Fellowship is an essential part of the Christian life. It is a joy to come together with other believers who love Jesus as much as we do. Recently, I found one such group on Facebook: Titus Women’s Gathering. It is a lovely group of women devoted to serving God and His people. In an effort to help each other read, understand, and be able to discuss the Bible better, group administrators facilitate the ministry “Revel in His Word.” In it, a few different bloggers talk through chapters of the Bible and then members can discuss in the comments, supporting each other in understanding and application. This is where I will place my contributions and links to other bloggers’ pieces.
Start at the bottom to read blogs starting with 1 Samuel 1. Feel free to comment here, visit other links, and share as you feel led. Thank you for joining us!
Blogging Through the Bible Ezra 9 and 10
Temple rebuilt? Check. Levites and priests installed? Done. Families returned to Jerusalem. Yes! Wait. About those families…
Not Good News
Ezra was trying to get things running the way they were supposed to be. He worked so hard in seeking the Lord, doing God’s will, and teaching others what to do. So, when Ezra heard from the leaders that there was something amiss with the people, he took immediate steps to correct it. It seems that the people of Israel (even the priests and the Levites) had intermarried with the heathens while in captivity “so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands.” Not good.
When Ezra gets the report, he tears his garment and his robe, plucks out some of the hair on his head and beard, and sits down, astonished. Have you ever been so frustrated that you pulled your own hair? I have. It’s an intense reaction here, but Ezra worked so hard to make things right, and they just…weren’t. These guys had just spent a long captivity because they hadn’t done things Lord’s way, and already the people were blowing it again. Those who fear the Lord gather around him, and they just sort of sit there, stunned, until evening.
Ezra Spills It All To God
At the evening sacrifice, Ezra falls down on his knees and spills everything to God. He basically says, “Wow, God. I can’t even look at your right now. I’m so ashamed. We have been so guilty of so many things, and for those crimes we were delivered to the kings of other lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to humiliation. And right when you show us a little grace, get us a rebuilt temple and even a wall in Judah, this is how we repay you? You TOLD us that we weren’t to mingle with the heathen or to want the things they want, and it would be well with us. After all this, you punish us less than we deserved, and we break your commandments by committing these abominations? You are righteous and we are guilty. ‘Nobody can stand before you because of this!’”
When You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong
Meanwhile, while Ezra is weeping and praying, a large assembly of people start to gather to do some weeping of their own. It’s starting to sink in that God wasn’t playing before. He gave them another chance, and they were already starting off on the wrong foot. There is a reason why it says in in Proverbs 9:10 that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Smart people fear God.
Then somebody comes up with an idea. Let’s just follow the law.
“And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, ‘We have trespassedagainst our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.’”Ezra 10:2-3
Here, I’m kind of torn. On the one hand, I totally get that God rules, and when we screw up, sometimes we just have to abandon everything and just sort of shake the Etch a Sketch and start over from zero. Nothing we ever lose on earth can compare to what we can lose by not being obedient to God.
On the other hand, I can’t help thinking about those poor little babies losing their mommies and daddies. It wasn’t their faults that one of their parents was a pagan, and now they won’t even get the benefit of being raised by someone who followed the one true God. This reminds me of the story of Naomi. Her sons die, and she says to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your pagan gods.” Ruth doesn’t go, but Orpah is like…”Do-tee-do, going back to paganism now.” Hello? Pagans don’t go to heaven. They go to be with their gods in hell. But God knows people’s hearts. He knows who will repent and who won’t no matter what. Maybe that’s what this is here.
In any case, everybody swears that they will put away their pagan families. Ezra is fasting because he still feels bad about it, and a proclamation is issued that everybody gather at Jerusalem within three days. People who choose to stay with their heathen familes will get their property confiscated and be cut off from the remnant of God’s people.
After three days, everybody gathers, and Ezra addresses them, instructing them to repent and separate. The people agree to do both, but at this point, it’s pouring down rain, and they beg for a little time and order for the process, which they receive. Ezra and some elders start interviewing people, a man at a time, until they get through everybody.
The rest of the chapter is a list of people who had taken pagan wives, even those who were associated with the temple. Sons of priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and more promised to put away wives and even children to follow the Lord His way.
Dear God, please help us to always admit when we are wrong. You are God, and we are not. We may not understand everything, but we know that you have our best interest in mind. Thank you for helping us to be obedient. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
Can you think of other places in the Bible in which things looked unfair from the natural?
What might have been the consequences for keeping those wives and children around?
Join Stacey Lynn Wells at Words From the Wheel and Telling Hearts as she blogs through Ezra 7-8.
Join Tatiana Adurias at The Musings of Mum as she blogs through Ezra 5-6.
Join Tammy SD at Telling Hearts and Grandma Mary Martha as she blogs through Ezra 3-4
Ezra 1 and 2
People make their own choices for good or evil, but God can stir a heart like no other. Babylon had taken the Jewish people captive seventy years before, and as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah, that time period was ending. King Cyrus of Persia was in charge then, and God stirred up his spirit to make a proclamation to free the people and get them back on the road to worshiping the one true God.
King Cyrus Makes a Proclamation
He basically acknowledges that all of his kingdoms have been given to him by God, and that God has commanded him to build a temple in Jerusalem. He tells anybody who names God as his own to go to Jerusalem and build the house of the Lord God (for He is God). Everybody should help by donating silver, goods, and livestock besides the freewill offerings for the house of God.
Then God moves some other spirits too. He touches the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, the priests, and the Levites, and they all head over to Jerusalem to start building. Everybody else gets all their goods and “precious things” together and makes a big offering.
Finally, King Cyrus digs out the articles which Nebuchadnezzer had taken from Jerusalem to put into the temples of his idols and gets the treasurer to hand them over to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. Items listed include: 39 gold platters, 1,000 silver platters, 20 knives, 30 gold basins, 410 silver basins, and 1,000 other articles. There were 5, 400 articles of silver and gold.
Then Sheshbazzar took all the loot plus the captives who were still in Babylon and delivers everything and everybody to Jersusalem.
This whole situation reminds me to keep hoping for salvation for my lost loved ones. God can and does stir hearts to do His will. He can change a situation in a heartbeat.
The Captives Return
Ezra 2 starts with the people’s return from captivity. Nebuchadnezzer had taken them away so many years before, but now they were returning, each to his/her own land. The Bible lists the people by the land and the number returned. Then it lists the number of priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple assistants, and sons of the priests as well as Solomon’s servants. In total, there were 42,360 besides the 7,337 male and female servants plus lots of horses, mules, camels, and donkeys.
When they got to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem everybody gives generously to support the work on the temple. The people gave 161,000 gold drachmas, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priestly garments. Then the people dwelt in their cities.
Dear God, thank you for being a God who still stirs hearts. Help us to know what to pray in accordance with Your will to accomplish Your purposes. Let us always remember that wherever we might wander, You are our true home. Help us to always give from our hearts to your house. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
What are you asking God to stir for you?
The people gave from their hearts. Are you always a cheerful giver?