Friday, August 5, 2011

August 5- Going Home

August 5, 2011

Scripture Reading:
Ezra 1:1-2:70; 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5;
Psalm 27:7-14; Proverbs 20:22-23

Is this home?
Is this what I must learn to believe in?
In this tragic place
Just in case
I should stay here forever
Held in this empty space
Oh, but that won't be easy
~'Home' from Beauty and the Beast

Ezra 1:1-2:70

As the mother of two children who are either in college or have graduated from college, I have a unique perspective on the importance of home.  When a person has gone to a different place and left all that is familiar, the memories of what was becomes a balm to the soul.  Resting in thoughts of the familiar can help a person as they navigate what is foreign.  Phone conversations with my kids sometimes end with them saying, "It sure will be nice to come home."  Today, a remnant of the Israelites, who have been in captivity for seventy years, will finally come home.

The book of Ezra is written by Ezra, who was a descendant of Hilkiah, the High Priest who found the Book of the Law during the reign of Josiah.  Ezra comes from a priestly line who values the Word of God.  We will find in this book that Ezra values the Word of God, too, and points out to his readers the power and authority of Scripture.  Ezra is thought to have authored 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Psalm 119.  All of these writings emphasize God's Word and God's perspective on history.  As we read about the Israelites reoccupying Jerusalem after their captivity, Ezra is a key character along with Nehemiah.  Nehemiah was a layman and Ezra was a spiritual leader.  The prophets associated with this time period are Haggai and Zechariah.  It is during this time that the temple will be rebuilt, the walls of Jerusalem refurbished, and revival will occur, with God's Word leading the way.

Ezra opens his book with King Cyrus being an object of prophecy fulfilled.  Ezra, who was a scribe of the Law and an ardent student of the Bible, mentions that Jeremiah prophesied that the Temple would be rebuilt, and this prophesy is fulfilled when God prompts Cyrus, the king of Persia, to do just that. The prophet Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus In Isaiah 44:28, almost two hundred years before Cyrus' birth.  We see that it was God's intention all along to have the Israelites go into captivity and come out of that period of wilderness, in order to rebuild the Temple. Please remember that the Southern Kingdom of Israel went into captivity through King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  By the time Ezra is writing this book, Babylon has been conquered by Persia.  During the time of the Captivity, Daniel (the prophet) is a key advisor to both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.  It is Daniel's witness that has converted these men to belief in the God of Israel. 

Cyrus, King of Persia
As the book opens, Ezra confirms that the Lord stirred Cyrus' heart to send out a decree.  In this decree, Cyrus calls the Lord "the God of heaven."  Please note that with the Temple in ruins and the Israelites in captivity, God's Shekinah glory was lifted from the Temple and returned to heaven.  This is detailed in the book of Ezekiel.  Cyrus acknowledges that as ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth, it is God who has given him his position.  He also decrees that God has appointed him to build him a Temple in Jerusalem.  Are you surprised that God is communicating with a Gentile leader and asking a Gentile to build Him a Temple?  What is the message here?  Do you see that God's intentions are to use the Jews and the Gentiles to build His Kingdom?  All people on earth make up God's family.

Cyrus is told by God that the people of Judah will rebuild the Temple in the city of God's affection, which is Jerusalem.  Cyrus does not command that every Jew go back to Jerusalem.  He merely give them permission to do so.  It should be noted that it is God's will that the expense and sacrifice for this project is to be supplied by the Jewish people.  Some people participate by giving material gifts.  Some people participate by going and doing the work.

God then stirs more people's hearts.  This time, He stirs the hearts of the priests and Levites, and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to return to Jerusalem and rebuild.  These are not the wealthiest people of Israel.  They are of more modest means. Many gifts are given to support this effort, and Cyrus brings out the items taken by Nebuchadnezzar from the original Temple.  The Temple items are counted and the exiles, who have decided to return to Jerusalem, are counted.  Approximately 50,000 people go back to Jerusalem.  It is this faithful group who will go home to a land that has been devastated.  But still, it's home!

Lessons:  God stirs people's hearts to do His will on earth.  God's Word prompts revival.  History is His Story.  God uses simple people to accomplish great things.  God is tied to the land, as well as to the people of Israel.  God uses both Jews and Gentiles to bring about His will on earth.

Have you ever supported a missionary to go out and do the work of God that you are supporting materially?  It is a combined effort to build God's Kingdom.  Do you acknowledge that the God of heaven stirs people's hearts and is involved intimately in our lives?  How does this change your attitude about events in the world?
Is God's Word creating revival in your heart?

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5

Today, Paul is speaking to a group of people in Corinth who are part of a society that considers itself very sophisticated.  Their worldly wisdom has created a town called "Vanity Fair."  Paul is determined to show them that God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.  He uses the weak things to defeat the strong.  God uses the powerless to shame the powerful.  This is why the foolish would not understand that the cross of Christ is powerful.  How can a man who dies a humiliating death on a cross be strong?  How can death bring life?  But, it does.  God used what appeared to be weakness as strength to conquer sin.  God took Jesus' humility in death and produced the power of eternal life for many.

Paul explains in verse 30 that Jesus Christ is wisdom itself.  If the Corinthians are vying to be wise, they need not look any further than to Christ.  Jesus makes us acceptable to God.  He is the ring that restores our broken fellowship with God.  Paul reiterates that he purposefully did not use lofty words and brilliant ideas to explain God's message.  He wanted only to focus on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.  Paul admits that he came in weakness without persuasive speech, so that the Corinthians would trust in the power of God, rather than human wisdom.

Do you rely on human wisdom, rather than the simple message that Jesus died for your sins?  Is this too unsophisticated for you to accept?  Our amazingly complex God shows His true brilliance in the simplicity of how He solves the problem of mankind's broken fellowship because of sin.  Can you embrace God's basic message? 

Psalm 27:7-14

Picture Christ saying these words on the cross.

Proverbs 20:22-23

Let the Lord settle the score for you.

What did you learn today?  Please share.


Jubilee Gal
Kathy Fullerton

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