EZRA CHAPTER 8
22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
In Chapter 8, Ezra leads his people to Jerusalem. The King approved of their journey but the journey would still be a dangerous one. Ezra knew that danger awaited them but was convicted. Why ask for the King’s protection when you already have the King of King’s protection? And so Ezra and his people fasted and prayed to the Lord and the Lord protected them. I found this chapter convicting to me personally. I struggle with control and anxiety, so trusting God is a daily battle for me. Even if I know I am doing what God wants me to do, I am still fearful of the ‘journey’ and try to do everything I can to secure a safe one. This includes stressing out about every detail until I have a panic attack. Chapter 8 teaches us that all we need to do is set our eyes on Christ and He will do the rest of the work. Once we can swallow those words of truth, it is such a relief! We don’t need an army to protect us. We already have the army of the Lord.
EZRA CHAPTER 7
27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
In Chapter 7, Ezra returns to Jerusalem and the Lord blessed him. We see Ezra thanking God for bestowing favor on him, knowing that it is not of himself. All good things come from God. I know in my life, the first person I praise in good times is often myself. I congratulate myself on MY hard work, MY wisdom, MY good deeds. How silly, really. In reality, God grants me wisdom. He gives me perseverance and determination. And he puts good deeds on my heart. I am inherently sinful and any good thing I do is because of God’s truth in my heart. So no, it isn’t bad to give yourself a pat on the back, but we must not forget the God who orchestrates all things in our lives. He is merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful, and full of grace and love. He is God.
EZRA CHAPTER 6
13 Then, according to the word sent by Darius the king, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what Darius the king had ordered. 14 And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; 15 and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
As believer’s we are all living temples. We will face much opposition from Satan and even from ourselves, but God will prevail in the end.
What an awesome example of God’s faithfulness. The Jewish people were finally able to rebuild the temple despite the many men set against it. They trusted that God would see it through. As believer’s we are all living temples. We will face much opposition from Satan and even from ourselves, but God will prevail in the end. As we are sanctified, we can find joy in our new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). When I think about myself as a temple, I tend to think of myself simply as a building. But we are living, breathing vessels. We require a lot more maintenance than a bunch of bricks. Being physically and emotionally well are extremely important factors of your spiritual wellness. God created us that way. When one of these factors is out of whack, our Temples take the brunt of it, making connecting with God much harder. Building our temples takes work, patience, and REST. This plays out for me in my sleep. I don’t get a lot of it and that eventually catches up to me. I become irritable, more willing to skip my quiet times, my anxiety flares, I can be unloving to those I care about, go days without praying, etc. Recently, I was ordered by a friend to go home and get some sleep. Though it was hard for me to stay still and rest, the sleep made all the difference. It restored me to myself, to others, and MOST importantly, to Christ. My temple was back up and running. In the fast-paced world we live in we can easily forget about our temples. I pray that you inspect your today.
EZRA CHAPTER 5
2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
When we are doing God’s work, He protects us and sends others to guide us.
Fifteen years have passed since the Jewish people were told to stop rebuilding the temple. The Lord provided prophets to help guide and encourage His people, reminding them that they are doing God’s work. There has been a phrase floating around the Christian world lately: “God will never give you something you can’t handle”. Many Christian leaders are pushing back, explaining that this statement isn’t true. God will often give you things you can’t handle but he will always provide help. Not only does he never leave you, but he sends others to encourage you and provide wise counsel. I don’t know how many times I have walked into church on Sunday and heard the exact message I needed to hear that day. Or been at my community group and been loved on and encouraged to fight the good fight. Things may seem dire or even impossible but God never gives us an impossible quest. We always win His battles, whether they look like wins in our eyes or not. Just as the rebuilding of the temple was hindered, we must remember that the setbacks in our lives are just platforms for God’s perfect plan.
Lord, thank you for never leaving my side and always providing a helping hand in my time of need. Please help me not to be discouraged by the seemingly impossible tasks that lay ahead. Please help me to keep my eyes and heart set on you and your promises. Amen.
EZRA CHAPTER 4
4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
God doesn’t promise us easy lives. He promises that we will be persecuted because of Him. But take heart, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
In Chapter 4, we see the Jewish people being ‘discouraged’. We see men determined to keep the temple from being built. My small group leader in college once told me that Satan will try anything he can to stop us from following Christ and doing His will and that we often know we are doing the right thing because things get harder. Matthew Henry writes, “Every attempt to revive true religion will stir up the opposition of Satan, and of those in whom he works”. As daunting as this sounds, God promises that he will be with us every step of the way. He never leaves us or forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And He never leaves the Jewish people either. So despite the hard times and trials we go through, we know that God is with us and that HE WINS.
Lord, thank you for never leaving my side, even in days of trouble and weakness. Thank you for giving me your strength. Please help me not to be discouraged when Satan attacks, for it is my tendency to doubt your plans. Amen.
EZRA CHAPTER 3
12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses,old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
Don’t let the memory of past troubles drown out the knowledge of current blessings.
In Chapter 3, the Jewish people are laying the foundation of God’s temple. Many of overjoyed at the prospect at having a place to worship their God again. However, there are some who remember the old Temple and the old days and weep because they are gone. The Temple will never be as glorious as the first. We often do the same thing today. At least, I do. I focus on the negatives and blind myself to the blessings God gives me NOW. At THIS moment. It is easy to get caught up in how rough you had/have it. I’ve gotten pretty good at picking out how sinful I am and how messed up my life is. I forget to be thankful. I forget to worship Him for all the things he has given me. He has even given me His son so that I can live in perfection with him forever. And I find that once I stop concentrating on all the bad things and focus on the good, my attitude toward life, others, and Christ changes! I am happier and hopeful, knowing full well that this world is not my home. God loves me and He love you and we will see His glory. That’s a promise (Psalm 27:13-14).
Lord, thank you for all your blessings. Thank you for who you are. I confess that my mind is clouded with the past and I tend to dwell in these thoughts. Please help me to focus on your love and truth and not myself. Amen.
EZRA CHAPTER 2
1 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah,Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
God works in and and through us to do His will.
In Chapter 1, we saw King Cyrus’s spirit being stirred by the Lord and in Chapter 2, we see action based on his faithfulness. He reacted to the stirring of the Lord within him and allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem. And as we see in the first few verses in Chapter 2, among the people who returned were Nehemiah and Mordecai, whom God uses to do great things. God worked in and through King Cyrus and brought about the rebuilding of Jersualem (through Nehemiah) and saved the Jews from annihilation by Haman (through Mordecai and Queen Esther). What a great reminder that we are part of God’s GREAT plan, whether we realize it or not.
Many of us struggle with knowing God’s purpose for us. We want to know that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Chapter 2 shows us that we ARE. We are God’s tool of bringing love, grace, and mercy to others. All we need to do is be faithful and obedient and God will take care of the rest.
Lord, you are mighty and merciful. You’re loving hand holds all. Please help me to slow down and be quiet so that I am able to hear you stirring within me. Lead me where you want me to go. Amen.
EZRA CHAPTER 1
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing…
“Our spirits naturally bow down to this earth and the things of it; if they move upward in any good affections or good actions, it is God who raises them.” – Matthew Henry
When I chose to study the book of Ezra, I realized that I have no idea what this book is about. It is one of those books of the Bible that we skip over on our way to the ‘more exciting’ or ‘more interesting’ books. I decided to look up some commentaries on this book and was overwhelmed with the great truth this book holds and I am excited to study these chapters with you. Ezra is the story of the Jews being brought back from captivity from Babylon and, ultimately, it represents the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ.
In Chapter 1, we see the Lord stir the spirit of King Cyrus. To stir, means to prompt action. God prompted action in the heart of the King. God gave him the desire to do His will, ultimately working for His plan. This is a great reminder that God works in our lives and in the lives of others. He can stir us! There have been many times where I have felt stirred to share the Gospel, or prompted to talk to someone, or even to join a cause. These promptings should not be neglected. I often disregard them and keep my focus on the things of this world. I don’t realize that the Holy Spirit is stirring in me. Instead of moving on with my life, these stirrings should be nurtured with prayer and wise counsel to determine the will of God. What a wonderful reminder that God is not a distant God but a God of action, whose hand is in all that we do. God is in control.
Lord, please stir my heart to do your will this week. Help me to love on others and take the focus off myself. Thank you for your constant hand in all I do and say. Amen.