Ezra


Ezra 6-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He knows the plans He has for us and He has the power to bring them to pass

The only good thing I can say about the packing up and moving process is that we often run across pictures, notes and sentiments that we may not have seen for many years.  Memories come flooding to our minds of all the special days and special loved ones.  In a box of old photographs, I recently discovered a set of documents about my family’s history and their beginnings in their new country, the United States.  My rediscovered papers were a joy to read once again, but they were nothing compared to some old documents that were discovered deep in Persia about 2,500 years ago.

Israel has almost always had a difficult time defending, building and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem on the Holy Hill, Mt. Moriah.  Still today, they long to once again worship on the Temple Mount.  The situation found in the Book of Ezra was no different for the Jews returning to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity.  The ruling forces west of the Euphrates River did not want the Jewish refugees to rebuild their Temple, but God had other plans.

Through the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the Jewish leaders stated their case to the authorities and finally had to take a stand in order to be faithful to God’s command to build the temple regardless of the opposition.  In building our churches, our ministries and our homes, do we really ever want pagans who oppose God to determine our success?  God used the decrees of ungodly rulers, Cyrus and Darius, to change the situation, but the Israelites had to resist intimidation and take a stand. 

@ Ezra 6
“So King Darius issued orders that a search be made in the Babylonian archives, which were stored in the treasury. But it was at the fortress at Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found. This is what it said:  ‘Memorandum: In the first year of King Cyrus’s reign, a decree was sent out concerning the Temple of God at Jerusalem. Let the Temple be rebuilt on the site where Jews used to offer their sacrifices, using the original foundations.’” (Ezra 6:1-3)  Yes, tucked away in the distant Persian fortress of Ecbatana was an old decree from King Cyrus that the Jews returning home from Babylon captivity should build their temple.  Who would have thought of checking for them there?

I doubt someone was packing up and moving across town and just happened to run across this amazing document. Most certainly, God brought about its discovery!  God is never threatened by pagan governments or rulers, and He often uses them to carry out His will.  Because of this document, King Darius enforced King Cyrus’ decree, and even added benefits to the original deal.  I love the way God operates!

“So the Jewish elders continued their work, and they were greatly encouraged by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. The Temple was finally finished, as had been commanded by the God of Israel and decreed by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia. The Temple was completed on March 12, during the sixth year of King Darius’s reign.” (14-16)   As had been commanded by the God of Israel!   Ezra had it right – this was God’s plan!  Foreign rulers had to bow to it, faithful prophets had to proclaim it and Jewish elders had to obey it.  And some dusty old documents had to be discovered to confirm it.

Whatever His plan is for us today, we can be confident of His unlimited resources to bring it about.  I’m so thankful that He is not stymied by opposition and that He helps us find the answers we need at every turn.                       

Moving Forward:  I’m placing my future in His hands today.  He’s the One with the plan and He will bring it to pass. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 134-136

Ezra 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Styles come and go, but He never changes

My laptop PC had served me well for several years.  I understand most of the nuances and foibles of my Windows PC, and I’m comfortable with it, like a pair of well broken-in shoes.  It was with reluctance that I accepted the necessity to buy a new laptop, but it was time. Voices were encouraging me to make a change, a change for the better they said, change to a…Mac.  Help! They promise no viruses, user-friendly computing, amazing video editing and on and on.  I like things the way they are, and who needs change?  Maybe…no…well, I just don’t know…but it may be the way to go…but it’s just not me…I could learn to like it…to Mac or not to Mac. Hmmm… 

@ Ezra 3
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets…With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:  ‘He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!’  Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy.  The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (3:10,11-13)  Change can be difficult.

I am almost positive I have heard the “joyful shouting and the weeping mingled together” in some of our church services throughout the land.  Church just isn’t the same as it was years ago.  Newer music, relaxed style of dress and quicker paced services are just a few of the changes that many churches have grown into over the past few years.  Many seasoned believers feel disconnected from the church where they had experienced so many wonderful moments with the Lord – the new Temple is just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

History reveals quite a shake-up in the church world when the now somewhat disconnected believers were younger.  Coming out of more liturgical services, they started to accept gospel songs, clapping, raising hands to God and even shouting at times.  I’ve read that the elders from their former churches thought they had lost all respect and reverence for God; but of course, they had not.  Their new-found freedom in the Lord was in keeping with the day in which they lived, and it was like a breath of fresh air to the church.  But to some, the new Temple was just not the same, not as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple.

After 40 years in youth and young adult ministry, I can say that the current generation, with very few exceptions, does not really understand the style of the past.  As a rule, it doesn’t touch them, it doesn’t reach them and without some new wineskins for the new wine God is pouring out today, they may be lost for eternity.

When I worship in church today, beyond the music and the style, I am most blessed by seeing people’s lives changed by the power of God, and that is really the bottom line for me.  If I didn’t see this taking place in my church, I would find a place where it was happening.  Methods and music style, whether new or old, without the touch of God are simply entertainment.  The temple may not look anything like the temple of my youth, but I’m not going to weep because too many young lives are finding the Savior.  Hear my joyful shouting!

Moving Forward:  I’m rejoicing today over lives being changed by the power of God.  It may be a different approach, but it’s the same God and the same power. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 131-133