Monthly Archives: November, 2013

EZRA OVERVIEW

Ezra Overview

The Book of Ezra does not specifically name its author, although scholars believe it to be the Priest Ezra. Interestingly we will witness that Ezra does not appear in the book until chapter 7.  At this point the writing switches from third person to first person which lends credibility to scholars believe and study as to who the author actually is.  The date of the writing is believed to be between 460 and 440 B.C

Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible.  They both give and account for one of the most important events in history…the RETURN from exile.  Both books have a lot in common:

  1. They both cover about 100 years of history.
  2. They both begin in Persia but end in Jerusalem.
  3. They begin with a king’s decree.
  4. Both books include prayers of confession (Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9).
  5. Both books end with the purification of their people.  An important chapter to reread would be Jeremiah 29 because it goes along with both the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah.

The Book of Ezra is devoted to events occurring in Israel at the time of the return from Babylonian captivity (which began in 538 BC) and the years following their return.  The emphasis in Ezra is on the rebuilding of the Temple. It covers the return from captivity to rebuild the Temple up to the decree of Artaxerxes, which is the event covered at the beginning of the Book of Nehemiah. Haggai was the main prophet in the day of Ezra, and Zechariah was the prophet in the day of Nehemiah. Ezra was a priest, the great grandson of the priest who found the lost scrolls in the deserted temple who brought them to King Josiah who began a revival (Jeremiah’s dad)!  Like….WOW!!!

We will see extensive genealogical records (oh boy… I know lots of names…..).  So why does God feel it important to include such extensive genealogies?  The ones in the book of Ezra establish the claims to the priesthood on the part of the descendants of Aaron.  Remember….most of God’s chosen people have been in captivity and in exile for at least 70 years.  They lived in a different culture with different gods…different rules…and probably didn’t think a lot about genealogies or even the law of God.  So God wanted to be sure they KNEW.

I found Ezra 3:11 to be so appropriate for THANKSGIVING!!! “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.”  Don’t you just LOVE God’s timing!!!!!

Look at this Scripture — Ezra 7:6, “…this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”

The book can easily be divided into two basic sections:

  1. Chapters 1-6—The First Return under Zerubbabel, and the Building of the Second Temple.
  2. Chapters 7-10—The Ministry of Ezra. Time flies in many of these Books and Ezra is no different.  Well over a half a century passed between chapters 6 and 7. Many of the characters of the first part of the book had died by the time Ezra began his ministry in Jerusalem. We will read a prayer of confession of sin as well as subsequent separation of the people from the sinful practices into which they had fallen in Babylon but also while they were in Jerusalem…..remember that is why God was so upset with HIS people….because they REFUSED to TURN BACK to HIM!!!

The Book of Ezra a continuation of the biblical theme of the REMNANT. Think about that for just a moment.  The theme of the REMNANT is prevalent throughout the Bible.

  1. Noah and his family were saved from the destruction of the flood as a REMNANT.
  2. Lot’s family was saved from Sodom and Gomorrah because they were part of the REMNANT.
  3. 7000 prophets reserved in Israel despite the persecution of Ahab and Jezebel….. reserved as the REMNANT.
  4. When the Israelites were taken into captivity in Egypt, God delivered His REMNANT  and took them to the Promised Land.
  5. Some fifty thousand people return to the land of Judea in Ezra 2:64-67, and yet, as they compare themselves with the numbers in Israel during its prosperous days under King David, their comment is, “We are left this day as a remnant.”
  6. The remnant theme is carried into the New Testament where Paul tells us that “at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5).
  7. Although most people of Jesus’ day rejected Him, there remained a set of people whom God had reserved and preserved in his Son, and in the covenant of His grace.
  8. Throughout all generations since Christ, there is the REMNANT of the faithful whose feet are on the narrow road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). This REMNANT will be preserved through the power of the Holy Spirit who has sealed them and who will deliver them safely at the last day (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30).

The Book of Ezra is an AWESOME reminder of the HOPE and RESTORATION that our precious Lord and Savior is and has for each of us if we believe in HIM!!  NONE of us is without sin.  We live in a world of hurting people who try to live their lives with their own reasoning, feelings, emotions, thoughts, and teachings and if these things are not based on the MOST HIGH GOD and HIS LIVING WORD then we can live a life wandering through the wilderness without thoughts of hope or restoration.  BUT….JESUS changed ALL that for each of us.  There is great hope that ours is a God of forgiveness, a God who will not turn His back on us when we seek Him in repentance and brokenness (1 John 1:9).

And remember in Daniel when Gabriel came to tell him about the spiritual battle that was happening?  Remember the Scriptures from the New Testament which points us in the knowledge that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling own of strongholds?  Well…..we will see the opposition of the adversaries of God concerning the rebuilding of the temple  in Ezra.  We will witness a very typical pattern of the enemy who wants to “kill, steal, and destroy” our very souls for all eternity!!  Our enemy will use anything and anyone to deceive us.  The enemy will even use those who would appear to be in sync with God’s purposes to deceive us and attempt to thwart God’s plans. Ezra 4:2 describes the deceptive speech of those who claim to worship Christ but whose real intent is to tear down, not to build up. We are to be on guard against such deceivers.  God warns us to not follow false prophets.

KNOW what the LORD says —– This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:10-14 NIV.

We all read Exodus when Moses led God’s Chosen People out of Egypt.  NOW, we will read about a second Exodus.  In this second Exodus, Ezra will be God’s instrument to lead God’s Chosen People out of Babylon.  We will witness exactly how God will use this man for HIS purpose!!

Sharing HIS love,

Daniel 10-12

Daniel 10-12

Click here for today’s reading and be blessed http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel%2010-12&version=NIV

AMAZING….we are coming to the end of yet another Book of the Bible.  I have to say…although I can BARELY grasp all that is in Daniel… I still LOVE this book.  I have to tell you upfront that I have to rely on my mentor from last year a LOT for this reading because like I said…I BARELY can grasp all that is in Daniel.  We see the incredible characteristics of Our God who LOVES us deeply.  And we see the pure characteristics of a man, Daniel who loved the Lord with all his being!!  What an example the Lord has given us in the OT to show us how to live for HIM.  We’ve seen many prophecies come to pass and that means that ALL of God’s promises WILL COME TO PASS!!  I know the Book of Daniel strengthened my faith and this year I grasped things that I barely noticed last year!!  IMHO, the Bible is like a treasure chest…each time we read it…..another treasure is revealed from God to us!!  HALLELUJAH!!!

Chapter 10 — In chapter 7 Gabriel came and interpreted the vision Daniel had.  Today Gabriel brings Michael with him to let him know his prayers were heard!!!  Have you ever had an encounter with one of God’s angels?   This last vision was given to Daniel after the Jewish people were allowed to leave captivity.  It was as if a veil had been lifted from Daniel’s eyes and he was able to see the angels and powers that were going on around him then…… AND THAT GO ON around us TODAY!!! One scripture that stood out to me today as well as last year when I read this was Daniel 10:10-14. It reminded me of when I read two fiction books by Frank Peretti which were “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing The Darkness”. God sent a powerful spiritual being to Daniel who had been detained for 21 days due to the battle in the Persian kingdom. I will call him a warrior angel who wanted Daniel to know that his prayers had been heard from the very first moment he uttered them. His prayers were not ignored or put on the bottom of a prayer list. God and His angels had given them prime attention (just as He does all of our prayers), but due to the spiritual battle it took 21 days for the angel to get to him. WOW!!!  Think about that when you are praying and begin to feel as if your prayers have not been heard.  Of course there are times when God’s answer is NO.  However, sometimes the answer is Yes and other times it is WAIT.  This brings me great comfort knowing that our prayers are heard from day one.

I was also touched that although Daniel was the ONLY one who saw the vision of the angels … the other men with him KNEW there was a presence and flew the coop — “such terror overwhelmed them that they fed and hid themselves. So I was left alone…” Daniel 10:7-8 I am assuming that the reason Daniel was the only one who could see the angel was because of his faithfulness to prayer, fasting, and being a humble servant of the Most High God, but the Scripture does not tell us why…just that it happened.  Reading about the others who ran away…did bring a chuckle.  They KNEW something was there!!

Michael the Angel was watching and helping Israel. The unseen world is a powerful world.  The Spiritual realm is a world of warfare and battle….good versus evil…..God versus satan….right versus wrong.    Ephesians 6 talks about the Spiritual armor God wants us to put on daily so we can fight the fight with HIS Word in us, surrounding us, written on our hearts.

Ephesians 6:12 KJV states: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 KJV states: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do NOT war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

Do these Scriptures mean there is a devil behind every bush—NO WAY!!  Much of the time we make wrong choices choose to think wrong thoughts, or choose to hang around people who are not healthy for us…… and then we end up making choices and have to live with the consequences.  God can and does use all things for the good for those who believe in HIM (Romans 8:28.)  To me the important thing in these Scriptures is that we know we are in a Spiritual battle and we have an enemy who WANTS to “kill, steal, and destroy us” (John 10:10)  BUT in that same verse—Jesus says “BUT I came that you may live life  to the full.”  Does this mean satan is stronger than God….NO WAY!!  It simply means he is cunning, he can read our body language and knows where we are vulnerable.  How did Jesus deal directly with satan….HE SPOKE THE WORD …GOD’S WORD….THE SAME WORD WE ARE TO USE!!  And ABOVE ALL…we KNOW how the book ends…we KNOW who wins….regardless of what you are going through….REMEMBER how the story ends. 

Chapter 11 – IF you are a note taker and write in your Bible like I do, you might want to grab your pen and your Bible to write these things in your margin so next year when you are reading this you will remember what’s going on.  Following the death of Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. the Greek empire was divided into 4 regions:

  1. Greece
  2. Asia Minor (Turkey)
  3. Syria
  4. Egypt.

These prophecies from Daniel are 200 years BEFORE the Greek Empire was even thought about!!!  AND these prophecies from Daniel are nearly 400 years BEFORE any of these kings were even born!!!  What we are reading here is SOOOO important; through these prophecies we get a glimpse of what happened between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  They may be called “The Silent Years” because prophets did not speak BUT it is a time where God can be boldly seen.  Here are some things you may want to star or highlight as you read them:

  • Vs 2 The 3 kings from Persia  were Cambyses, Gaumaa, and Darius.  The richest most Powerful king was Xerxes (pronounced Zerk Sees).
  • Vs 3 This is Alexander the Great  and the 4 divisions are Greece, Asia Minor (Turkey), Syria and Egypt.
  • Vs 4 The king of the South is  Ptolemy, and one of his commanders is Seleucus.
  • Vs 6 the daughter is Bernice, from  Ptolemy, was given in marriage to Antiochus and she was murdered.
  • Vs 7 One of family line is the  Brother of Bernice, Ptolemy III.
  • Vs 10 The 2 sons are Seleucus III   and Antiochus III
  • Vs 21-45 This is Antiochus  IV Epiphanes (pronounced Anti Oh Kus).  He is called by the  Jews a “Mad Man”.  He is this Antiochus that is a foreshadow of the Antichrist. Here he is called a contemptible person.

The King who exalted himself.  We will see Daniel’s prophecies being fulfilled in his current time and in the silent years.  BUT it also needs to be studied as eschatology/End Times as well.

Chapter 12 – There is so much in chapter 12 and this Book is not necessarily about us.  It was written specifically for the Jewish people with a PROMISE of a fulfilled plan.  Ultimately there will be restoration for HIS Chosen People.  HOWEVER when you read the last verse in Chapter 12….. substitute YOUR NAME in that verse and KNOW as a BELIEVER that you and I KNOW Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.  Now that IS something about each of us personally!!!  That is something totally worth giving THANKS and PRAISE to our LORD and SAVIOR right now…today!!!

Interestingly verses 4 and 9 are in regard to the Scroll of Prophecy of End Times.  The Prophecies are sealed and will not be added to.  (Remember God tells us we are not to add one word or take away one word from HIS Scripture!!)  This is referring to what we will read in Revelation.  So…HOW do we know the Bible is COMPLETE?  Because God told us so!!  🙂

Sharing HIS love and giving THANKS to our AWESOME God,

Daniel 7-9

Daniel 7-9

Click here for today’s reading http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel%207-9&version=NIV

WOW – SO much to take in and I wish I could truly grasp it all, but I’ll just jump in and share what I can to see if we can understand it a little more (line upon line, precept upon precept.)  I would love to hear what the Lord has shown you as you have searched HIS Word.

Interestingly, this chapter chronologically takes place BEFORE “the writing on the wall.”  In the three chapters we read today we read Daniel’s dream, Daniel’s vision, and Daniel’s Prayer. Daniel’s dream of the Four beasts represent the 4 Gentile Nations again.  This is another prophecy with great detail like Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  His dream was from a political perspective; Daniel’s is from a MORAL perspective.

 

Daniels dream cuatro-bestias-de-daniel-panorama

  • LION: Babylon (next time you read  Jeremiah 4 and 50 or Ezekiel 17  you can now note the Lion and say ohhhhhh I get it.)
  • BEAR: Medo-Persia.  The bear was raised on one side which is probably the dominance of Persia. The 3 ribs in the bears mouth was probably the 3 empires it consisted of ( Babylon, Egypt and Libya)
  • LEOPARD: Greece.  It had 4 heads and 4 wings representing with Alexander the Great died the 4 generals appointed to 4 providences. Ptolemies, Seleucids, Antigonids and  Attalids.  (this all happens later, During the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament much of God’s work still happens.  The story of the History that unfolds is not part of the Bible but the exact prophecy of it all happens with pinpoint accuracy.)
  • BEAST: Rome.  Ten Horns are the 10 kings that will rise from this kingdom and a little horn (Antiochus) is the little horn. (Antiochus is a forshadow of the AntiChirst)

(Note these match the statue from the Head to the 10 toes)

Daniel figures match statue da2&7

REWIND– Just a little recap— after the 70 years in exile (prophesied and fulfilled), King Cyrus conquered Babylon (also prophesied and fulfilled.) Regardless of whether you look at the animals listed in Daniel’s vision or you look at the statue, you KNOW that this Cyrus must be from Medio-Persia.  Cyrus will release all the Jews so they can go back to Jerusalem.  When they are released only a few actually chose to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem (remember an entire generation had already passed during their exile and captivity.)  Alexander the Great, from Greece, will enter the picture and conquer what seemed to be EVERYONE and spread the Greek culture to everyone (this movement is called Hellenism.)  We know from the prophecies that Rome will take over.   Note that these prophecies have a real time meaning of what is to come within Jewish History AND an Eschatology (end times) of events that will come in the last days. The little horn here of Antiochus is a king representing the foreshadow of satan! This little horn is connected in Scripture in Revelation and is satan, which sets the stage for the Messiah to come.

Finally, “the one like a son of man,” is the Prophecy of Jesus the Messiah coming to save all and to have an Everlasting Kingdom.

CHAPTER 8 – Daniel is standing in his vision.  He can interact with the Vision to say “what in the world is all this??” CLEARLY God is too much for our finite minds.  The interpretation of this vision is exact with the statue and animals, but this time with more detail to layer on top.  The absolute best argument that the Bible could ONLY be written by God, through man’s hand is the exact revelation of prophecies fulfilled to the smallest of detail.

CHAPTER 9 — Daniel’s prayer.  I have printed several copies of his prayer so when I am unsure how to pray….I can read Daniel’s prayer….so powerful!!  What makes this prayer more “answerable” than other prayers?  Consider these points: (these points are repeated from my mentor’s submission from last year and came from a John MacArthur commentary in case you want to listen to more.)

  • Daniel KNEW God’s Word.  He spoke of Jeremiah’s timeline of 70 years of captivity.  Daniel was able to pray IN THE WORD because HE KNEW THE WORD.  Daniel knew the direction his nation was headed from reading the scriptures.  Do you?
  • Daniel prayed that prayer ACCORDING to God’s Will.  Do you?
  • Daniel Prayed with the UTMOST respect and reverence for the Lord and with COMPLETE recognition of his own unworthiness of even being in the presence of the Lord.  Do you?
  • Daniel prayed in a “we are sinners” heart but focused on the needs of the others in prayer.
  • Daniel prayed that the ULTIMATE  purpose of an answered prayer was for ONLY God’s Glorification. DO you?

This prayer is so powerful for me…to keep me on the right track and make sure I am praying in a way that is pleasing to God.  I am also VERY touched by the fact that Gabriel came to Daniel to let him know his prayer was heard from day ONE but there was intense spiritual warfare happening in the heavenlies causing delay in the answer.  This reminds me of how important it is for each of us to put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:11-18 ….daily put it on!!  Also remember that the glory of the Lord is our rear guard!! (Isaiah 52:12).

The 70 7′s — I know all the Bible is God inspired but this chapter is special.  Isaac Newton said “we could stake the truth of Christianity on that prophecy alone, made 5 centuries before Christ; referring to the 70 7′s!!  When I first read about Sir Isaac Newton, I was so touched that he believed in our God…so many scientists don’t believe in God today.

A 7 equals a year (a complete number) so 70 times 7 is 490 years.  The Lord put a timeline for the Israelites to Finish Transgressions, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring everlasting righteousness, and to fulfill the prophecy.  Are you ready for this SHOCKER….. 69 years have ALREADY OCCURRED!!!  The stopwatch on the 69 STOPPED when Jesus gave his life on the Cross.  We are NOW waiting on the last one.  When will the stop watch start again??   There is ONE last part to this, and the last one is a 7 of 7.  So what does that mean…it is talking about the 7 years of Tribulation!  When will the 7 year Tribulation start??  Look again at verse 27—

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.” (He is referring to the antichrist in case you were wondering who the he was.)

In other words….he will sign a peace treaty with the Israelites and that will BEGIN the last 7!!!

Do you watch the news (doesn’t matter which station?) Have you heard about all that is happening just this week with Israel, Iran, the US, and the nations of the UN?  PLEASE don’t misunderstand I certainly can’t tell you when the 2nd coming will occur…..nor can anyone else.  The authors of the NT thought they were living in the last days so none of us really know WHEN…we just know HE WILL.  Jesus said in Matthew 24:36-44

 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

So we cannot know when HE will return….BUT we are to “keep watch…..be ready.”   And the best way I know to do that is to READ, STUDY, MEMORIZE, the WORD and keep a close relationship with the Lord.   Be involved in a solid bible based church, in small groups or bible studies to be surrounded by other believers.   He has promised to provide us all we need, and sooooooo much more.

Sharing HIS love,