Author: gracepoint

June 12, 2020

Ps15- 2020-06-12

  • Bible Text: Psalm 15

    A Psalm of David.

    1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?

        Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

    2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right

        and speaks truth in his heart;

    3 who does not slander with his tongue

        and does no evil to his neighbor,

        nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

    4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,

        but who honors those who fear the Lord;

        who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

    5 who does not put out his money at interest

        and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

    He who does these things shall never be moved.

    God

  • [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]

  • Lessons/ Insights

  • Apply and Obey

    [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]

  • Prayer 

June 11, 2020

Ezra7- 2020-06-11

Journal

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Commentary: EZRA 7

Bible Text: Ezra 7:11-28

11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the LORD and his statutes for Israel: 12 “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14 For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand, 15 and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, and with the freewill offerings of the people and the priests, vowed willingly for the house of their God that is in Jerusalem. 17 With this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God that is in Jerusalem.   18 Whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. 19 The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. 20 And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.

21 “And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, 22 up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. 23 Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. 24 We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.

25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. 26 Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”

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.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 7:12-26

  • Notice the remarkably high degree of reverence King Artaxerxes gives to “the God of Israel” (v.15), equating him with “the God of heaven” (v.21), and the high degree of respect the king has for the priesthood (v. 24).  What can I infer about the source of the king’s attitude?
  • Reflect on the role of this one person, Ezra, along with his character, piety and wisdom (v. 25), in advancing God’s will and bringing about a huge blessing to God’s people. In what ways can I emulate him?

Ezra 7:27-28

  • How did Ezra respond when he realized that the hand of the Lord was on him?
  • From what do I take courage and strength to gather and motivate others?

Prayer 

June 10, 2020

Ezra7- 2020-06-10

Journal

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Commentary: 

EZRA 7

7:1–6 […] As with previous lists (cf. Ezra 2), the paramount concern is to establish continuity with the past—extending in this case back to Aaron the chief or first priest of Moses’s time. Irrespective of its provenance, the length of the genealogy requires the narrative to resume by clarifying that it was “this Ezra” (7:6a) who came back from Babylon. Whatever else a “scribe” may be equipped and called upon to do (7:12, 21), the emphasis here in the description of Ezra is on his proficiency in the “Torah of Moses, which YHWH, the God of Israel, had given.” While the text notes that Artaxerxes too is generous (“giving all for which Ezra asked”), it is at pains to clarify that the gift of Persian royal favor and provision derives ultimately from the “hand of YHWH his God which was upon him [i.e., Ezra].”

7:7–10 […] Ezra joins a relatively small group of texts in the Hebrew Bible where the verb “to seek” is governed by the word of God (Isa 34:16). In 1 Chr 28:8, David charges the leaders of Israel to not merely “observe” but also “seek” the commandments of YHWH your God “that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever.” The notion that “seeking” then involves more than merely obedience to, but rather deep engagement with, the written word is reinforced by the instructive references found in Ps 119. […] Ezra’s commitment to a searching enquiry of Torah is accompanied by a conviction (Ezra 7:10) regarding his own practical application of it (“to do” it) and then finally to inculcate this same passion and process within the community through education (“to teach” the statutes and ordinances in Israel). […]

7:11–20 […] As conventional as both phrases are for the Persian crown, that the “king of kings” acknowledges the “God of heaven” must have been a significant encouragement for a community of returnees attempting to reconcile the unlimited sovereignty of YHWH with the undeniable precariousness of their position. […]

7:21–24 That the royal check is not entirely blank and that even Persian largesse has its limits is made clear by what appears to be a separate decree addressed now to provincial treasurers. […] 7:23 confirms that like Darius (Ezra 6) and Cyrus before him, Artaxerxes’s desire to support the Jewish cult in Yehud (“let it be done with zeal”) stems from a calculated and pragmatic piety that seeks to cultivate loyalty among the elite of the religious establishment and appease the gods whose “wrath” he fears might otherwise destroy the empire. […]

7:25–26 […] That Ezra is equipped to proceed according to the “wisdom of your God, which is in your hand” suggests an equation of “wisdom” with “the law of your God,” which the letter has already specified is also “in your [i.e., Ezra’s] hand” (7:14). […] That Ezra’s jurisdiction is limited to the Jewish community/ies within the province is suggested by the mention of “all the people . . . who know the laws of your God” (7:25), but the specification of comparable punishments, listed here in descending order of severity, for the violation of this law and “the law of the king” (7:26), is an indication of both the significance of Ezra’s authority and the importance of his role in educating the local communities (7:25: “you shall teach”).

7:27–28 The first words of Ezra himself encountered in the book that bears his name offer a blessing of YHWH of the sort found in the Psalms (e.g., 28:6; 31:21) and indeed elsewhere on the lips of Israel’s past leaders (e.g., 1 Kgs 8:15). Like Jehoshaphat in 2 Chr 20:6 (after his own reformation efforts), Ezra also invokes the “God of our fathers” (Ezra 7:27; elsewhere only Deut 26:7) and recognizes the “hand” of God (Ezra 7:28; cf. 7:6, 9) as the stimulus for his strengthened resolve and invitation to others to “go up” (cf. 7:9) with him to Jerusalem. The specific catalyst for Ezra’s blessing is, first, his conviction that the same God who “turned the heart” of Darius to complete the temple in Jerusalem (6:22), also “placed in the heart” of Artaxerxes the impulse to glorify/beautify it. The second stimulus is his belief that the same “loving-kindness” of God that was celebrated at the completion of the altar in the early days of the return (3:11) has persuaded the Persian king to allow Ezra to play his part in the further restoration of worship in Jerusalem. [1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 21-23.

Bible Text:

Ezra 7:1-10

1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub,

3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.

7 And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. 8 And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 7:6-10

  • What do we know of Ezra?
  • What is the relationship between the kind of person Ezra was, as described in this passage, and God’s hand being upon him?

Ezra 7:10

  • What did Ezra set his heart to do?
  • What is the relationship between studying, doing, and teaching the Law of the LORD?
  • How am I doing in my own study of, obedience to, and credibility as a teacher of God’s word?

Prayer 

June 9, 2020

Ezra6- 2020-06-09

Journal

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Commentary: Ezra 6

Bible Text: Ezra 6:13-22

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.

16 And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17 They offered at the dedication of this house of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.

19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles kept the Passover. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were clean. So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. 21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by every one who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the LORD, the God of Israel. 22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 6:16-17

  • How were the Israelites able to experience joy in the midst of this sad situation of having been in exile for so many years?
  • What is my source of courage and faith? How might I maintain joy and faith in the aftermath of defeat, chastisement, or loss?

Ezra 6:19-22

  • What identity would have been reinforced or rekindled in the returned exiles by the celebration of this inaugural Passover?
  • What are some ways I need to reaffirm my salvation identity in the midst of spiritual setbacks or after repentance?

Prayer 

June 8, 2020

Ps9- 2020-06-08

  • Journal
  • Bible Text: Psalm 9

    To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben.

    A Psalm of David.

    I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
        I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
    I will be glad and exult in you;
        I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

    When my enemies turn back,
        they stumble and perish before your presence.
    For you have maintained my just cause;
        you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

    You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
        you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
    The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
        their cities you rooted out;
        the very memory of them has perished.

    But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
        he has established his throne for justice,
    and he judges the world with righteousness;
        he judges the peoples with uprightness.

    The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
        a stronghold in times of trouble.
    10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
        for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

    11 Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion!
        Tell among the peoples his deeds!
    12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
        he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

    13 Be gracious to me, O LORD!
        See my affliction from those who hate me,
        O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
    14 that I may recount all your praises,
        that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
        I may rejoice in your salvation.

    15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
        in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
    16 The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
        the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

    17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
        all the nations that forget God.

    18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
        and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

    19 Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail;
        let the nations be judged before you!
    20 Put them in fear, O LORD!
        Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

    God

  • [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]

  • Lessons/ Insights

  • Apply and Obey

    [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]

  • Prayer 

May 27, 2020

Ezra2- 2020-05-27

Journal

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Commentary: Ezra 2

Ezra 2

 

2:1–2 The mention again of Nebuchadnezzar and the circumstances of exile signals a reemphasizing of the continuity of the returnees with the original exiles. That it was their own towns to which they returned reflects and depends on the divinely sanctioned division and allocation of the land described in Numbers and Joshua. Whether intentional or not, the listing of twelve leaders (not including Sheshbazzar) would likely have offered early readers an echo of the twelve sons of Jacob and the eponymous tribes that descended from them. Though not emphasized here, Zerubbabel’s Davidic ancestry may well have reminded ancient readers of the hope of royal restoration (and thus the fulfillment of God’s promise to David in 2 Sam 7) that would wax and wane in the years following the return. […]

2:21–35 Beginning in 2:21 the focus of the list seems to shift from parentage to place…The interest in connecting the returning people to particular places reflects the historic concerns with (re)securing the land that had been promised by God in ancient times. If the people are listed by place name because they are “the poor of the land” (2 Kgs 25:12) who do not hold title to any ancestral property, the list reaffirms the community’s inclusion of those on the margins who might otherwise have fallen by the wayside on their return.

2:36–39 As in Numbers, where the priests and Levites are listed (Num 3–4) following the others (Num 1–2), so too here in connection with this new “exodus,” the attention moves from laity to priests and functionaries—the comparatively sizeable numbers of the latter offer a further indication that worship is not incidental, but remains central to the plans of God and his people.

2:40–42 As Ezra would himself eventually discover (8:15), comparatively few Levites made this journey (2:40). While singers and gatekeepers would later (1 Chr 6) be incorporated into the Levite ranks and classified according to descent (Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun), here they are reported separately. Collectively, they are further testimony to the cultic ambitions and commitments of the returning community.

2:43–58 It is very likely that the temple servants (lit., “given/devoted”), and the sons of Solomon’s servants were responsible for assisting the Levites with some of the most basic tasks relating to worship and the temple. If, as some of the names suggest, this group included foreigners (including, potentially, prisoners of war), their inclusion as full members of the community (as we see in 2:64) suggests that the community continued to be inclusive within the limits of the tradition as they understood it.

2:59–63 The limits of the community’s inclusivity appear to have had implications for those who belonged to specific communities in exile but were unable to establish their genealogical credentials and/or connection to a traditional location in the ancestral land. While the implications remain unclear for the laity, the priests are excluded from facilitating the worshiping community. Given the emphasis on ensuring continuity with the community of origin, such a position, while appearing severe, would certainly have been understandable. […]

2:64–67 The total sum of the preceding numbers is considerably lower (by some 11,000) than the total given in 2:64. While it is possible, as in 1:9–11, that something has been lost in the preceding list, the more likely suggestion is that women have been included in the latter total, but not in the preceding numbers. Both men and women are included in the figures for servants/slaves (2:65), who are included along with the animals (2:66)—a notion that is as anathema to modern sensibilities as it was apparently unremarkable to ancient ones. […]

2:70 Given that some of the priests and temple functionaries clearly (and of necessity) settled in Jerusalem (Neh 3:26, 31; 11:21), why does the text here make a point of suggesting that both they and the rest of the people settled in their towns? By reiterating the same point at the end of the chapter, which he had made at the beginning (Ezra 2:1), the editor/narrator perhaps wishes to emphasize that the return was not merely a symbolic but also quite literal (re)settlement of the land as evidenced by the repopulation of not just Jerusalem, but also the wide variety of cities and towns that are indicated at great length in the lists found in Josh 15:21–62; 18:21–28. [1]

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 14-15.

Bible Text:

Ezra 2:1-70

 

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.

The number of the men of the people of Israel: 3 the sons of Parosh, 2,172. 4 The sons of Shephatiah, 372. 5 The sons of Arah, 775. 6 The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812. 7 The sons of Elam, 1,254. 8 The sons of Zattu, 945. 9 The sons of Zaccai, 760. 10 The sons of Bani, 642. 11 The sons of Bebai, 623. 12 The sons of Azgad, 1,222. 13 The sons of Adonikam, 666. 14 The sons of Bigvai, 2,056. 15 The sons of Adin, 454. 16 The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. 17 The sons of Bezai, 323. 18 The sons of Jorah, 112. 19 The sons of Hashum, 223. 20 The sons of Gibbar, 95. 21 The sons of Bethlehem, 123. 22 The men of Netophah, 56. 23 The men of Anathoth, 128. 24 The sons of Azmaveth, 42. 25 The sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. 26 The sons of Ramah and Geba, 621. 27 The men of Michmas, 122. 28 The men of Bethel and Ai, 223. 29 The sons of Nebo, 52. 30 The sons of Magbish, 156. 31 The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. 32 The sons of Harim, 320. 33 The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 725. 34 The sons of Jericho, 345. 35 The sons of Senaah, 3,630.

36 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, 973. 37 The sons of Immer, 1,052. 38 The sons of Pashhur, 1,247. 39 The sons of Harim, 1,017.

40 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, 74. 41 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 128. 42 The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, and the sons of Shobai, in all 139.

43 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 44 the sons of Keros, the sons of Siaha, the sons of Padon, 45 the sons of Lebanah, the sons of Hagabah, the sons of Akkub, 46 the sons of Hagab, the sons of Shamlai, the sons of Hanan, 47 the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, 48 the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, 49 the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, 50 the sons of Asnah, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephisim, 51 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 52 the sons of Bazluth, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 53 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 54 the sons of Neziah, and the sons of Hatipha.

55 The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Hassophereth, the sons of Peruda, 56 the sons of Jaalah, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 57 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, and the sons of Ami.

58 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392.

59 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 60 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, and the sons of Nekoda, 652. 61 Also, of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, and the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called by their name). 62These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 63 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.

64 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers. 66 Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, 67 their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720.

68 Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury of the work 61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priests’ garments.

70 Now the priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants lived in their towns, and all the rest of Israel in their towns.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 2:1

  • What can I learn from these Israelite exiles who left the advanced civilization of Persia to return to a Jerusalem in ruins?

Ezra 2:36-57

  • Reflect on the fact that the priests, Levites, gatekeepers and temple servants kept their identities intact during their exile in Babylon, even after the destruction of the Temple.
  • What must I do in order to keep my identity intact throughout changing circumstances?
  • What does the detailed listing of the names of those who returned reveal about God’s heart?

Prayer 

May 26, 2020

Ezra1- 2020-05-26

Journal

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Commentary: 

EZRA 1

1:1 Not surprisingly, the beginning of Ezra commences with the beginning of Cyrus, whose arrival in Babylon in 539 BCE and proclamation in 538 offered both powers and pretenders conclusive evidence of his meteoric rise from the provinces of Media. While the first verse of Ezra begins and ends with Cyrus, the syntactical heart of 1:1 is profoundly theological: “YHWH moved.” […]

1:2 While the tradition strongly associates Israel’s God with sovereignty over the heavens (e.g., Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms), it is suggested that the use of the specific title “the God of heaven” within the edict of Cyrus reflects Persian usage. […] The use of this terminology among the returnees (cf. Ezra 5:12; 6:9–10; Neh 1:4–5; 2:4, 20 etc.) may then reflect an accommodation to imperial expectation, rather than a novel and original use of the title by the exiles. That YHWH has given Cyrus “all the kingdoms,” however, confirms that this heavenly God has earthly interests and intentions, while his charge to build YHWH a house in Jerusalem illustrates the conviction of the returnees, not only that their God has the power to move the “powers that be,” but also that his own worship is his chief priority.

1:3–4  […] for Jews about to embark upon a journey to a land that was once promised, this invocation of their God’s presence “with them” might find a resonance rather in the exodus generation’s hope that their God would go with them on their own journey out of a foreign land (cf. Exod 34:9; Num 14:8–9). The edict’s suggestion that their God might be both “with them” and “in Jerusalem” poses no difficulty for those who conceived of their God in incorporeal terms in any case, though the association of the divine presence with Jerusalem will be expressed regularly in the early chapters of Ezra (e.g., 4:24; 5:2). That the Jews should return with more than “their God” is made explicit in 1:4, which encourages material support for the returnees and especially the temple, even if it is unclear whether such support should be expected from those Jews who were not willing or able to make the journey or from Gentile neighbors, on the pattern of the despoiling of the Egyptians found in the exodus tradition.

1:5–6 While in the prayer of Neh 9, it is the divine spirit’s tutelage of the exodus generation (Exod 9:20) that is remembered, here special note is made of the power of God’s spirit to stir up the people to embrace the opportunity to return to Jerusalem. That this spiritual encouragement was necessary may suggest that the journey was perceived to be a daunting one and may also imply that not all of the “heads of Benjamin and Judah, priests and Levites” were willing to make the trip. However, the emphasis here is laid very much on the receptivity and spiritual sensitivity of those who did so and the divine initiative of YHWH, who stirs up or rouses, not only the “powers that be” like Cyrus (1:1) but also the people themselves. […]

1:7–11 That it is the Persian king himself who brings out the temple vessels (1:7) and then releases them into the charge of a royal treasurer, Mithredath (1:8), is further confirmation of the divine Spirit’s stirring of Cyrus, while the mention of Nebuchadnezzar’s plundering of the temple (2 Kgs 24:13; 25:13–16; 2 Chr 36:10) invites the reader to reflect on the ultimate sovereignty of the God of heaven over even the greatest sovereigns of the earth. The writer’s attention to the facts and figures (Ezra 1:9–10) of the temple vessels reflects the importance of the return of what was taken and the notion of careful (ac)counting reflected also in 1 Chr 9:28, which relates the practice of counting the vessels when they were brought into the temple for use and again when they were taken out. Having been taken out of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar in the most traumatic of circumstances, this precious paraphernalia is now “counted” out of the house of Cyrus’s gods to ensure that all that should return to the temple does so. […] [1] 

[1] Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 13-14.

 

Bible Text:

Ezra 1:1-11

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:

2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. 6 And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. 7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 10 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; 11 all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.

Go Deeper

Questions to help us go deeper

Ezra 1:1

  • What can I learn about how God works from the fact that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation”?

Ezra 1:2

  • Given Cyrus’s high position and power, why is it amazing that he says that God “has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah”?
  • How does Cyrus’s view of his personal accomplishments and blessings contrast with mine?

Prayer 

May 25, 2020

Ps1- 2020-05-25

 

  • Bible Text: Psalm 1

    1 Blessed is the man

        who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

    nor stands in the way of sinners,

        nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

    2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

        and on his law he meditates day and night.

    3 He is like a tree

        planted by streams of water

    that yields its fruit in its season,

        and its leaf does not wither.

    In all that he does, he prospers.

    4 The wicked are not so,

        but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

    5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

        nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

    6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

    but the way of the wicked will perish.


    God

  • [What truths about God’s person, activity or character does the text reveal?]

  • Lessons/ Insights

  • Apply and Obey

    [How does today’s text apply to me? How will I obey or respond to the truths from today’s text?]

  • Prayer 

May 22, 2020

2Tim4- 2020-05-22

Journal

Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Bible Text: 

2 Timothy 4:9-22

9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. 

Reflection & Application

2 Timothy 4:10

  • What is surprising and tragic about the reason Demas deserted Apostle Paul?
  • What is the relationship between being “in love with this present world” and deserting the work of God? (cf. James 4:4)
  • What are the things I still love that can potentially become the reason to desert or dilute my faith and commitment to the work of God?

2 Timothy 4:16-18

  • What enabled Apostle Paul to not hold a grudge against “all [who] deserted [him]”?
  • What are the things Paul recognizes, that enable him to break out into praise despite his difficult circumstances — such as imprisonment and loneliness, to name a few?
  • What are the difficulties that I am facing, and what are the truths I can remember, that will lead me to give thanks and glory to God in every circumstance? (cf. 1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Prayer 

May 21, 2020

2Tim4- 2020-05-21

Journal

Here are some tools to help you with the devotionals:

Bible Text: 

2 Timothy 4:1-8

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Reflection & Application

2 Timothy 4:1-5

  • What five charges does Apostle Paul give to Timothy? With what attitude should these charges be carried out and why?
  • What is the role of a spiritual mentor and what makes it difficult?
  • Who are the people, or what are some of the sources, in my life that tell me things to “suit [my] own passions”?
  • What truths in my life have I turned away from and which myths do I turn to instead? 

2 Timothy 4:6-8

  • How must I live in order to be able to say, along with Apostle Paul, that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”?

Prayer 

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