August 7

Ezra 4:24–6:22

The enemy opposed the rebuilding of the temple, so the work ceased for fifteen long years. But God stirred up a couple of prophets, who stirred up the people to get back to work – God would go before them.

“The work on the temple had been stopped, from 535 to 520 B.C. Now under the influence of two important prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, it was resumed. Haggai prophesied from August to December 520 B.C., and Zechariah prophesied for two years beginning in October–November 520. They were helping by exhorting and encouraging.” – Bible Knowledge Commentary

The Governors beyond the region, once again questioned the work of the Jews, but this time the letter they sent was not an accusation, they simply wanted information. Sure enough, they searched the records of the kings of Persia and an edict WAS found, that the temple should be rebuilt – even at the king’s expense.

God was leading them, His eye was upon them (Ezra 5:5) and they knew they were working for Him. They knew the reason the first temple had been destroyed (because of their sin), and they now had it in their hearts to serve the LORD.

God used a foreign king, King Cyrus to issue the decree. What’s fascinating is that Cyrus had been mentioned by name and the work God would do through him, in the writings of the prophet Isaiah close to 175 years before it happened. We read in:

Isaiah 44:28 (NKJV) “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

God used Cyrus, Haggai, and Zechariah, and against all odds, the temple was rebuilt!

Ezra 6:14 (NKJV) “So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.”

When I read those words, “…they built and finished it…” I realize the enormity of such a statement. Many people start books, projects, and even service for God, but don’t finish it. I encourage you to finish the work and race God has for you, and finish well. Consider these passages (John 4:34; 19:30; Acts 20:24; 2 Timothy 4:7).

Doing the will and work of God should lead to great celebrations of joy. They offered the sacrifices for the nation, for it was a new start and they needed a new heart, a new beginning. The Passover was a perfect feast to observe, after such a great victory!

Ezra 6:21 (NKJV) “Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel.”

May we do the same and may the LORD himself make you joyful all the days of your life (Ezra 6:22).

Nowadays we don’t have a physical temple. Building projects for the church can be compared to what we read in Ezra, but today, there is no physical structure that parallels the temple of the Jews – that ONE place they all looked to and came to in order to worship God. Today the temple of God consists in the church, and the individual believers. We actually cover that building in our New Testament reading for today, after all Jesus said in:

Matthew 16:18b (NKJV) “…I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

1 Corinthians 3:5-23

In Acts 18 Paul planted the church in Corinth. In Acts 19 Apollos went and ministered there. Apollos was a very gifted communicator. Sadly the people started getting their eyes on men, some said they were of Paul, and others said they were of Apollos. Paul went on to address this issue, we read his words in:

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NKJV) “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”

Paul planted, Apollos water, but it was God who gave life and caused it to grow. Without God we are nothing and can do nothing (John 15:5). How we need to be so careful that we never exalt or follow man – for even the best of men are men at best.

JESUS is the foundation of the church, let’s keep our eyes on Him, identify with Him, and follow Him, for there is no other foundation. 

Paul then reminds us, that we who labor for the Lord in His church are to take heed how we build on that foundation. If we build obediently and with proper motives, one day when we stand before Christ at the Bema Seat Judgment we will be rewarded, after our work is tested by God. (see also 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Romans 14:10-12; 2 John 8; Revelation 22:12 in reference to the Bema Seat and rewards).

Tragically the Corinthians were carnal, they were lining up behind men, and that had the potential to destroy the church…so Paul issues a heavy, heavy warning in:

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NKJV) “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

In this context the temple refers to the local congregation.

Paul closes the chapter by challenging the church to walk in the wisdom from above, not the wisdom from below. The wisdom from below looks to and boasts of men, while the wisdom from above looks to and boasts only in Christ.

Warren Wiersbe said, “Because the Corinthian believers gloried in human teachers (1:12) and human wisdom, they robbed God of the glory that rightly belonged to Him. ‘Let no one boast in men’ is a command, not a suggestion.”

I had never really thought about the fact that if we glorify men, if we exalt, point to and puff up men, then we rob God of His glory because He deserves ALL of it and therefore, we should not share it with anyone!

Psalm 29:1-11

We are to give God the glory for He alone is worthy! We are to worship the LORD in the “beauty of His holiness” (I love that phrase!)

The Psalmist goes on to emphasize the awesome voice of the LORD, symbolized with thunder, not only splitting the cedar trees, but even causing the deer to give birth (reminds me that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from our Father’s will – Matthew 10:29). Everything is under God’s rule as simply spoken from His lips.

During the flood, God sat on the throne – in complete control.

And during the storms of our lives – He sits on the throne, in complete control. May this truth bless our hearts with the power and peace we need for the path ahead of us.

Psalm 29:11 (NKJV) “The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace.”

Proverbs 20:26-27

Proverbs 20:26 (NKJV) “A wise king sifts out the wicked, and brings the threshing wheel over them.”

To sift out with the threshing wheel, speaks of the separation of the wheat and the chaff.

A wise king, sifts out the wicked, the wasteful, the harmful – he sifts out the chaff, and stores the wheat into His barn. As leaders we do our best to do this now, but one day King Jesus will do this forever.

Luke 3:17 (NKJV) “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

There will be no chaff in heaven.

Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV) “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart.”

It can get complicated and sound crowded, but within every Christian we have our own spirit, we have the Holy Spirit, and we also have a soul. All work together in searching out what’s REALLY going on in our hearts. Something else “inside” of us.

The heart in one sense, is the very essence of who we are, the center of our intellect, will, and emotion. Just as we get x-rays, and MRI’s to find out what’s going on inside of our bodies, the spirit of a man finds out what’s going on within our hearts.

With this information, we can make modification – as God leads. For the heart of the matter, is the matter of the heart. O Lord, let my heart be right in Your sight.

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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