Archive for March 2008

“… for such a time as this …”

March 31, 2008

Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why. 6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to urge her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. 9 Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:5-14; NIV. Please read Esther 1-10. Read the whole story … at one sitting.)

No words of mine here – just read this news report … 

Scorecard:

King Xerxes – King of the World (or so he thinks – as do his underlings)

Queen Esther – Queen of the World (because God wanted it that way)

Haman – aka. wicked Haman – the bad guy – (wears a black hat!)

Mordecai – the good guy – (he doesn’t finish last)

Plot: the King of the World vs. the King of Kings

ON SECOND THOUGHT: It is often noted that this historical (news) account of the work of God in – through – for His people that the word, “God”, is ever written into the record. However, there are very few Biblical events that reveal God anymore than this book.  

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“… the joy of the Lord is your strength …”

March 30, 2008

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7 The Levites-Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah-instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. 9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12; NIV. Please read Nehemiah 8-13.)

God’s people will find their strength in the joy of the Lord …

So inspire the people … by praising God for all that He has done for us.

So strengthen the people … by teaching the Word of God – making sure that they understand it.

So encourage the people … by urging them to rejoice in the Lord.  

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I am fascinated by the men that God uses to lead His people during time of crisis or transition. I like seeing Ezra and Nehemiah together … teaching … encouraging … leading their people. May God raise up men of kindred spirits, who will devote themselves to the Lord and to the family of God … refusing any compromise – ignoring any distraction – resisting any enemy.

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive …”

March 29, 2008

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

(Nehemiah 1:4-11; NIV. Please read Nehemiah 1-6.)

When Nehemiah heard that the people of God were in great trouble and disgrace … that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he grieved over their shame and suffering.

But he did more than mourn … more than bemoan their misery … he prayed. He confessed the sins of his people and cast his cares on the Lord.

But he did more than pray … he took a stand … with God and man. He claimed before God the opportunity to make a difference and God’s help in getting his boss to agree.

But he did more than take a stand … he went to work. And he worked … even when they mocked him … threatened him … attacked him.

But he did more than work … he finished his assignment. Too often … ‘after all was said and done – more was said than done’ … but not with this determined man.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: Have you ever grieved over the “condition” of the church … or at least what your perception of that “condition”? Have you prayed? Have you taken a stand? Have you gone to work to “fix it”? We are not yet finished …  

“… I took courage …”

March 28, 2008

Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
(Ezra 7:8-10; NIV.)
Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way 28 and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
(Ezra 7:27-28; NIV. Please read Ezra 7-10.)

There was a job to do … a mission from God to complete. Things had been left in ruins … years of neglect … lack of materials … no lack of distractions or discouragement … but Ezra “took courage” and did what he had to do – to get the job done.

Consider this man – who he was – what he did …. because “the hand of the Lord was upon” him.

He was a man of devotion – devoting himself to study … to obey … to teach God’s Word.

He was a man of praise – praising God for His rule over the king and for the “good favor” granted to him.

He was a man of courage – taking action to fulfill his mission in spite of his enemies and in spite of his corrupt people.

He was a man of wisdom – understanding that he had to please heaven and earth – to work with friend and foe.

He was a man of faith – believing that his commission from the king was a mission from God.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: If Ezra could believe that the hand of the Lord was on him – (without direct revelation from God) – can we believe the same, when we devote ourselves to the mission of building His temple?  

“… building a temple for the Lord …”

March 27, 2008

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.   5 They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
(Ezra 4:1-5; NIV. Please read Ezra 1-6.)

They were coming home … just as God had promised … just as Jeremiah had prophesied.

They were coming home … to rebuild the temple of God … for in building His house they acknowledge His presence and blessing.  They lay the foundation with a mixture of joy and sorrow … but they determine to build the temple – refusing “the help” of their enemies.

Note regarding enemies: They volunteer to help … but they have no real interest in building the temple. They intend on distracting … frustrating … discouraging God’s people from doing what God commissioned them to do.  

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I love applying this historical record of their building the temple … to our new covenant mission to build the church (the temple of God). Our work will involve joy and sorrow. Our enemies will seek to distract us … discourage us … and deny us the right and the means to do what God has assigned for us to do. Sound familiar? Why do you do this or that? Why don’t you do this or that? If you did it this way, we would help? And by the way … where is your sign? 

“… there was no remedy …”

March 26, 2008

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. 12 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God’s name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel. 14 Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.

20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.
(2 Chronicles 36:11-21; NIV. Please read 2 Chronicles 33-36.)

They knew this day was coming …

Remember what Moses said … what Joshua said … what Samuel said?

When the people sinned during the leadership of Moses, God had a remedy for their rebellion … earthquakes – fiery snakes – and plagues. There was time to repent …

When the people sinned during the leadership of Joshua, God had a remedy for their rebellion … defeat at Ai – stoning of Achan. There was time to repent …

When the people sinned during the leadership of Samuel, God had a remedy for their rebellion … attacks by enemies. There was time to repent …

But under the leadership of Zedekiah, there is “no remedy”. The judgment that comes now … is not discipline intended to bring repentance, but judgment … and God’s wrath will not turn from His people until the sabbaths were fulfilled.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: Almighty God …  loving Father … please, Oh Lord … never … never … never let me outlive my love for you. May I never … never … never become a soul for whom there is “no remedy”.     

“… contrary to what was written …”

March 25, 2008

They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the LORD. 16 Then they took up their regular positions as prescribed in the Law of Moses the man of God. The priests sprinkled the blood handed to them by the Levites. 17 Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves, the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate [their lambs] to the LORD. 18 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart on seeking God-the LORD, the God of his fathers-even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” 20 And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
(2 Chronicles 30:15-20; NIV. Please read 2 Chronicles 29-32.)

The day and the time came for Passover … but there were many who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore, according to what was written in the Law, they were not “clean” – were not permitted to eat the Passover. They ate it anyway … “contrary to what was written”. They showed an obvious desire to remember the Passover, but they should not have “according to the rules of the sanctuary“.

Note: These people could have been … should have been ready for the Passover. Their disregard (or ignorance) for the Law is obvious.

Note: It is also obvious that these people want to obey the Lord – want to remember His gift of the Passover, even though they were not “ready”.

Note: It is obvious that Hezekiah knows that these people are sinning against the Lord, but he prays for them – for their pardon – rather than rebuking their desire to honor the Lord.

Note: It is obvious that God counts this disregard for “what was written” as sin, even though their intentions were to honor Him … but He accepts their repentance and Hezekiah’s intercession.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I was a boy preacher when I heard a “brotherhood spokesman” teach from this text that: “This shows us that God does not care how we worship – just so we worship.” He went on to make application that would fit his preferences about “brotherhood issues”. I was puzzled by the teaching – having never seen it applied that way … more puzzled that he would teach something that was going to cause more questions than to build faith. It was later – several years in fact – that I had the occassion to restudy this event. God’s willingness to forgive them – or any of us for that matter – does not discount His desire that worship be in spirit and truth. His will is certain … and is to be obeyed. The fact that He forgives – does not condone our disobedience nor make void His will  that has been revealed by the Spirit to be “written”.