Tuesday, August 8, 2017

August 8: Ezra 7 – 8:20; Psalm 30; Proverbs 20:28-30; 1 Corinthians 4



Overview

            Ezra: Years later, Artaxerxes king of Persia encouraged, aided, and sent Ezra to go and inquire in Judah and Jerusalem how the Israelites were doing according to the Law of God. It took five months for the journey. Ezra was a scribe and devoted himself to the study of the Law and wanted to teach in Israel. The king sent Ezra along with any who would go with him along with silver and gold to purchase what was needed for offerings at the temple. He also sent vessels for use at the temple.
            Ezra was also instructed to appoint judges for all the people in the province Beyond the River. They were to be people who knew the Laws of God. He was to teach those who didn’t know. Anyone who disobeyed God’s law were to be punished according to the law.
            Ezra blessed the Lord because he put all this in the king’s heart. He took courage and assembled the people who would go. The heads of their father’s houses are listed with the number of people going. When he gathered them, Ezra discovered that none of the Levites had come. He had some of the leading men go to Iddo the leader at Casiphia and ask him to send Levites. God worked and they brought the listed heads and the number of Levites.
            Psalm: This is a Psalm of praise from David as he has been rescued from his enemies and what appeared to be certain death (Ps 30:3). He has had prosperity thinking he would never be moved (Ps 30:6) but was dismayed when God hid his face (Ps 30:7). He has pleaded with God to spare him from death because he could not praise him in death (Ps 30:9). He ends when his depression and mourning are turned to joy (Ps 30:11) affirming he will praise God forever (Ps 30:12).
            Proverbs: A king who demonstrates steadfast love and faithfulness will have a secure kingdom. Young men glory in their strength but old men glory in living long enough to get gray hair. Painful discipline removes evil and cleanses the heart.
            1 Corinthians: Paul and Apollos are both servants of God and stewards of the mysteries of God. Stewards must be trustworthy. It doesn’t matter what the Corinthians or any court thinks of Paul. He doesn’t even judge himself, though he could be wrong even though he isn’t aware of it. When the Lord comes, he will judge by what’s in a person’s heart and each will receive his reward.
            Paul used himself and Apollos as example so that we should not invent qualifications beyond what is written and think some are superior to others based on who they follow. If someone thinks they are superior, then they are arrogant because no one has anything they haven’t received but some boast as if they didn’t receive it.
            Paul asks if the Corinthians think they have all they want, are rich, and are kings. He would like that then the apostles who have been poor, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, persecuted, homeless, working for their own provision, and scum of the earth would be able to have everything along with them.
            Paul writes to warn them as his children. They may have many who are now guiding them, but they only have him as the one that introduced them to Jesus through the gospel. So, he wants them to imitate him. He sent Timothy to remind them of the way he followed Christ just as he teaches all the churches. He is coming soon and when he comes, will the arrogant ones be just talk or will they have power. The kingdom of God consists of power, not talk. So, do the Corinthians want him to come with a rod or with love and gentleness?

What Stood Out

            Ezra: “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach” (Ezra 7:25).        
            Psalm: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps 30:5).
            Proverbs: “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts” (Prov 20:30).
            1 Corinthians: “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you” (1 Cor 4:8)!

Insight

            Ezra: God granted Ezra an open door to make significant changes in Israel. He not only had the authority to teach, but to appoint government officials. The officials had to know the Law of the Lord. If Ezra couldn’t find knowledgeable men, he had to teach them. Can you imagine what would happen if the President of the U.S. tried to have Christianity taught and only born-again Christians were appointed to office today? He would be impeached so fast that our heads would spin. The only reason Artaxerxes could get away with it was that his government was in agreement with him (Ezra 7:14). At least that is the secular reasoning. The real reason is that God had ordained it. The Lord moved the king (Ezra 7:6) and had chosen Ezra because Ezra had devoted himself to studying and teach the Law (Ezra 7:9-10).
            It is only God who can cause a pagan king or a U.S. President to accomplish his will. It is only God who can turn any country around from its evils and corrupt leadership. But it isn’t going to be done by political means. It will be done only as there are people who will teach the Word of God and people will respond by repentance to devote themselves to Jesus Christ.
            Psalm: How often do we focus on the terrible things that happen and think that God must be very angry with us? David seemed to think this way. But he also knew that a moment of God’s anger because of sin in our lives was nothing in comparison to God’s overwhelming love that lasts forever. Just to be sure we don’t get this out of context, we are talking about God’s anger, not his wrath. We have more revelation of God and who he is than David did because we have the whole Bible. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 tells us that God’s wrath doesn’t come upon those who are saved through Jesus Christ. His wrath is eternal punishment. We need to make sure that we understand that any punishment we receive in this life for our sins is temporary. It should be viewed as disciple that is a correction to our lives as his sons to help us grow in righteousness (Heb 12:7-11). I should also point out that discipline does not always occur because of our sin but sometimes it is the result of another person’s sin, or because we live in a world broken by sin from the time of Adam and Eve. The ultimate benefit of disciple is joy.
            Proverbs: A young person thinks he or she will live forever. Everything is going great for them. They can run a marathon, pump iron, and never visit a doctor. But they don’t realize that they could die in seconds. Many seemingly fit people have had heart attacks and died. Other push the limits of fast cars and die in an accident. There are countless ways younger people die every day. In the biblical times, war apparently thinned populations greatly. On the other end of the spectrum, an old man can look back and see that wise choices helped him live as long as he did. However, we can’t ignore that the only reason we live as long as we do is because that is God’s plan for us.
            Proverbs 20:30 reiterates what I’ve said about discipline above. If I’m wise and want to live to a long age, then I’ll submit to God’s discipline. It doesn’t guarantee old age but it does provide a much better life than ignoring it.
            1 Corinthians: It isn’t hard to imagine how far off base some of the Corinthians were. Paul’s sarcastic questions about how they had everything, were rich, and were kings makes me think of some of the prosperity gospel teachings of today. I don’t know if the Corinthians were rich or not, but I’m sure they were not kings. Many Christians today think they are the privileged class because they are Christians. The don’t look at the rest of the world to see how Christians are faring under communism or Islam. They think they have it good because the Lord blesses Christians who are faithful with all they need and all their wants beside. Look at the way Paul answered them. The apostles were treated like scum of the earth and were they faithful? Absolutely! They were more faithful than any of the Corinthians otherwise Paul would not have had to rebuke them about their divisions and other problems later in the letter.
            Modern Christians should look closely at this description of how the apostles were treated and they should look at the way Christian are treated in other parts of the world before they start judging others about their faith.

Application

            I need to be careful about judging other Christian’s faith. God may very well be blessing them because it is part of his plan just like he used Ezra. On the other hand, a person with hardships isn’t necessarily being punished, though that is a possibility. Some have hardships because God is glorified in them when others see how they respond in godly ways. I need to let the judging be done by the Lord when he returns and be about doing what I know he wants me to be doing.

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