National Repentance

 

Ezra 10:1-44

Leaders lead by example in order to achieve the right and lasting results. Yesterday we read the reaction of Ezra to the sins of the people in taking strange wives to themselves, despite Ezra not being the defaulter, he showed great sorrow and cried unto God on behalf of the whole nation.

Today, the whole nation responded, why wouldn’t they? Ezra showed what leaders are to do if they are to initiate repentance and change. He did the repenting first, and the people could not withstand seeing their leader distraught for their sins. So all the people came together, despite a very heavy downpour, they all stayed, and vowed to put away the strange wives in obedience to the laws and commandments of God, and to avert the anger of the Lord.

To conclude, we read that between the first day of the tenth month and the first day of the first month, and end had been made with all the men the men that had taken strange wives. The priests also offered rams for their tresspasses, it was indeed a national repentance initiated by a true leader – Ezra!

Some verses to remember

vs 3: Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

vs 19  And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.

 

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Spiritual Amnesia

Ezra 9:1-15

How else could we describe what happened in the passage read today? We have just been reading of how God restored the people from captivity back to their own land, helping them to build the temple, with much favour from heathen kings. God was merciful to them and did not deal with them as their sins deserved.

However, we read today that the people started walking against the laws of God, resulting in the prayer made here by Ezra. He was told that the people, including their priests and Levites were committing abominations by marrying the people of the land, thus the holy seed were mingling with the pagans of the land, against God’s commandments.

Ezra was very sad, angry and sorrowful at this development. He tore his clothes, plucked off his hair and sat down astonished. he then prayed a prayer of forgiveness unto God as we saw here. This was the first thing he did. What did he do next ? We will soon discover, as we learn how to rally a people back from sin.

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The People Who Returned

Ezra 8:1-36

We were given the names of the people that went up to Jerusalem with Ezra from Babylon during the reign of Artaxerxes the king. The people were listed according to their families, and the number of men present with them.Ezra later requested for ministers for the house of God, when he found out that there were no Levites present amongst the people. So, they brought men of the sons of Levi for the service of God’s house.

Ezra then proclaimed a fast to enable the people to seek the face of God for the right way for them. An interesting word was used here, ” afflict ourselves”. Fasting is like a self-affliction that tunes the heart and spirit to God, gets his attention, and benefits the individual. When the people fasted and sought God, He was entreated of them, as they were delivered of all their enemies that laid wait on their way to Jerusalem.

God continued to favour his people, as they continued to make progress with their return to Jerusalem, and the building of the temple, and re-establishing the rightful worship of the Lord their God.

 
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Introducing Ezra The Scribe

Ezra 7:1-28

Today, we were introduced to Ezra, who was described as a scribe in the law of Moses. He was sent out from babylon by the decree of Artaxerxes the king, as the Lord continued to show his favour to his people through the heathen kings.

Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord and to do it, and also to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. Artaxerxes decree was that Ezra and all others – priests, Levites, which are minded like him, should go up to Jerusalem with him. They were to go with gold, silver and other treasures freely offered from the king for the house of God, and also lots of money to buy animals for offerings.

Apart from these, the king further promised them his support for whatsoever they needed, to the extent that he even declared that those who served in God’s house should not be charged toll, tribute or custom. Ezra was given charge to set magistrates and judges over all the people, according to the law of Moses, and whosoever will not do the law of God and the king, was to be punished.

God’s hand was upon Ezra, and he strengthened him to go up as commanded, with the chief men of Israel.

Some verses to remember

vs 10: For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

27-28 : Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem: And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.

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A Great Turnaround!

Ezra 6:1-22

Stemming from the reply given to Darius by the leaders of the Jews, he ordered a search to be conducted, and truly the scroll of the order given by Cyrus for the rebuilding of the temple was found. Not only did he give the order for the rebuilding, he even instructed that the expenses be paid for from the king’s treasury, and all treasures taken by Nebuchadnezzar be returned to the temple.

When Darius saw this, he told Tatnai and his companions to desist from troubling the Jews and their leaders, but rather they should supply them with all they would need for the building, including the animals needed for the daily sacrifices to God. He even decreed that whosoever alters the command would be hanged and his house pulled down – What a turnaround! What was meant for evil had been turned to good, and the people of Israel became better off than before the adversaries troubled them, thats what God could do.

So the elders of the Jews, builded and prospered as the prophets prophesied, and they completed the building as God commanded, through Cyrus and Darius – two heathen kings! The house was dedicated unto God, with sacrifices offered with joy. The passover was also celebrated after all the people have consecrated themselves unto God, as was the the feast if the unleavened bread. The people had every course to celebrate for how God has favoured them  with the building and restoration to their land.

Boldness & Courage

Ezra 5:1-17

How else is it possible to describe what happened in today’s passage after we read of the threat from opposition yesterday which resulted in the work of the temple building ceasing.

By the words spoken from the prophets of GodHaggai and Zechariah, the people of Israel, starting with their leaders (Zerubbabel and Jeshua) went ahead to continue building the temple. This was clearly against the order given by king Artaxerxes, who had instructed the work to cease.

The governor of that region by the name Tatnai, then rose up and queried them saying, “who commanded you to build this house”? They were not answerable to Tatnai, and the matter eventually got to Darius the king. God was with these elders as the work continued. The response they gave as shown in the letter sent to Darius was that, they were God’s servants who went into captivity because of their sins, however God had allowed them to come back through the decree of Cyrus, and they have received commandment to rebuild the temple which was built many years ago by their king. They even made it known to Darius that Cyrus delivered back to them the vessels stolen from God’s house through Sheshbazzar the governor, who he also gave order that the house of God should be built in his place.

What a boldness, what a courage! This could only come from seeking God and listening to his words of prophecy as we saw the prophets do. No matter what the opposition is, God’s word is able to give comfort, boldness and courage to continue. we can know how to answer the adversaries with his wisdom, and we can fulfill the good intentions he has laid on our minds.

Some verses to remember

vs 2: Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.

vs 5: But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.

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OPPOSITION!

 

Ezra 4:1-24

Life seems to be always full of adversaries. There are some people who are not just happy with progress, change, and improvements in other people’s lives. Just yesterday, we read of the laying of the foundations of the temple in Jerusalem, in today’s chapter opposition arose to hamper the progress of this good work.

Initially, these adversaries came to Zerubbabel, asking him to allow them to build with Israel, claiming that they also sought Israel’s God and sacrificed unto Him. This was however a lie, and Zerubbabel along with jeshua made it known plainly to them that they had no part with Israel and could not be involved with building God’s house.Therefore, these people weakened the hands of the people of Judah and troubled them in building God’s house.

The main opposition arose when these disgruntled people wrote through Bisham, Mithredath, Tabeel, Rehum and Shimshai to Artaxerxes, the king of Persia against Jerusalem. They claimed that these people who came up from captivity were rebuilding a rebellious city, setting up its walls and foundations, and that if the city was built, the king would no longer receive toll, tribute, custom from them again, and thus damage the king’s revenue. They told the king that if the city was built,  he would have no portion in that region again.

In response to their letter, Artaxerxes told them he had conducted his own research, and also found that the city in old times had been known for rebellion and sedition. He therefore gave an order that the work should cease and the city should not be built until further directives. The work of the building thus ceased in the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

What happened next after this? We will soon discover!

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Laying The Foundations of The Temple

Ezra 3:1-13

Today, the people who returned to Jerusalem started the work of the temple.  Firstly, Jeshua and the other priests reestablished the altar of God, and started offering burnt offerings as directed in the law of Moses.They also kept the feast of tabernacles, offered the daily offerings, as the duty of everyday required.

The next stage was the laying of the foundations of the temple. Those who returned gave money to support the work of the workmen. Meat drink, and oil were also given out to those who brought the cedar trees needed from Lebanon. By the second year of their return to Jerusalem, Zerubabel and Jeshua with their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that came from captivity set to work on the house of God.

When the had builders laid the foundations of the temple, the priests were set in their apparel with trumpets, Levites with cymbals, and they all sang praises unto God for His mercies. All the people shouted and rejoiced loudly. The older generation of fathers and priests who had seen the initial temple, however wept when they saw the new one, such that there was an loud mixture of both joy and weeping, very difficult to distinguish.

The most important thing, apart from the beauty of the new foundations or otherwise, is the fact that God restored his people to their land, and they are able to restart their life of worship as his people. The temple is central to israel’s life, and laying its foundation again was something to rejoice about and celebrate.

 

What new foundations do you need to re-establish with God? Do so today, and there would be rejoicing!

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Those Who Returned to Jerusalem

Ezra 2:1-70

In today’s passage, we were provided a list and number of the people who returned to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild God‘s house. The people were listed according to their families, and also their belongings were also highlighted – servants, maids, horses, mules, camels and asses.

The most notable of all however is the willingness of the chief of the fathers to offer freely unto God in order to ensure the house of God was set up in place. They all gave of their ability, gold, silver and priest garments.

As we continue we would see how the people were able to rebuild as God restored them back into their land.

Some verses to remember

68-69:  And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.

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Cyrus Initiates Restoration

Ezra 1:1-11

God is a faithful God. He is also very merciful. As we saw today, he brought to past the promise he made to restore his people, through a prophecy made by Jeremiah the prophet.

The people had been taken captive to Babylon, with Jerusalem and the temple destroyed because of the sins of Israel and their kings, it seemed everything was over. However, God stirred the heart of a heathen king – Cyrus, who was declared as having authority from God over the kingdoms of the earth, to build the temple at Jerusalem in Judah.

Cyrus asked of the people who would be willing to go to Jerusalem to execute the mandate of rebuilding the temple, and even charged those not going to support the people going with the resources that would be needed – silver, gold and other offerings. The chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, with all others whose spirits God had raised arose to go and rebuild the house of the Lord.Cyrus also restored some of the treasures that had been taken away from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar.

We must learn to know that God works through diverse means. He gives authority to whom he wills, and he could use any man to execute his plan and will. Do not be discouraged by the turn of events, for even through the darkest night, God’s light could still shine through, even from odd places. Trust Him!