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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

Category

ezra

Follow Me-A Priest Gets Ready to Go

Ezra 7:6-10

This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 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

As various Persian Kings granted the authority to do so, various groups of Jews who had been in the Babylonian Captivity began returning to Jerusalem to re-establish the thing which had been destroyed during the conquest some 70 years before. There were three waves of returnees. Wave one was the group led by Zerubbabel, who returned to rebuild the Temple. The third was the wave led by Nehemiah, who returned to rebuild the city wall of Jerusalem and the city itself. The second wave was led by Ezra and was going to rebuild nothing which was physical. Ezra’s mission was to restore and rebuild the newly free nation spiritually. He was to teach all the things of the law and restore Israel to proper worship of their God.

Clearly, Ezra was called for this mission, and clearly, God saw the need for a man to return to Jerusalem to accomplish it. Why is this clear? Well, twice in the above passage we are told that the hand of God was upon Ezra. This leaves little doubt as to his calling and the need for Ezra to answer. So, some 60 years after the Temple was completed, Ezra headed that direction as commanded. So, what quick lessons can we glean here?

First, Ezra went. That seems self-evident, but it isn’t really; men and women decline to answer the call of God in their lives all the time. While Ezra was probably a strong, intelligent and competent person, it is God’s call and hand in it which ultimately enabled Him to succeed in his mission. God will give us all we need to do His will; the only thing He won’t provide is the willingness on our part. So, had he not been willing, then this post would have been about somebody else.

The need for spiritual instruction and restoration is as real to Christians today as it was to the Jews in that day. The need for men willing to step forth boldly and accomplish that is also as real today as it was then. There is something else we who are called should have in common with Ezra:

Ezra 7:10 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.

Friends, that right there sets the standard for all who are called to be teachers of God’s Word to others. If we approach it any other way, then we are not performing to standard. Anything less and we are half stepping.

Ezra prepared his heart. Being a teacher of faith to others is not an accident. We have to be prepared spiritually. This will require much prayer, study and meditation on both the Scriptures and about God’s desires.

What did Ezra prepare his heart to do? He prepared it to seek the law of the Lord. Nothing has changed here, only we seek the knowledge of God’s completed canon of Scripture. If we are attempting to be teachers and are not striving to be as knowledgeable of our teaching as possible then, again, we are half stepping.

Ezra strove to do it. We can’t learn God’s Word until we study it, but once we know it, we should attempt to live it. Can any of us live it perfectly? Of course not. We won’t see perfection until we see heaven. Here is a tough word, teacher friends. If we aren’t at least trying to live God’s Word, we aren’t ready; in fact, if we ignore, openly rebel, or turn a blind eye to disobedience around us we simply should not be leaders or teachers. This is worse than half stepping.

On after Ezra learned God’s Word did he try to live it. Only after he lived it did he try to teach it. He had two things: God’s hand on him, and his own willing and prepared heart.

Friends, the Israelites deserved this from the man who was to teach them God’s law, and those we are responsible for deserve it from us.

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Follow Me-A Priest Follows God Not Man

Ezra 10:2,3

 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

Ezra 9 and 10

Men of God, if you want your feelings stroked, stop reading now; continue and you might get your feelings hurt.

For many, Ezra 9 and 10 are problematic. In summary, some of the Jewish men, after returning to Jerusalem from captivity had taken pagan wives, and their sons and daughters had likewise taken pagan spouses. In a nutshell, God directed Ezra to deliver the news that these men were to all put away, or divorce their pagan wives and send them and the children of those unions away. We won’t belabor this issue here, just remember friends that, while God doesn’t change, He may change how he deals with His children at different times in their lives just as any Father might.

What had happened here was extremely serious. It was things like this, among many others, which had been the cause for the exile and captivity in the first place! Full restoration to the Law of God was not going to be possible in the face of such pagan influences in the congregation, and quick decisive action was needed. The tailspin this was going to cause had to be reversed.

There is a little known man in this story who responded in an epic way. Actually, it wasn’t really epic; this is exactly how all men of God should respond when faced with a choice like he had.

The priest Shechaniah, as we can see above, did not hesitate to come on board with God’s plan here; after all, he personally was not guilty of the problem offense. But, wait, there’s more! This man may have not been personally guilty, but a perusal of the genealogy of the offenders at the end of Chapter 10 reveals something interesting; his father and five of his paternal uncle WERE guilty. Ouch, right? This is almost an unimaginable situation, and the pain of standing on God’s Word must have been very real. Yet, Shechaniah did just that

As we covered earlier, this was a situation that was very dangerous. This mixing with the pagan world, and ignoring open, notorious sin and willful rebellion were very dangerous. In fact, there was little doubt that eventually, it would cause the undoing of the nation of Israel yet again. God will NEVER bless rebellion and disobedience. Open sin, rebellion and willful disobedience are like cancer that destroys a congregation from the inside, and decisive often painful treatment is required.

Friends, there is nothing new under the sun. Nothing has changed. Open sin, rebellion and willful disobedience are still like cancer. Today, these things will kill a New Testament church. The patient may linger, as we provide treatments that prolong the illness, but offer no cure. Without the proper, quick and decisive treatment needed, the patient(the church,) will finally die. That’s grim, isn’t it?

It need not be though, friends. When we see this around us what will we do? Will we ignore it, turn our head and pretend nothing is wrong? Worse, will we celebrate it and react with joy? Hey! Awesome sin, way to go! God forbid anybody construes this as some legalistic, judgmental tirade because it is not. Yet, some things are simply wrong, and when we ignore them, the impact is huge. God won’t bless that, we look like hypocrites, and the list goes on.

Where is Shechaniah when we need him? Who will stand with God even when it hurts? Who will stand with God even when it means turning our backs so to speak, on those we love? Who will stand with God even if we have to stand alone? Who will stand with God even when it hurts our pocketbook? This man Shechaniah provided his answer by his actions.

Godly leadership must act; we cannot stick our heads in the sand. When we do, we are more guilty than the offender.

What is OUR answer? We have been warned.

 

 

Follow Me-A Priest Gets Ready to Go

Ezra 7:6-10

This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 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

As various Persian Kings granted the authority to do so, various groups of Jews who had been in the Babylonian Captivity began returning to Jerusalem to re-establish the thing which had been destroyed during the conquest some 70 years before. There were three waves of returnees. Wave one was the group led by Zerubbabel, who returned to rebuild the Temple. The third was the wave led by Nehemiah, who returned to rebuild the city wall of Jerusalem and the city itself. The second wave was led by Ezra and was going to rebuild nothing which was physical. Ezra’s mission was to restore and rebuild the newly free nation spiritually. He was to teach all the things of the law and restore Israel to proper worship of their God.

Clearly, Ezra was called for this mission, and clearly, God saw the need for a man to return to Jerusalem to accomplish it. Why is this clear? Well, twice in the above passage we are told that the hand of God was upon Ezra. This leaves little doubt as to his calling and the need for Ezra to answer. So, some 60 years after the Temple was completed, Ezra headed that direction as commanded. So, what quick lessons can we glean here?

First, Ezra went. That seems self-evident, but it isn’t really; men and women decline to answer the call of God in their lives all the time. While Ezra was probably a strong, intelligent and competent person, it is God’s call and hand in it which ultimately enabled Him to succeed in his mission. God will give us all we need to do His will; the only thing He won’t provide is the willingness on our part. So, had he not been willing, then this post would have been about somebody else.

The need for spiritual instruction and restoration is as real to Christians today as it was to the Jews in that day. The need for men willing to step forth boldly and accomplish that is also as real today as it was then. There is something else we who are called should have in common with Ezra:

Ezra 7:10 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.

Friends, that right there sets the standard for all who are called to be teachers of God’s Word to others. If we approach it any other way, then we are not performing to standard. Anything less and we are half stepping.

Ezra prepared his heart. Being a teacher of faith to others is not an accident. We have to be prepared spiritually. This will require much prayer, study and meditation on both the Scriptures and about God’s desires.

What did Ezra prepare his heart to do? He prepared it to seek the law of the Lord. Nothing has changed here, only we seek the knowledge of God’s completed canon of Scripture. If we are attempting to be teachers and are not striving to be as knowledgeable of our teaching as possible then, again, we are half stepping.

Ezra strove to do it. We can’t learn God’s Word until we study it, but once we know it, we should attempt to live it. Can any of us live it perfectly? Of course not. We won’t see perfection until we see heaven. Here is a tough word, teacher friends. If we aren’t at least trying to live God’s Word, we aren’t ready; in fact, if we ignore, openly rebel, or turn a blind eye to disobedience around us we simply should not be leaders or teachers. This is worse than half stepping.

On after Ezra learned God’s Word did he try to live it. Only after he lived it did he try to teach it. He had two things: God’s hand on him, and his own willing and prepared heart.

Friends, the Israelites deserved this from the man who was to teach them God’s law, and those we are responsible for deserve it from us.

Follow Me-A Priest Follows God Not Man

Ezra 10:2,3

 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

Ezra 9 and 10

Men of God, if you want your feelings stroked, stop reading now; continue and you might get your feelings hurt.

For many, Ezra 9 and 10 are problematic. In summary, some of the Jewish men, after returning to Jerusalem from captivity had taken pagan wives, and their sons and daughters had likewise taken pagan spouses. In a nutshell, God directed Ezra to deliver the news that these men were to all put away, or divorce their pagan wives and send them and the children of those unions away. We won’t belabor this issue here, just remember friends that, while God doesn’t change, He may change how he deals with His children at different times in their lives just as any Father might.

What had happened here was extremely serious. It was things like this, among many others, which had been the cause for the exile and captivity in the first place! Full restoration to the Law of God was not going to be possible in the face of such pagan influences in the congregation, and quick decisive action was needed. The tailspin this was going to cause had to be reversed.

There is a little known man in this story who responded in an epic way. Actually, it wasn’t really epic; this is exactly how all men of God should respond when faced with a choice like he had.

The priest Shechaniah, as we can see above, did not hesitate to come on board with God’s plan here; after all, he personally was not guilty of the problem offense. But, wait, there’s more! This man may have not been personally guilty, but a perusal of the genealogy of the offenders at the end of Chapter 10 reveals something interesting; his father and five of his paternal uncle WERE guilty. Ouch, right? This is almost an unimaginable situation, and the pain of standing on God’s Word must have been very real. Yet, Shechaniah did just that

As we covered earlier, this was a situation that was very dangerous. This mixing with the pagan world, and ignoring open, notorious sin and willful rebellion were very dangerous. In fact, there was little doubt that eventually, it would cause the undoing of the nation of Israel yet again. God will NEVER bless rebellion and disobedience. Open sin, rebellion and willful disobedience are like cancer that destroys a congregation from the inside, and decisive often painful treatment is required.

Friends, there is nothing new under the sun. Nothing has changed. Open sin, rebellion and willful disobedience are still like cancer. Today, these things will kill a New Testament church. The patient may linger, as we provide treatments that prolong the illness, but offer no cure. Without the proper, quick and decisive treatment needed, the patient(the church,) will finally die. That’s grim, isn’t it?

It need not be though, friends. When we see this around us what will we do? Will we ignore it, turn our head and pretend nothing is wrong? Worse, will we celebrate it and react with joy? Hey! Awesome sin, way to go! God forbid anybody construes this as some legalistic, judgmental tirade because it is not. Yet, some things are simply wrong, and when we ignore them, the impact is huge. God won’t bless that, we look like hypocrites, and the list goes on.

Where is Shechaniah when we need him? Who will stand with God even when it hurts? Who will stand with God even when it means turning our backs so to speak, on those we love? Who will stand with God even if we have to stand alone? Who will stand with God even when it hurts our pocketbook? This man Shechaniah provided his answer by his actions.

Godly leadership must act; we cannot stick our heads in the sand. When we do, we are more guilty than the offender.

What is OUR answer? We have been warned.

 

 

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