Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8- The Gracious Hand of God

August 8, 2011

Scripture Readings:
Ezra 7:1-8:20; 1 Corinthians 4:1-21;
Psalm 30:1-12; Proverbs 20:28-30

Ezra 7:1-8:20

When the children were little and were having a tough day, I would lay their heads on my chest and stroke their heads with my hand.  Sometimes it only took a few seconds of my hand being laid upon their hair to settle them into a peaceful state of quiet contentment.  If it wasn't a stroke to their heads, I would at times lay my hand upon their back for a gentle back rub.  There is something soothing and confirming about having a gentle and gracious hand upon you.  Today Ezra experiences the gentle and encouraging hand of God upon his life.

Who was Ezra?  He tells us that he comes from good stock.  He traces his lineage back to Aaron, the first High Priest.  Ezra is a scribe who is well versed in the Book of the Laws of Moses. This position as a scholar is enhanced by the fact that the gracious hand of God is upon him.  He explains in verses 9-10 that God's hand was upon him because he had determined to study the Word of God and obey it.  Not only that, he had also determined to teach others the Law.

Lesson Alert!  God puts His gracious hand on those who love His Word, obey His Word, and teach others His Word. 

We see in the letter sent by Artaxerxes to those in Jerusalem that God's hand on Ezra is manifested in the following ways:
  • Jews, including priests and Levites, may volunteer to go back to Jerusalem with Ezra. Vs. 13
  • King Artaxerxes is giving a free will offering to the God of Israel who lives in Jerusalem. Vs. 15
  • Donations are to be used to purchase animals for animal sacrifice to cover sin. Vs. 17
  • Left over money is entrusted to Ezra to be used properly. Vs. 18
  • Royal treasury money from Persia can be used, if the Jews begin to run short of money. Vs. 20
  • Provisions for all Temple work are to be provided in order to please God. Vs. 21-22
  • The workers in God's Temple are not required to pay taxes. Vs. 23-24
  • Ezra is to use his God given wisdom to appoint civil government judges and magistrates. Vs. 25
  • Ezra is to teach the Law to anyone who does not know it. Vs. 25
Ezra indicates that he felt encouraged by God for these results.  Ezra acknowledges that these good things are happening to him because God's hand is upon him.  This results in Ezra successfully recruiting a second wave of Israelites to go back and beautify the Temple in Jerusalem.

What blessings have you received because the gracious hand of God is upon you?  Why don't you take the time to list these on paper?

1 Corinthians 4:1-21

Did you know that God had secrets that He was keeping?  Paul describes himself and the teacher, Apollos, as servants who were charged with revealing God's secrets to the world.  Did you know that the concept that the Gentiles would receive the Holy Spirit and be grafted into God's family through belief in Jesus was a secret for many milline-a?  Did you know that the idea that the Holy Spirit would dwell inside of Christ followers, giving them power to draw people into the kingdom of God, was a secret throughout history?  It was.

Paul is encouraging the Corinthian Christians to not judge the faith of another person.  God, alone, will reveal the motives of each person in the end. God will give whatever praise is due.  This should prevent the Church from wasting too much time in these types of behaviors.  They are futile and unproductive.

Paul spends a bit of time describing the burdens of being an apostle of Christ.  He likens them to prisoners of war who are at the end of a victor's parade.  They are condemned to die, a spectacle to people and angels, fools because of their dedication to Christ, laughed at, beaten, weary from work, abused, maligned, and treated like garbage. Paul says that as apostles, they respond gently to this treatment.

Paul establishes that he is the spiritual father of the Corinthian church.  Therefore, they should follow his spiritual example. Paul confirms that he is sending Timothy as a pastor to help them in this.  In addition, he admonishes the Corinthians to not become arrogant, assuming that they can behave however they want because Paul will not be coming personally to hold them accountable.  Paul claims that he will come, if the Lord allows. 

It is obvious that Paul is having to talk to this group of people like rebellious little children.  They are young in their faith and need scolding.

Are you like a rebellious little child in your faith?  Think of the maturity and wisdom of Ezra.  He developed this maturity by studying God's Word.  His maturity resulted in the gracious hand of God being upon him in his life.  Now contrast the conflict and problems that the immature Corinthians are experiencing.  They need to study God's Word and become obedient to Christ's teachings.  Paul is willing to be a mature example to them.  Are you a mature example to anyone?

Psalm 30:1-12

It is with God's help that we go from mourning into joyful dancing.  Let His gracious hand be upon you.

Proverbs 20:28-30

The king's throne is made secure through love.  Jesus' throne is definitely secured through love.  God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to die for the world. (John 3:16)

What did you notice today as you read?  Please share.


Jubilee Gal
Kathy Fullerton

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