Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Eiffel Tower

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for May 22, Ezr 4-7

Today’s readings are Ezr 4-7. 

As work on the temple continues, some neighbors in Samaria, enemies of Judah, try to join the effort, most likely to sabotage the work. Judah does not trust them nor are they true followers of God (Ezr 4:1-3). Judah wisely sends them away. The Samaritans, at this point, are primarily a mixture of pagan settlers, brought there by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:24-41).

The Samaritans appeal to the new Persian king, Artaxerxes, accusing the Jews of being a rebellious people, telling him only part of the story and the king orders a halt to the work. The king’s hasty decision is a classic case of reacting when only hearing one side of the story (Ezr 4-23).

Two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, prophesy to the Jews to resume work. The governor over the area, Tattenai, a friend to the Jews, writes to the new king, Darius, asking him to search the archives to get the whole story (Ezr 5:1-17) and see that the work the Jews were doing was decreed by Artaxerxes’ predecessor.

Darius does his due diligence, finds out the Jews have been misrepresented and not only allows the work to resume but blesses it in a mighty way (Ezr 6:1-12). Once again, those who oppose God have been thwarted by their own hatred of God’s people. Their plan has backfired. The effort to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem is funded even more lavishly than before.

The temple is completed and dedicated in 515 BC. Notice that, every time the dwelling place of God is dedicated, there is much shedding of blood. This pattern shows us that it takes the blood of a sacrifice to establish God’s dwelling place among His people. One day, in about 33 AD, the blood of his Son will be shed to establish His dwelling place in His people.

The Levites and priests are re-installed, worship resumes, the Passover is celebrated, and the feasts are reinstituted. The former exiles give thanks to God (Ezr 6:13-22). Ezr 6:27 reveals that God was behind the protection and provision of His people, just as He has always been, even to the point of transforming the heart of a pagan king.

In Ezr 7:1-26. King Artaxerxes, who may have been the son of Esther's husband, King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes) recognizes Ezra's qualifications and passion as a spiritual leader for the Jews. He sends Ezra back to Jerusalem with abundant blessings and authority to establish godly spirituality and a judicial/civil system according to the law of God.

The king had been used by God (Ezra 7:27-28) to recreate a divine theocracy in Judah. The king not only has decreed it, but he has funded it as well.

God has caused the history of empires to change, all for the sake of His name, His reputation, and His faithfulness. We've watched Assyria invade Israel, then Babylon overtakes Assyria, then the Persians conquer Babylon. Then God turns the hearts of the Persian kings to favor Israel and send them home. The exiles leave Babylon the same way they walked out of Egypt, with all the riches of the region in their possession. It’s another type of exodus!

God orchestrated it all, from their captivity to their freedom, to refine His children and return them to their homes. He orchestrates our lives in a comparable manner, using everything we go through to bring us into our eternal home. 

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