Click here for today’s reading http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezra%201-3&version=NIV
I don’t know about you but before last year, I tried to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in the order given. I would study. I would read. I had some very favorite books and of course the Psalms, Proverbs, and the NT would usually be where I landed. Then God lead me to an online Bible Study where I read the Bible for the first time chronologically….and OH HOW my eyes were opened. I certainly don’t understand it all, but for the first time….things flowed. I could see how things occurred historically and I could not put it down. I pray God blesses you greatly as you see things unfold as close to chronological as possible. Some of you may have read it this way before and that is totally awesome. Whether this is your first time reading it chronologically or your 100th…I pray God blesses you in ways you NEVER expected.
The Bible as we typically know it is grouped by topics in the OT and in the NT such as history, poetry, and prophecy. Ezra is one of the HISTORY books so it is in the Bible with other history books. If we were simply reading the Bible in the order it is currently organized then we would have read this BEFORE the Prophecy of the captivity. NO wonder I was so confused!! Regardless of how you read the Bible…God promises that HIS Word will not return void and THAT is always a good thing!! God is ALWAYS a good God!! AMEN!!
Before you start with Ezra, go back one page in your Bible and look at the last verse of 2 Chronicles. You will see we are picking up right where we left off before we read the Prophet books. Ezra was the author of the Chronicles, Ezra, possibly Nehemiah, and a Psalm. Since we KNOW the scriptures, we can take the Prophets words now and apply them. Look at Isaiah 44 written 200 years BEFORE this event:
who carries out the words of his servants
and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be built,’
and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry,
and I will dry up your streams,’
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd
and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” ‘
I know I have used this Scripture before, but I am always amazed at the prophecy and its fulfillment!! And there it is…right before our very eyes!! The first group lead out of captivity was by Zerubbabel. We also know from the scriptures that Cyrus would be from Medio-Persia (remember the statue in Daniel and the animals from Daniel’s dream/vision). Cyrus’s decree went out to all 12 tribes but from the list created in chapter 2 in Ezra there are ONLY 2 of the tribes…Judah and Benjamin. WHY?? Because these two tribes were the only ones returning. Remember not all the Israelites were in a hurry to return “home.” They had been in captivity for 70 years, basically an entire generation (prophecy fulfilled). They had grown used to the way things were in captivity so only some chose to return to Judah.
In 2:63 write a note that he is Zerubbabel.
Chapter 3. As you read this chapter, think about God’s character. God does NOT gain joy or happiness in disobedience… EVER!! When the final judgment comes, God will be grieving when He pronounces final judgment on those who refused to make HIM their Lord and Savior. This is why it is so important that we share the gospel with as many as possible. We never know who we may help to make a choice to turn their lives over to the very God who created each of us. God took the ones He loved after warning them for HUNDREDS of years to return to His ways BUT they refused listen. Sooooo HE had no choice but to create a circumstance of captivity and exile for a period of time in their life. The captivity and exile are no over and we witness people returning to God. God is a gentleman and He will NEVER override our free will. He desires that we CHOOSE HIM…not be forced to obey Him. God tells us that HE disciplines those HE loves. Discipline works!! I am not referring to child abuse or beating, discipline can come in many forms and as we all know….some of us respond to the slightest discipline while others don’t respond until the discipline is severe. As we read Chapter 3 we went ALL the way back to Leviticus!! God KNEW that HIS people coming out of captivity needed to be reminded of HIS laws and the way things had been laid out hundreds of years prior to this point. God’s people were being retrained/re-educated about feasts and offerings, worshipping the Lord in a way that honored HIM. The captivity/discipline worked! HIS people were listening and were craving to know more of God.
Did you notice that some of the people were weeping and some were rejoicing when they saw what they saw upon their return? Many rejoiced for the first time in 70 years!! In verse 12 we are told that the older priests were weeping when they saw the foundation of the new Temple because they remembered the Temple of Solomon in all its glory. They were grateful to have a place to worship again; yet they were deeply saddened because they knew the new Temple would not be as glorious as the first one. Solomon’s Temple was a Temple at the hub of a thriving city. Zerubbabel’s was surrounded by ruins. Verse 13 points out that the celebration after laying the new Temple foundation was marked by contrasts of emotion….shouts of joy and sounds of weeping. The Holy Spirit can stimulate us both to rejoice over the goodness of HIS grace and to grieve over the sins that required God to correct us/them. When we are in the Lord’s presence, we may feel conflicting emotions. It is totally possible to be full of joy as we praise God and offer thanksgiving for ALL HE is and ALL He has done for us. However, at the very same time we can feel sobered and deeply saddened by our own shortcomings.
Sharing HIS love,