Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16, 2012 … We Are Priests, … Like Ezra

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 260

 Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Ezra, Chapters 1-3 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passage: Ezra 1: 1-5 : [NLT] … 1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy by stirring the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation into writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: 2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem in the land of Judah. 3 All of you who are his people may return to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! 4 Those who live in any place where Jewish survivors are found should contribute toward their expenses by supplying them with silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a freewill offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.” … 5 Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the LORD.  
Highlight Passage: Ezra 2: 64; 70 : [NLT] … 64 So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, … 70 So the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled in villages near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to the other towns of Judah from which they had come.  
Highlight Passage: Ezra 3: 1-5; 23-24 : [NLT] … 1 The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the LORD, the God of Israel. 2 So they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and said, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do. We have sacrificed to him ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel replied, “You may have no part in this work, for we have nothing in common. We alone will build the Temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us.” 4 Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. 5 They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their aims. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. … 23 When this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop building. 24 The work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem had stopped, and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.  

Cross Reference Passage: 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23 : [NLT] … 22 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy by stirring the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation into writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: 23“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem in the land of Judah. All of you who are the LORD’s people may return to Israel for this task. May the LORD your God be with you!”  
Cross Reference Passage: Jeremiah 29: 10-11 : [NLT] … 10 “The truth is that you will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Cross Reference Passage: 1st Peter 2: 4-5 : [NLT] … 4 Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him. 5And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple [i.e., “a royal priesthood in the NKJV]. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ. 

My Journal for Today: Moving on to the Book of Ezra in my chronological read through the Bible this year, I was taken by a challenge in the commentary I’ve been using in my parallel study of the Bible. It said that, prior to my reading and study of Ezra, the Priest who led God’s people back to Jerusalem in 538 BC, if I were charged to write down my five biggest Old Testament heroes, I would likely not pick Ezra; and that would have been absolutely true.

Yet, Ezra should definitely be one of the really BIGGIES in Old Testament lore. According to Jewish tradition and teaching, Ezra led over 42,000+ Jews back from their former captivity to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple; and Jewish tradition teaches that he was also likely the Author of the Old Testament books of 1st/2nd Chronicles, his own chronicle in the Book of Ezra, but also the books of Nehemiah, and that monumental poem about God’s word in Psalm 119. And if he had only done the latter, he would be one of my top heroes in the Old Testament … as anyone would likely say if they had studied Psalm 119 in depth.

Ezra was a bigtime hero of the faith; and he was ushered into God’s story – HIS-STORY – right at the time when God could use His priestly role and training as well as His Spirit-anointed gifts and talents to lead God’s people in their return to Jerusalem and in the rebuilding of God’s Temple in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s earlier prophesy (see Jer. 29: 10-11 copied above) … or even earlier from Isaiah (see Isaiah 44: 28) when the Prophet, from God, named “Cyrus” [before he was ever born] to be the one who would give the authority for God’s people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the destroyed Temple.

And along comes a humble Priest in captivity in Babylon to become a hero of leadership to set the rebuilding of God’s Temple into motion. But this was no easy task; and history and more of God’s word in the book of Ezra reveals that there was much opposition to the Temple being rebuilt; and much had to transpire with Ezra’s patient, but persistent leadership, to bring God’s people to a place where the Temple could be rebuilt and Ezra, as a Priest, could lead God’s people back into God’s word and there could be a rival and a healing restoration of God’s people [see Nehemiah 8].

Remember Ezra was the author of 2nd Chronicles 7: 14, that great call to repentance and prayer which is so often quoted today in our need as a nation … a nation which has also turned away from the ways of God, just as God’s chosen had done in Ezra’s day. If Ezra was the author of Psalm 119, it makes sense that he would be a Priest, in Psalm 119: 9-11, calling for God’s people, who have become immature in terms of God’s truth, to get God’s word deeply into OUR hearts so that we might not sin against our God. It makes sense that Ezra, the called and anointed Priest in the times of Nehemiah (see Neh. 8: 6-8) would be the one who would re-open God’s book of the law and lead God’s people into a revival sparked by the word of God.

Yes, Ezra was definitely way up there in hero-ship in the Old Testament. But take note of the cross-reference scripture which I was led to find my study today from 1st Peter 2: 4-5, copied above for you. It states the truth that you and I, as Christians, are now God’s priests. Being anointed with hearts occupied by God’s Spirit, we are to be the Ezras of our day. We are to lead the people and rebuild the Temple; …i.e., to open God’s word unto the hearts of unbelievers and to lead believers back into the word. And we all need to ask ourselves the challenging question: … ”How am I being an Ezra in my sphere of influence today?”

 Personally that’s very convicting; but I have been given the same charge, as part of God’s royal priesthood, as every other Christian and that is God’s Great Commission (from Matt. 28: 19-20); and I can humbly pray Ezra’s priestly prayer from 2nd Chron. 7: 14 just as can all of God’s New Covenant royal priesthood. I can seek out and accept God’s calling as His priest, just as Ezra did. But will I?

Will we? 

My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to become an Ezra where You have planted me today. Amen

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