May 3, Ezra 7-8

 

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Ezra was a leader because he motivated the people to action.  He also was a student of the word of God (7:10).  Here is a three-fold plan in regards to the word of God:  (1) Study the word, (2) Live the word, (3) Teach the word.  All three are equally important.  For example, what good is it to study and know the word if you do not live by its precepts? What good is it to teach the word of God if you do not live by its teachings?  Ezra was devoted to all three aspects of the word of God and made these things his life’s mission.

You are to be commended for reading the Bible this year.  Here you are in the book of Ezra.  Soon you will be half-way through the whole Bible.  But today’s reading causes us to remember again that it is not enough to just read the Word.  We must live the Word!  When we live the word then we can seek to be teachers of the Word.

Devotional by Steve Horn. Scripture links by www.biblegateway.com. Animated video by www.thebibleproject.com

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May 2, Ezra 4-6

 

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One of the great lessons of the return of Israel from exile is the Providence of God.  Here is my simple definition of the Providence of God—God is always at work, sometimes in ways we do not see or understand, to bring about his Sovereign purposes.  Ezra has several significant examples of the providence of God at work.

We have already observed how God raised up Cyrus, king of Persia, to allow the Jews to return to Israel.  A second example is discovered in our reading today.  When Tattenai and Shethar-Bozenai (Ezra 5:3) forced the Jews to stop their work on the temple, a search was made for the decree of Cyrus.  King Darius, now king of Persia, ordered the search.  Upon learning of Cyrus’ decree, Darius not only allowed for the work to continue but ordered that the expenses be taken from the royal treasury (Ezra 6:8).

I have a friend who uses the expression “God story” to describe those events in life when we just have to say “Wow, God!”  Here is one of those stories of God’s great work.  Just when it looks like the work on the Temple is going to come to a halt, God steps in and uses a Pagan king to finance the project.  Wow, God!

Devotional by Steve Horn. Scripture links by www.biblegateway.com. Animated video by www.thebibleproject.com

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May 1, Ezra 1-3

 

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After 70 years of exile at the hands of the Babylonians, the Jews are invited to return to their homeland when Cyrus, King of the Persians, comes to power.  Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the return.

Cyrus’ actions beg three questions.  First, why would Cyrus take the chance of allowing the Jews to return?  Second, why would Cyrus, a pagan (a believer in many gods), desire to see the temple in Jerusalem re-built?  Third, why would God “appoint” Cyrus, a non-believer, to build the temple.

(1)   The Jews did not scare Cyrus.  He was the most powerful leader in the world.  A few Jews didn’t frighten him and thus he saw no threat in allowing them to return.  Also, this is the way Cyrus ruled throughout his kingdom.  He believed he could still rule with an “iron fist” even by being a benevolent ruler.  Not only with the Jews, but also with all conquered people, Cyrus became known as a powerful, yet benevolent king.
(2)   We must remember that as a polytheist (believer in many gods), Cyrus had no trouble in believing in Israel’s God.  He just didn’t believe that Jehovah was the one true God.  In fact, Cyrus wanted to insure that all gods were happy.  In his distorted polytheistic way of thinking, a god could not be happy if he had no home.
(3)   Here is the providence of God at work.  How else at this stage in history would God resurrect the people of Israel?

We ought to also note the attitudes of the people who were returning as noted in Ezra 3:12.  Notice the contrast in those who had seen the former temple and those who were seeing the land of promise for the first time.

I think the same sort of thing happens today.  Some people miss the blessing of God because they are “stuck” in the “glory” of yesterday.  In reality, the “glory” of yesterday for Israel was not all that great or else they would not have been in exile these last 70 years.

There are two problems associated with the attitudes of the ones who had formerly been in the Promised Land.  First, they failed to give glory to God for their return.  Second, their actions certainly had to be discouraging to those entering for the first time.

Church, give a shout of praise to the LORD today.  Your Sunday School class may not be as you remember some years ago.  Your church might not be as large as it once was.  On the other hand, your church might be larger and therefore lost some of its familiarity.  Some things might not be as glorious as you remember them.  Give a shout to the LORD today—some things might not have been as glorious as you remember them.  Some things may have needed to change!

Devotional by Steve Horn. Scripture links by www.biblegateway.com. Animated video by www.thebibleproject.com

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April 30, 2 Chronicles 33-36

 

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Congratulations, you have reached another major milestone in your reading.  Tomorrow we get back to the chronological timeline that we left at the end of 2 Kings.  Remember the note of hope with which 2 Kings ended.  Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and ate at the king’s table.  The Book of 2 Chronicles ends on even a greater note of hope.  We now learn that King Cyrus of Persia issues a proclamation that he is going to build a Temple at Jerusalem.  Any people belonging to God can go up to Jerusalem to build the Temple.

Cyrus’ proclamation reminds us of one of the lessons of God throughout history—He is always in control.  God is sovereign. 

Devotional by Steve Horn. Scripture links by www.biblegateway.com. Animated video by www.thebibleproject.com

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April 29, 2 Chronicles 29-32

 

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At first, we think we are reading about another king in a long list of kings who started strong, but faded with a thump.  Hezekiah, though, is different.  Yes, he started strong and let pride get the best of him, which led to his difficulty.  It sounds like the same song just a different king. Then, we read, “Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart.” There it is!  There’s the difference!  Repentance!

How refreshing to hear of this repentance!  More refreshing would be your own repentance today for any sin in your life.

Devotional by Steve Horn. Scripture links by www.biblegateway.com. Animated video by www.thebibleproject.com

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