Today marks the thirtieth day for the journey through the Bible in ninety days. I have been thoroughly blessed, inspired, and encouraged. I have also learned things I did not know, helping me to realize even more that “The more I know; the more I realize I do not know.” I am now one third of the way through this journey and looking forward to the next 6o days.
I was greatly inspired and encouraged by reading through Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah this morning; thus, the title for today’s post.
In yesterday’s reading, finishing 2 Chronicles we were left with Judah going into Babylonian captivity, Jerusalem being destroyed, the walls broken down, the temple destroyed, and all the vessels, gold, silver, bronze, taken to the storehouses of Babylon; just as the prophet Jeremiah warned and foretold. The prophet Isaiah had warned of this destruction, and captivity at least one hundred years before it happened.
Some may ask, “Why do you put so much stock in the Bible?” and my answer to that is, “Because, when God speaks, it comes to pass; just like He says it.” There is not one word God speaks that has been diminished, is being diminished, or will be diminished. That is why I was so inspired and encouraged by Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah.
Someone has said, and I believe it was written by Charles H. Spurgeon; “God will not allow His children to sin successfully.” Reading the Bible sure helps us see that. God pulls no punches. We can see clearly that God deals with sin. We see also that He is gracious, and slow to anger and wrath. He is also merciful in not giving us what we truly deserve.
According to Jeremiah’s prophecy the nation of Israel would be in Babylonian captivity for seventy years. At the time of Ezra that seventy years has been fulfilled, and we read –
“Now 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, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, ‘Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place helpa him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4 (KJV)
Now here is a catcher for you. The prophet Isaiah names the king that will do this probably 150 years or more before Cyrus is born. How can this be? The prophet, being inspired by God; God who knows all things; who knows the past, present and the future, and knows your name; and knew you before you were born; told the prophet what was going to happen, and to write it down. Isaiah did –
“That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.’ Isaiah 44:28
‘Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me.” Isaiah 45:1-4 (KJV)
In Ezra God has put it in the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia to fulfill His word of promise to Israel/Judah and have the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt, even to providing the precious metals and all necessary costs at Persia’s expense.
God’s purpose in the captivity was to drive Israel from her sins, and to give rest to the land for the sabbath years the people had avoided to observe (2 Chronicles 36:21), and to restore their faith in Him. In reading Ezra we read of much opposition from people of the area, even putting the work of the temple to a standstill until the king finds that it had been ordered by Cyrus years before, then the work is continued with the approval of Persia. Haggai, and Zechariah were two prophets who prophesied during this time, and encouraged the people to continue building without the approval of the king of Persia, until they did receive it (chapters 5 – 6).
Ezra went to encourage and lead in the temple’s rebuilding and to teach the word and law of the LORD –
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra 7:10
There are some things I read in Ezra about their divorcing the foreign wives and sending them away that poses some problems. However, the problem was their sins and disobedience to the word of God, not God’s causing. How seriously should God’s people take the matter of holiness? Very seriously.
Nehemiah had a burden for the building of the walls of Jerusalem. He is sent by the king to go and rebuild the city. He surveys the city walls, the city (chapter 2:12-20), then he challenges the people and they comply joyously with his requests. Now see what God has wrought in the Old Testament with Judah.
Now, think of what God can do with you if you would surrender yourself to the way of Salvation which is found only through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, His burial where all our sin, guilt and condemnation was carried away as far as East is from West, and then He arose bodily from the grave; and is today seated by the Father’s right hand as our Great High Priest. There is no one but Him who can deliver you from your sin.
Inspirational and Encourageing? To me it definitely is.
– Tim A. Blankenship