Saturday, August 5, 2017

August 5: Ezra 1 – 2; Psalm 27:7-14; Proverbs 20:22-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5



Overview

            Ezra: When Cyrus became king of Persia, the Lord had him fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy by having Jews return to Judah to rebuild the temple. He said the Lord had given all his kingdoms to him and whoever wanted to go back to do the work, could. They should be assisted by others where they live with gift of gold, silver, animals, and offerings.
            Heads of the houses of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, the ones the Spirit encouraged decided to go. People around them give them treasures. Cyrus also supplied the vessels from the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had taken.
            The people who returned were the ones that Nebuchadnezzar had brought to Babylon. They returned to Jerusalem and other places in Judah where they had lived before. The number of people returning from different heads, tribes, and different cities are listed along with the numbers of temple servants. Some came though they couldn’t prove their heritage. This included some that claimed to be priests. They couldn’t participate until a priest could consult the Urim and Thummim. The assembly was 42,360 people along with male and female servants numbering 7,337, and 200 singers.
            When they got to Jerusalem, they made freewill offerings for the temple to be erected. They then went to their towns to live.
            Psalm: David’s confidence in the first verses seems to take a dip in the last half of the Psalm. The tone changes as he asks God to hear his cry for help and asks that God not turn away from him because he has been seeking God’s face just as God wants. David looks to God for instruction and salvation from his enemies. He then reaffirms his faith and tells himself to wait for the Lord.
            Proverbs: Don’t try to repay evil yourself, let the Lord take care of you. Cheating in business is and abomination to the Lord.
            1 Corinthians: The cross is foolishness to people who are not saved. It is power for the saved. God nullifies all of man’s wisdom and frustrate their thinking because philosophers can’t understand what God did. He saves people when the cross is preached. Jew want signs and Gentiles want their wisdom and both lose out because God’s wisdom is greater than the world’s and his strength is greater than the world’s. Just look at who gets saved, the weak and foolish by human standards. The lowly people get saved. This is so that no one can boast before him. Jesus has become our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
            Paul didn’t come to the Corinthians with super speeches or wisdom. He only talked about Jesus being crucified. He came as a weak and fearful person. His preaching was accompanied by the Spirit’s power so that their faith rested on God’s power, not man’s wisdom.

What Stood Out

            Ezra: “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” (Ezra 1:1).    
            Psalm: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 27:13)!
            Proverbs: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you” (Prov 20:22).
            1 Corinthians: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor 1:20 NIV).

Insight

            Ezra: Fulfilled prophecy in the Bible is fascinating. Jeremiah told that after 70 years the nation that took Judah captive would be punished (Jer 25:11-12). He said Jerusalem will be rebuilt (Jer 30:18, 31:38). However, it was Isaiah who named Cyrus as the one who would issue the order to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (Isa 44:28). That was 200 years before Cyrus made the proclamation. This is so far from human reasoning that those who deny the sovereignty and omniscience of God and the inspiration of the Bible make the claim that Isaiah had portions written after the fact. They say the same of Daniel and other books that record historically accurate accounts hundreds of years before they happen.
            The power of knowing that God didn’t just predict these things but actually caused them to happen is what brought me to salvation. The odds of these things happening as foretold are so astronomically impossible that the only rational explanation is that God exists and he is in total control of all history and therefore the future. There are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus’ first coming and they have been fulfilled. If I believe God had Isaiah tell about Cyrus 200 years before his reign, then the Bible is true. It isn’t made up. Good analysis of the documents show that they were written before the events. If these are true, then the prophecies about Jesus had to be true and that means Jesus had to be who he said, the Son of God. Since that is true, then the prophecies of his return are true. When I realized that, I didn’t want to miss out on his return and believed for the first time in my life. What a difference it has made. My thinking changed, my actions change; I was a new creation because of the power of the Word of God in prophecy. By the way, the purpose of almost every prophecy in the Bible is to warn us to repent.
            Psalm: David was obviously in deep trouble when he wrote about this experience. He was wondering when God would rescue him from his enemies. As in other places, salvation not is necessarily considered eternal life. As he looks for God’s salvation, he is thinking of rescue from his enemies. Even Psalm 27:13 is a statement that he believes he will be saved from death. However, when we look at that verse, we see a prophecy of resurrection. We know that even though we will one day die, we will be resurrected and reign with Christ. We will be among the living and see Jesus face to face.
            Perhaps David was thinking of Job when he wrote this. I certainly think of him. Job said, “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me” (Job 19:26-27)! It is impossible to tell when Job lived, but it most likely about the same time as Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. This makes his testimony remarkable because God’s revelation to the patriarchs hadn’t revealed this yet. However, doesn’t it make your heart faint to think about seeing our Savior face to face?
            Proverbs: When we take repayment for evil into our own hands it seldom turns out good. The best approach is to always let the Lord avenge evil. This is not talking about not reporting crimes to the police. In fact, Paul says that the government’s job is to avenge on the part of God (Rom 13:4). This is about deciding the government is too slow or didn’t hand down a stiff enough penalty. So, you will do something about it yourself. This is planning the way you will get even with someone for an evil done to you. It doesn’t show any grace and it doesn’t allow for extending forgiveness when a repentant person ask for it. It’s better to let someone off the hook and not see justice than it is to do it ourselves.
            1 Corinthians: This passage shows why it is often hard for “learned” people to come to Christ. They have their philosophies and science that tells them the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is just not possible. Their “wisdom” tells them that there is no God because they can’t touch, see, smell, taste, or hear God. But God has communicated with us in all these ways, especially when he came to earth in the person of Jesus. OK, taste may be a bit awkward, but in the concept that he provides food for us, then we do taste the presence of God every day. However, when we read his Word, his communication to us is at its best. He tells us that the world rejects what he has said and calls it foolish. Yet it is by his Word that we come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior and that involves the preaching of the cross.
            Never let someone intimidate you when you tell of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. That is the source of transformation from death to life.

Application

             I need to make sure that I’m not ashamed of the Word. It is easy for the learned people of the world to put us down because we believe the Bible. It is true from front to back and the message is salvation through Jesus.

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