Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Confessions

O. T. #1,029  "Confessions"
July 26, 2017
Ezra 9-Part 3

LET IT GLOW

They say that confession is good for the soul. I agree, for through confession of our sins, we can get cleansed. (Asking Jesus to forgive us.) However, some folks seem to find it hard to admit they have done a wrong, made a mistake, and sinned. In order to keep our relationships going good, there are times we need to confess our wrongs to God and to others. Even if they will not admit their part of the wrong, we still should. This will heal our relationships. The first returnees of Jews had strayed from God and His teachings. Ezra confesses their sins, as we learn reading this chapter.

In this chapter we read of Ezra's prayer of confessions-God's goodness, Israel's past sins, and present sins.
First, Ezra confessed God's goodness as He had:
  • left them a remnant;
  • given them a place in the Promise Land;
  • given them light;
  • given them relief from captivity;
  • not deserted them even in their bondage;
  • revived them and given them new life so they could rebuild the Temple;
  • given them a wall of protection (His power) in the Promised Land.
Can we look back and see the goodness of God in our life?
Has He set us free from a certain thing which held us in bondage?
Has God revived us and given us new life with a purpose?
Did He give us a wall of protection?
Do we have His light to direct us as we live in this world?
Are we looking for our Promised Land-heaven?

LET IT GROW

Ezra confessed the same and past sins of Israel when they forsook Him and worshiped idols.
Also, Ezra confessed Israel's present sins, which had placed them back in bondage. Israel had:
  • forsaken God's commandments, engaged in the corrupt, detestable, and impure behavior of their unbelieving neighbors;
  • intermarried with unbelievers;
  • sought evil associations of friendships, social life, and wealth of unbelievers;
  • jeopardized the future by rejecting the promise of God to make them strong, blessed, and land given to children.
Are we following in the steps of our unbelieving fellow worker, neighbors, or relatives?
Are we separating ourselves to liv morally, righteously, and peacefully? We can associate with them, but not socialize with them and take on their was.

(Resource: The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible)

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of our mind, that ye my prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:2


LET IT GO

Stay in God's Word.

Live separated from unbelievers, but love them to Jesus.

Confess God's goodness in my life to others.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Little Space Grace

O. T. #1028  "A Little Space Grace"
July 25, 2017
Ezra 9-Part 2
And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the LORD our God... Ezra 9:8

LET IT GLOW

The gold, silver, and articles brought from Babylon were accounted for and placed in the Temple. The returnees rested for 3 days, and after sin offerings and burnt offerings were made in the Temple to God. Then they delivered the king's decrees. After all of this, Ezra was told how the people, the priests, and the Levites had not separated themselves from the people of the land, intermarrying with them.
When Ezra heard this, great sorrow and remorse came upon him, resulting in Ezra tearing his shirt and cloak, as well as pulling his hair out. Then Ezra fell to his knees and spreading his hands before the LORD his God.
Ezra began to pray, confessing Israel's sins:
  • I am too ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God.
  • Our sins are piled higher than our heads.
  • Our guilt has reached to the heavens.
  • From the days of our ancestors until now, we have been steep in sin.
  • That is why we and our kings and our priests have been at the mercy of the pagan kings of the land.
  • We have been killed, captured, robbed, and disgraced, just as we are today.

LET IT GROW

What had God done for His remnant?
  • But now we have been given a brief moment of grace, a little space grace, for the LORD our God has allowed a few of us to survive as a remnant.
  • He has given us security in this holy place.
  • Our God has brightened our eyes and granted us some relief from our slavery.
  • For we were slaves, but in His unfailing love our God dis not abandon us in our slavery. 
  • He caused the kings of Persia to give us extended mercy, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Jerusalem and Judah.

What is space grace?
God permitted His people to return to their land, and off they go again, following the heathen-doing the very thing that had sent them into captivity in the first place. (J. Vernon McGee)

It was idolatry that was their sin. God requires us to put him first, not worship or serve other things. We are to love Him most.
Do you know people who are in space grace? Do we know believers who were saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, yet they returned to their sinful lifestyle and forsaking the biblical principles  for the Christian life? Let us pray for their return.

Ezra's prayer has not ended yet, so return tomorrow as we discuss the remainder.

LET IT GO

Thank God for His grace!

Repent of my sins.

Love God more than anything else.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Wilth Whom Are We Mingling?

O. T. #1027  "With Whom Are We Mingling?"
July 24, 2017
Ezra 9

LET IT GLOW

With whom are your children mingling? I know, we don't put it that way today. So let me put it in our terms. Are your children marrying unbelievers? Are they running around with friends who do not worship our God? Are they association with immoral heathens? We tend to take on the attitudes of those with whom we associate. Today we will find out the Jews who first returned to Jerusalem and built the Temple had such a problem.

Do we remember the joy which the first group of returned Jews to Jerusalem had whenever the Temple was finally finished? This group of about 50,000 Jews left their captives in Babylon to be free to worship God. Only some 75 years later, when Ezra and the second group of Jews returned to Jerusalem, they found those brethren slaves again, but this time they were slaves to their own sin and lust. Ezra had the problem reported to him.

What was the sad condition of the Jews already living in Jerusalem?
  • They had not separated themselves from the peoples of the land. (verse 1)
  • This included the Jewish people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites. (verse 1)
  • They did according to the abominations of those heathens listed in verse 1.
  • They had intermarried their daughters with the heathens' sons and their sons with the heathens' daughters.  Thus, the holy seed of the Jews was mingled with the unbelieving heathens, including the princes and rulers. (verse 2)
Mingled in the Hebrew language is the word arab (aw-rab'), which refers  to braid; intermix.

In Deuteronomy 7:2, Israel is instructed to utterly destroy the heathens in the land, make no covenants with them, nor show them mercy.
Verse 3 says for them to neither make marriages with them, for they would turn Israel's sons from following God, to serve other gods.

In verse 6, the Lord called Israel a holy people unto the LORD thy God, a special people unto Himself, above all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

Know therefore that the LORD thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.
(Deuteronomy 7:9)

Did you pick up on the description of Israel's God, our God? He is the only God, faithful, keeps His word in covenant, and loves us who love Him and keep His commands.

Are our children mingling, intermarrying with unbelievers? Are we warning the next generation of such a thing is against God's ways?

LET IT GROW

This sin was not limited to the common people, for the leaders in Israel were just as guilty. Chances are, their example and influence probably lead the folks into sin.

How did Ezra react to his news?
  • He showed deep remorse and sorrow, plucking out some of his hear on his head and beard, astonied.
  • This symbolized the extreme personal pain he felt due to the sin of the people.
  • Ezra gathered those who trembled at the words of the God of Israel. they had been true to God and heard the Lord.
  • Ezra sat astonied until the evening sacrifice. (verse 4)
Astonied means to stun, to devastate, make amazed, astonished, wonder.

I can't believe they did that. What were they thinking? Why in the world did they do that? I am shocked. No way they would do such a thing.
So many times we may think or say those phrases. But when we let down our guard, we become susceptible to discouragement, which is one of the Devil's greatest weapons. The lack of separation from worldly ways or from unbelievers can lead to immorality and idolatry, just as it happened to the Jews Ezra wrote about here.
However, let us not point our finger accusing folks of wrong, nor let us fluff it off, but notice what Ezra did-spread out his hands to God in prayer. Here is Ezra, the leader of the second group of Jews returning to Jerusalem, humbling himself under the mighty hands of God.

Will we spread out our hands to God? Will we lay it all out, concealing nothing, bearing our mind and soul naked before our God? Will we hold nothing back from God, admitting our sins, our nation's sins, our family's sins?

Paul told Timothy, I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.  1 Timothy 2:8)

LET IT GO

Beware associating and mingling with unbelievers.

Spread out my hands to God in prayer, admitting my sins and the sins of others, begging for His mercy and forgiveness.

Friday, July 21, 2017

God's Hand Upon Us

O. T. #1026  "God's Hand Upon Us"
July 21, 2017
Ezra 8-Part 2
We were strengthen by our God and He protected from the power of the enemy and ambush along the way.  Ezra 8:31b LASB

LET IT GLOW

It took the Jews 4 months to reach Jerusalem. They averaged 7 miles a day.
What happened whenever they arrived?
  • Ezra acknowledges that the hand of their God was upon them. (verse 31)
  • He delivered them from the hand of their enemy
  • and from any ambush. Nothing else is said about the journey. God had protected His remnant and answered their prayers.
  • The Jews rested from their journey for 3 days in Jerusalem.
  • On the fourth day they weighed the silver, gold, an articles for the Temple.
  • Everything was verified by number and weight, with the total recorded.
In verse 31, the hand of God mentioned by Ezra, in the Hebrew language, hand (yad-yawd) refers to an open hand; indicating power, means, direction, etc.

Ezra used the phrase "hand of God" in other places-1:8;  5:12; 6,9,28;  8:18, 22, 26, 31,33; 9:2,7.

Can we look back and see the hand of God in our life, protecting and guiding us? Certainly I can.
He always had another church for us to serve God in whenever it was time to leave one. He provided for our family when we could not afford health insurance. We always had the money to pay our taxes, a doubled amount since the churches did not pay the employer's part. Secular jobs were given to help supplement our income. Our God has been faithfully meeting our  needs these 37 years in ministry. You are faithful God forever! Can I get an amen?
Will you share with us how God has been faithful to provide for you?


LET IT GROW

The Jews must have been utterly exhausted after such a lengthy voyage. They did nothing but relax, sleep, and recuperate. On the fourth day, Ezra, along with two priests and two Levites named here, took the treasures to the Temple and inventoried it.

What did they do next?
  • First, the returning Jews from exile worshiped God by making sin and burnt offerings listed in verse 35. This encouraged those Jews who had been captives 57 years earlier.
  • Next, Ezra and the leaders delivered the decree King Artaxerxes  to the local officials. (verse 36)
This would have been the first time this new generation had worshiped in a Temple in the Promised Land. Can we imagine the joy Ezra and his people experienced?
Assistance was required to be given the Jewish returnees and to the temple.

Are we looking to Jesus as our Protector, Provider, as well as Savior?

I Peter 5:7 tells us to cast our cares upon God for He cares for us
Romans 8 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
2 Timothy 4:18 says the Lord will deliver us from evil work.

LET IT GO

Ask God to keep His hand upon my life and my family.

Thank You Jesus for Your provisions.

Love God first and most.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Days of Delay

O. T. #1,025  "Days of Delay"
July 19 2017
Ezra 8
So we fasted and pleaded with our God about this, and He granted our request. Ezra 8:23

LET IT GLOW

Days of delay. It took 5 months in the process of my husband being called as pastor of our current church. It began with a phone call whenever we lived in West Virginia, where he served as pastor. Then we visited our home church, where he preached in view of a call to our current church's pulpit committee. That was a long wait, days of delay. Ezra had some days of delay of his journey to Jerusalem. Want to know why? continue reading, my friend.

The physical preparations for the journey had been made-the king's letter of support, offerings, 25 tons of silver and 4 tons of gold, items recovered which were from the first Temple, relatives of the first group returnees.

In verse 1-14, we find a list of those returning and the number of men in their family.

Liberty Bible Commentary give us several important facts to consider from this list:
  1. Returnees  under Zerubbabel had left parts of heir families and relatives behind in Babylon.
  2. There are 12 families mentioned in this list. This is implied to represent the 12 tribes of Israel.
  3. There was a total of 1,496 males and 15 heads who returned with Ezra.
Notice that Ezra changed to writing from a personal viewpoint, using personal pronouns. In the first 6 chapters, he wrote about the Jew returning to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel, their building of the Temple, and their hardships. Now Ezra is personally involved in the story as he recorded the events of  his return.

Now the other preparations for the journey was that of spiritual provisions. Ezra was described as a man wholly committed to the LORD and His Word; a man sent on a mission. He was commissioned by King Artaxerxes to teach the Law of Moses to the Jewish people in Jerusalem, execute justice in the land as he appointed magistrates and judges, and oversee the royal treasury there.

Ezra urged the people to prepare themselves for the journey. He challenged the Jews to seek the Lord through prayer and fasting:
  • to seek God for a safe trip, for His guidance and protection;
  • to seek God because the journey was long (900 miles), demanding, and dangerous, especially with children present. Bandits were common along the road. Keep in mind it took them 4 months to reach Jerusalem.
  • because Ezra felt uneasy asking the king for a military escort. It he had, then the king would doubt God's ability to provide.
Their prayers were answered since they made a successful journey to Jerusalem, so God did protect and provide for His children. Fasting showed God that they seriously and completely depended upon God. Serious prayer can put us in touch with God's will and can change our will into His will.
Do we pray before we attempt our tasks? God knows exactly what we need. Even when we encounter suffering and hardships, God does not forsake us, nor leave us alone.

LET IT GROW

Ezra had one problem-not one single Levites volunteered to go with him to Jerusalem. They were needed to assist the priests in the Temple. Apparently, they did not want to leave the comfort, prosperity, and success they achieved in Babylon. (However, this new generation had not seen Jerusalem, the Temple, nor the Promise Land.)

So Ezra enlisted:
  • three family heads or leader to help him recruit, who were from two priestly families of Phinehas and Ithamar, named Gershom and Daniel;
  • Hattush was from the royal line of David, and a descendant of the family of Shechamah;
  • those 3 special family head recruited a large number of people from12 major families. (verse 3-14)
  • and they all assembled at the Ahava Canal;
  • a special delegation to recruit Levites, led by Iddo, who must have lived in the city where the school of Levies was located;
  • recruitment delayed the trip by 12 days, as it took 3 days to recruit the Levites (verse 15) and the rest in fasting (verse 21).
What resulted? They recruited 38 Levites, along with 220 temple servants, the Nethinins. Those servants were established by King David and descendants of Gibeonites who helped in the Temple.Their task was to rebuild the Jewish nation and restore true worship in the Temple.
Laborers are needed in church and kingdom work. People around us are lost and without hope, separated from God. They do not know salvation and hope comes though Jesus Christ. Are we being a strong witness of the mercy and help we receive through our hardships?

LET IT GO

Don't delay in obeying God.

Trust His purpose in asking us to do certain things.

Share the hope of Jesus that is in my heart.

Tell of His wonderful salvation.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Journey Preparations

O. T. #1024  "Journey Preparations"
July 18, 2017
Ezra 7-Part 2


LET IT GLOW

Do you make preparations for a vacation or a journey? We are in that process now. Our airline tickets have been secured for our trip to the Portland area next month. We are making a tentative agenda concerning what we will be doing in the area, places to see. Next is deciding where we want to stay for the week. The anticipation is exciting for us. I have not been in the area before, yet my husband was during his teen years.
Don't you know the Jews and Ezra were excited as they made preparations for their journey back to their homeland? Join me as we look at their preparations.

Between the chapters 6 and 7 was a period of 57 years. The book of Esther fits in this time frame. During the seventh year of the reign of King Artaxerxes, the priest-scribe Ezra led 1,754 Jewish men to Jerusalem, located in their Promised Land. When you include their women and children, the number could have been 7,000 to 8,000. This was the second group to return after their captivity into Babylon. (Zerubbabel took the first group, who rebuilt the Temple and worship system and city.) It was a 4 month journey to make the 900 mile  Any Jew could go with the king's permission.

However, by this time, the first remnant was in need of spiritual guidance by that time.  That was the purpose of Ezra's going to Jerusalem. He was going to investigate and make sure the people were obeying the Law, God's Word.

What was Ezra's response to the commissioning of the king? Verses27 and 28 tell us:
  • He blesses and praises the LORD God of their fathers.
  • He recognized that God had moved upon the heart of the king to honor (beautify) the LORD's house, the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Also, God had showed mercy when He stirred the king and his officials to appoint him for this great mission.
  • Ezra was strengthened as God's hand was upon him.
When we face life's challenges, we often must work diligently and with extraordinary effort, realizing that God oversees all our work. God can change even the king's heart. (Prov.21:1) (Life Application Study Bible)

Do we recognize God's hand in our success? It is the God-given power that enables us to achieve His will, not our own power. Do we praise and thank Him for His help and protection?

LET IT GROW

Not only did the king support Ezra and the Jewish returnees, but he was allowed or given:
  • Ezra was to oversee the gifts given for the Temple-the king and officials gave silver and gold, as well as officials in the providence, the Jewish people and priests gave offerings.
  • The money donated bought animals and food to be sacrificed in the worship services of the Temple.
  • He was allowed to use left over money as he felt needed for God's service, not selfishly.
  • Wiersbe suggests that Ezra was given an expense account of $100,000 to be taken from the king's treasury. What an extraordinary amount back then.
  • The return of the Temple furnishings were to be give to the Temple. Babylon's king had taken them away.
  • Ezra was given permission to request help from political officials.
  • He was allowed to appoint magistrates and judges for the region, which gave the Jews some local autonomy.
  • We can't leave out the letter granting Ezra and the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem according to their desires, not a command by the king.
Ezra was a man wholeheartedly devoted to God and His Word. Does our soul hunger and thirst after God's Word? We are on a journey through this life. We are commissioned by the King Jesus to proclaim God's truth and salvation to the world. Are we being the faithful ambassador?

In Acts 1:8, Jesus commissioned His disciples and us, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 

Friend, have you made preparations for your journey to eternal life? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to God except through Him. (John 14:6) I rejoice if you have. However, have our loved ones?


LET IT GO

Leave Babylon (the world) and make the journey to the Promised Land (heaven) on the road of faith in Jesus.

Surrender to God's will for my life.

Trust Him to provided what is needed.

Praise the Lord for all He does.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Man on a Mission

O. T. #1023  "Man on a Mission"
July 14, 2017
Ezra 7
This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.  Ezra 7:6

LET IT GLOW

What a joy is has been to see 8 children com to know the Lord Jesus as Savior this week at Vacation Bible School. It certainly makes all the work and sacrifice worth it! One of those was my granddaughter, so you know I was shouting for Joy!

Almost 57 years passed between  chapters 6 and 7. Prophet Ezra is the author of this book. One thing to notice is that his writing changed from the third person to the first person. Now Ezra lead the second group of Jews back to Jerusalem. the first group rebuilt the Temple and reestablished worship of God and the Law. There were 1,754 Jews that returned out of the captivity. In the intervening years, those Jews in Jerusalem had slipped away from the Lord apparently. Intermarriage with foreigners posed a threat to their spiritual future as a nation of God's chosen people.

What do we know about Ezra?
  • He was a descendant of the High Priest Aaron, brother of Moses. (verses 1-5)
  • He was a scribe, dedicated to studying God's Word, committed to following and teaching it, and its application to life. (verse 6)
  • He was sent to Jerusalem by King Artaxerxes (with a royal letter of permission) to evaluate the situation and set up a religious education system, then report back. This took 4 months to achieve.
He must have been a persuasive man, as he secured the king's help and convinced the people to leave their homes and security to make such a long, and dangerous return to an uncertain future. Can we call Ezra a "man on a mission," sent by the king?

So can we consider our self a person on a mission, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of heaven and earth? He is the only way to God, a bridge so to speak from us to God of the universe.



LET IT GROW

We see Ezra's wholehearted devotion to the LORD and His Word as he:
  1. studied God's Law
  2. obeyed God's Law
  3. taught God's laws. 

The qualifications of Ezra included a priest, teacher, and scholar of the Law. Do we consider his willingness to study God's Word and practice it in his life. What faithfulness. (He wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles also.)
Will we make the commitment to serving God, even before we know details of the service? I have found that most of the time our area we are called to serve in is something we are interested in and enjoy doing. We can start out by applying the Biblical principles in our life.


LET IT GO

Study, obey, and teach God's Word as the opportunity comes.