May 5, Nehemiah 1-2

 

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Nehemiah is one of my favorite OT books because of the many practical lessons that we can learn.  Nehemiah shows us first of all a passion for accomplishing great things for God.  God moved in Nehemiah’s heart to lead him to re-build the walls around Jerusalem.

What is your project that God has called you to build?  For students, the project may be education.  For adults, the project that God has called you to right now may be your family.  A God-project can be most anything that is God’s will for your life.  In Nehemiah’s example of “wall building” we can identify several characteristics of the person who is going to “accomplish great things for God.”

In the first couple of chapters, we see Nehemiah’s passion for the project.  Passion is the result of a personal interest in the project (1:2-3) and the result of God putting the project in your heart (2:12).  God gives us passion for different ministries.  Your passion may be evangelism.  For others, your passion may be discipleship.  Sometimes the passion is local; sometimes the passion is for the world.  We must be careful to motivate others toward those things that we are passionate about without letting our passions dictate feelings of superiority toward someone with another God-given passion. Likewise, we must not make others feel guilty if their passion is different from our passion, so long as both passions are from God.

Video and audio of a sermon series on Nehemiah by Steve Horn is available at https://www.fbclaf.org/media/watch-recent-services/#series-sort_nehemiah.

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

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May 4, Ezra 9-10

 

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Authentic confession involves not only sorrow, but also resolve to turn from that sin.  Here is the lesson as the book of Ezra closes.  Having aTemple and Priests did not restore worship.  The most important part of the restoration project was still in doubt.  Not until the hearts of the people were made right was true restoration possible.

Are we guilty of trusting in a place for worship?  Are we guilty of trusting in a person for worship?  Ezra reminds us that the purity of our worship is measured by the purity of our lives.

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

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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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