Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012 … Lord, Have Mercy!!!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 268

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Ezra, Chapters 7-10 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passage: Ezra 7: 1: 6; 8-10; 14: 27-28 : [NLT] … 1 Many years later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia£, there was a man named Ezra. … 6 This Ezra was a scribe, well versed in the law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the LORD his God was on him. … 8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August of that year. 9 He had left Babylon on April 8£ and came to Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the LORD and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel. ... 
[King Artaxerxes, in writing a letter of passage for the Jews, even though a pagan king, recognized the power of God’s law and made sure that Ezra took the captured Arc of the Covenant back to Israel with the returning remnant] 14 I and my Council of Seven hereby instruct you to conduct an inquiry into the situation in Judah and Jerusalem, based on your God’s law, which is in your hand. …  
[Ezra writes a doxology, praising God for His orchestration of Ezra’s return to Jerusalem; and we note the person change, from third to first person, in the writing of the remaining of Ezra’s journal.] 27 Praise the LORD, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem! 28 And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty princes! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the LORD my God was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.
Highlight Passage: Ezra 8: 15; 21-23; 28-29 : [NLT] … 15 I assembled the exiles at the Ahava Canal, and we camped there for three days while I went over the lists of the people and the priests who had arrived. I found that not one Levite had volunteered to come along. …  
[Later during the journey to Jerusalem] 21 And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. … 23 So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. … 
 [After the worker priests were established Ezra gave them a charge of stewardship of the treasures they were taking with them to rebuild the temple.] 28 And I said to these priests, “You and these treasures have been set apart as holy to the LORD. This silver and gold is a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of our ancestors. 29 Guard these treasures well until you present them, without an ounce lost, to the leading priests, the Levites, and the leaders of Israel at the storerooms of the LORD’s Temple in Jerusalem.”  
Highlight Passage: Ezra 9: 5-7; 9; 13-15 : [NLT] … [After realizing how spiritually polluted the remnant had become with intermarriage and sinful disregard for God’s worship and His ways, Ezra, though pure himself, grieved and prayed for God’s mercy and the repentance of the people.] 5 At the time of the sacrifice, I stood up from where I had sat in mourning with my clothes torn. I fell to my knees, lifted my hands to the LORD my God. 6 I prayed, “O my God, I am utterly ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you. For our sins are piled higher than our heads, and our guilt has reached to the heavens. 7 Our whole history has been one of great sin. That is why we and our kings and our priests have been at the mercy of the pagan kings of the land. We have been killed, captured, robbed, and disgraced, just as we are today. … 
9 For we were slaves, but in his unfailing love our God did not abandon us in our slavery. Instead, he caused the kings of Persia to treat us favorably. He revived us so that we were able to rebuild the Temple of our God and repair its ruins. He has given us a protective wall in Judah and Jerusalem. … [Ezra’s prayer for mercy, recognizing God’s holiness and justice.] 13 “Now we are being punished because of our wickedness and our great guilt. But we have actually been punished far less than we deserve, for you, our God, have allowed some of us to survive as a remnant. 14 But now we are again breaking your commands and intermarrying with people who do these detestable things. Surely your anger will destroy us until even this little remnant no longer survives. 15 O LORD, God of Israel, you are just. We stand before you in our guilt as nothing but an escaped remnant, though in such a condition none of us can stand in your presence.” 
Highlight Passage: Ezra 10: 10-13 : [NLT] … [After much contemplation, fasting, and corporate confession in prayer] 10 Then Ezra the priest stood and said to them: “You have sinned, for you have married pagan women. Now we are even more deeply under condemnation than we were before. 11 Confess your sin to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do what he demands. Separate yourselves from the people of the land and from these pagan women.”  
[God’s people realized that not only did the Temple have to be rebuilt to honor God, so did their lives have to be restored in repentance and surrender to honor the Lord with their holiness.] 12 Then the whole assembly raised their voices and answered, “Yes, you are right; we must do as you say!” 13 Then they added, “This isn’t something that can be done in a day or two, for many of us are involved in this extremely sinful affair. This is the rainy season, so we cannot stay out here much longer. 

My Journal for Today: After returning to the last five chapters in the Book of Ezra today after a two-day jaunt in the book of Esther, I have entitled my journal title for today’s study, ”Lord, Have Mercy,” which is a phrase one often hears from the mouth of a Christian when there is a realization of personal sin or a perception of someone else’s sinful behavior.

Could I get an “Amen!” of agreement to the truth in Paul’s theological declaration, in Romans 3: 23 that … We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Yes, we know that’s true, don’t we? However, sometimes, … maybe too often, … we recognize that we’ve personally fallen into a season of habitual or recurring sin which has dampened or damaged our personal relationship with the Lord; and we also recognize that we must either personally – or even corporately – take steps to confess, repent, and to choose to do what Christ demands of us in Luke 9: 23. But, at the same time, we’re undergirded by the truth of 1st John 1: 9, … that if we confess our sins, God, in His faithfulness and mercy, will cleanse us of our sins (by the blood of Christ) and restore us unto righteousness.

That was the realization of Ezra, and ultimately the remnant of believers returning to Jerusalem from captivity to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. They came to realize that they had to voluntarily choose repentance (as repentance is always a choice!) and turn back to God; and they did so, following Ezra’s preaching of truth from God’s word that God is holy and He demands holiness from His people. Not only were the people going to have to dedicate all the treasures they were taking back to rebuild the Temple to God’s glory; but they were going to have to be stewards of their own holiness and rededicate their lives to holiness just as they were going to rebuild the Temple to worship God in His holiness.

I don’t know where you are in your life and/or relationship with God; but I do know that most of us can use a serious self-examination and a season of serious prayer and confession, repenting from past patterns of sin and allowing God’s to extend His enabling grace, through our faith, to give us the strength of God’s directed purpose to live in obedience to God’s word, seeking His will, and choosing to live in His way.

In that regard, I say again that God wants us to become His Priests, just as Ezra was His Priest to His people, praying humbly and diligently that we all choose to be stewards of God’s holiness in our lives.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, I want to be an Ezra, shining Your light of holiness into a world darkened by unholiness. Amen

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