In between Ezra chapters 6 and 7 a 57-year gap takes place. It was during this “gap” that we have the events recorded in the book of Esther. While Esther was queen and used by God to save the Jews, Xerxes (Ahasuerus) was king. Xerxes’ son, Artaxerxes ruled from 464 to 424 B.C. The return occurred in the king’s seventh year, which was 458/457 B.C.
The connection of Esther and the favor God gave to the Jews, may shed more light on the reason the king was so generous to the Jews.
Ezra was a skilled scribe (teacher) in the law of Moses, he was also a descendant of the High Priest Aaron (Ezra 7:5). I’ve always loved the description of Ezra in:
Ezra 7:10 (NKJV) “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
Isn’t that supposed to be our approach? Especially those of us who aspire to “teach” God’s Word! That our heart would be prepared, to understand the Bible, not just to teach it, but first – that we’d have a heart to DO IT. This would be Ezra’s mission. Back in Jerusalem the temple had been rebuilt, but the restoration of services had waned. It’s not enough to have a building, we need to fill it with God’s Word and worship. This was the mission of Ezra.
The letter Ezra inserts into his text is amazing. The king actually writes that he himself is sending them on this mission (Ezra 7:14). King Artaxerxes gave generously to the work and among the things that he requests to do be done with the donations is that sacrifices be offered to God. He also makes sure that the leaders and treasurers who had an aspect of jurisdiction in the surroundings of Judah provide any more necessities that Ezra might need. He even give them tax exemption! Ezra’s mission was clearly understood by the king as he wrote in his letter in reference to the laws of God:
Ezra 7:25b (NKJV) “…and teach those who do not know them.”
Ezra had it in his heart to “beautify” the house of God (remember, it had been 57-years) and I have a hunch that means aesthetically and spiritually.
The open doors and letter encouraged Ezra. He knew the hand of God was upon him (Ezra 7:28). Now, the question is, who will return with him? We have the list of those who decided to return with Ezra, but when Ezra saw the people who had decided to go, he noticed that there were no Levites (priests) who “signed-up.” Ezra then recruited some priests, by asking men to ask Iddo, who apparently was a leader among a group of priests in Casiphia, to send servants with Ezra. Hundreds rose up to return with Ezra.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21
When it comes to those called and commissioned to Christian ministry, we are not celebrities, we are servants of Christ. This particular Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 4:1 speaks of an “under-rower” (I can picture myself at the bottom of the ship – just rowing – that’s all I am). We’re servants and we’re stewards; we are therefore called to minister and to “manage” what belongs to God. It’s not ours, and all God asks of us is faithfulness. One day everyone’s heart will be revealed, everyone’s motives will be shown, there will be both revelation and rewards at the Bema Seat Judgment. Until then, Paul reserved judgment – for even he wasn’t 100% sure about himself, and he definitely didn’t allow the opinion of others to have that type of authority over his life.
The Greek word translated “counsels” in 1 Corinthians 4:5 speaks of motives (our motives will be judged). A motive is defined as “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” God will judge not just what we do, but why we do what we do.
Wiersbe said, “We judge ourselves, and others judge us; but the Final Judge is the Lord. Live to please Him alone.”
Paul once again address the issue of the Corinthian’s carnality in exalting men and hence creating divisions. Paul gets a bit sarcastic, but he speaks truthfully as well, that being in the ministry is a call to carry our cross, to suffer and sacrifice. The whole world is watching us, demons and angels are watching us – as a matter of fact, the Greek word translated “spectacle” in 1 Corinthians 4:9 is the derivative of our English word “theater.” Angels, demons, and the world are watching those who sacrificially serve Jesus.
It’s not always smooth.
Paul hungered, thirsted, was poorly clothed, beaten and HOMELESS. He worked with his hands, he worked hard and describes the attitude ministers are to have, in 1 Corinthians 4:12. One thing that stood out to me is “…being reviled, we bless…” (do I do that?). The world sees us as offscouring – – – that’s the stuff you scrub off of your counters, showers, and toilets.
Paul didn’t want to shame the Corinthians in the ways he corrected them, he wanted to help them because he loved them. Paul wasn’t asking for accolades, but since he was the one who had planted the church and led them to the Lord, he was just hoping they would listen to him and not the counsel of ungodly and worldly men. Paul warned those men, and some of the resistant Corinthians, that he would come to them and deal with them. Whether or not he came with a rod or in spirit of gentleness would depend on how they responded to his love-letter.
Wiersbe, “Paul saw himself as a father in the Lord who had to instruct and discipline his children.”
This Psalm was sung by David at the dedication of his house. After all he’d been through, we’re talking times when his life was hanging by a thread, when there was but a step between him and death, here he was blessed beyond measure, alive and able to dedicate his house to God.
Psalm 30:1–2 (NKJV) “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2 O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.”
We really do have reason to sing to God!
Not only had God protected David, God had healed David. It may have been a sickness that God used to discipline him. David was grateful for God’s mercy and grace. He understood the importance of weathering the storm, that eventually the sky turns blue.
Psalm 30:5 (NKJV) “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Anyone weeping? Anyone hurting? Anyone wondering about his or her life? Whoever and wherever you are, you can sing to the LORD. In Christ His favor is truly for life, and those tears of pain will be transformed into tears of joy – I pray you’d continue to wait on the LORD.
Proverbs 20:28 (NKJV) “Mercy and truth preserve the king, and by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.”
God promises to protect the throne of the king (especially in the days of Israel) if they ruled in mercy and truth. It’s too bad Rehoboam didn’t hold to this truth of his father (1 Kings 12).
Proverbs 20:29 (NKJV) “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head.”
Young men are strong physically, but older men have the potential to be wise spiritually. It takes time (years) to learn life’s lessons.
Ray Comfort said, “When you are young, use your gray matter and listen to those with gray hair.”
“The strength and enthusiasm of youth, without knowledge that comes by experience, is a recipe for disaster. Samson certainly had strength, but he lacked the wisdom to use his strength wisely.”
Proverbs 20:30 (NKJV) “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”
Sometimes, for some people verbal rebuke or correction is just not enough…Sonny needs a spanking; Lenny needs you to “lay hands” on him, because you love him. Imagine the Lord doing a deep cleansing of your heart! He is able to do so, and how we need that!
Psalms 51:10 (NKJV) “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Psalms 119:71 9NKJV) “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”
Ray Comfort, “Though we don’t like to admit it, times of severe chastening brings us to our knees, and that’s the safest place to be for Christians.”
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.