August 5

Ezra 1:1–2:70

Ezra, the writer of Chronicles and this book that bears his name, was a Jewish  priest who loved the LORD and was a great influence on his people.

The prophet Jeremiah put it in writing, that the Jews would be in captivity for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Sure enough, in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia the LORD stirred up this world leader to set the Jews free from captivity.

Ezra included the king’s letter in his text. Cyrus claimed that the LORD himself, the God of heaven, commanded him to build Him a house in Jerusalem, and any and all Jewish people, were not only free, but encouraged to return to their homeland, to do so. He also addressed those were not returning, to donate to the cause – gold, silver, goods, and livestock, besides the freewill offerings that God might lay on their hearts.

We read the response:

Ezra 1:5–6 (NKJV) “Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. 6 And all those who were around them encouraged them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered.”

I like the way Ezra emphasizes the moving, or prompting of the Spirit. God will put things in our hearts to do, we’ll not simply feel it, we’ll “sense” it, the “stirring” within us to take steps of faith, to “move” in certain directions. In this case, we see close to 50,000 people go up to Jerusalem to not only dwell in their land, but to build the house of the LORD.

Even King Cyrus donated lavishly to the cause.

In Ezra chapter 2 we have the lists of families, and names of those who returned. The leaders, the people, the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the Nethinim, the sons of Solomon’s servants, as well as male and female servants.

Ezra mentions some people (Ezra 2:59) who could not find their genealogical records. We will see that Ezra was a man who lived “by the book,” and he would not allow them to serve as priests, unless they could prove their genealogy.

In case you’re wondering about the timeframe of Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah, here’s a simple chart to help.

1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing. You tell them that they can be forgiven of their sins, that they can have life now and forever in heaven, all because a man 2,000 years ago was nailed to a cross for them, and all they have to do is believe – the intellectuals mock, the religious people say it’s too easy – it’s just foolish to those who are perishing…but to those who are being saved it is the power of God unleashed on their lives.

Paul reveals the fact that the wisdom of this world is futile. No one can know God and ultimate truth, by the wisdom of this world.

We should therefore keep it simple when we share the gospel, because the most important part of preaching is making it plain and understandable, not clever or fancy. Paul goes on to share the fact that those who are saved are (generally speaking), not the wise or noble, but the foolish of the world, the weak, the base (insignificant and lowly), the things which are NOT (virtually non-existent), to bring to nothing the things which are.

When Paul arrived at Corinth, it was following a rather interesting time in Athens. I can’t be dogmatic about it, but he may have been a bit disappointed at the results of his preaching in Athens, especially at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34). I’m of the opinion that Paul was reminded in a fresh way that there’s power in the name of Jesus and not in human wisdom (the wisdom of this world). I love his approach in:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (NKJV) “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

I can relate all too well when I read of Paul’s feeling as He ministered at Corinth, he felt weak, he was afraid, even to the point of trembling! He didn’t preach with eloquence or persuasive words of human wisdom, but God still did an amazing work. It proved and pointed to the Person of the Holy Spirit and not Paul or anyone else. Paul wanted the people to give God the glory and not the vessel. The truth is, there’s power in the message of the Gospel and not the messenger of the Gospel.

Sandy Adams explained it this way, “Paul’s ministry did not depend on eloquence or intelligence. In fact, he made a point of being plain! He preached Christ crucified not himself amplified.”

Psalm 27:7-14

The Psalm continues as a prayer. O Lord hear me, help me, I’m seeking Your face the way You’ve asked me to. O Lord, please, don’t leave me or forsake me, take care of me, teach me, do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries.

Make no mistake about it, the devil IS attempting to ruin our lives. God will protect and preserve us, but prayer is a part of that, as an expression of faith.

May we never lose heart. Please whoever you are, don’t give up…that’s the only way you’ll lose. Take heart…you will one day, somehow, someway, see the goodness of God – hold tight to that promise.

Psalm 27:13 (NKJV) “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.

After praying to God, David turns to us, with counsel and encouragement.

Psalm 27:14 (NKJV) “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!”

Proverbs 20:22-23

Proverbs 20:22 (NKJV) “Do not say, ‘I will recompense evil’; wait for the Lord, and He will save you.”

When we’re wronged, we sometimes say, “I’m gonna get em, I’m gonna pay em back. I don’t get mad, I get even.”

Don’t do it. Let the Lord do it. And remember, He may not do it right away, we’ll have to wait for God to right a wrong that’s been done to us, but He will, for He is just.

It’s interesting the way this verse ends…someone does you evil, but you just take it to the Lord, you don’t return that evil…the result is that God saves you.

He saves you from bitterness, He saves you from bondage, He saves you from a heavy fall or failure in life, He may even save you from jail.

Proverbs 20:23 (NKJV) “Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, and dishonest scales are not good.”

This is a repetition of the principle we’ve seen twice in this chapter – Proverbs 20:10, 14)

It’s an abomination to God if we are not 100% honest in all our business dealings.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

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