to help. One of the most dangerous ploys of the evil one is disguised as an offer of assistance. It’s tempting to accept because a new ministry is nearly always lacking in both people and financial resources. This sense of desperation can lead to accepting an infiltration that hinders the new ministry from within. The returning exiles to Jerusalem wisely refused to fall for this trap. Of course, their refusal merely unmasked the enemy’s true motivations. The enemies of God then began an external attack. We shouldn’t be surprised that enemies come against us in ministry. But we can wisely avoid being unequally yoked with those who would destroy from within.