DEVOTIONS AND SERMONS

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Ezra
 

Zerubabel, Jeshua and others were chosen by God to go back along with the exile from Babylon to rebuild the temple of God. Even though in the beginning they started with lot of zeal, because of position, persecution and all kinds of counseling and discouraging counseling that they went through - people stopped rebuilding the temple of God. And then for 16 years there was no work, we saw that they were all focused on building their houses and not building the house of God. God was still working and God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to preach the word through them. God used the same people Zerubabel, Jeshua who were discouraged to start working on building the temple and they completed the temple of God.

Actually in the book of Ezra from chapter 1 to 6, Ezra was reporting of what had happened. Probably he didn't live in that period. After 57 years of all that happened we are going to see from chapter 7. So in-between the completion of the re-building of the temple, Ezra coming back from Babylon 57 years had past. Probably this times Zerubabel is gone, Jeshua is gone, Haggai is gone and Zechariah is gone probably all of them are dead. For God when He starts something he wants to finish it.

Ezra 7:1,5,6
1 After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,

5 the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest--
6 this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.


Here we see in the reign of king Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra decides to comeback. As in the genealogy, he was the descendant of Aaron, Moses' brother. Vs 6 say he was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses. The Bible says in all these years while he was in Babylon as an exile away from the temple, away from all those activities what was happening in Jerusalem, Ezra was focused on learning to be the teacher of the law. He was very well versed in the law of Moses - the Bible. The word teacher can also be translated as a scribe, a recorder and a writer.

That's what Ezra did, he recorded the things that he heard, what happened in Jerusalem, what happened during the time he was alive and before he was alive. Now the king himself gives him the permission to go back to Jerusalem not to rebuild that is incomplete but to teach the word of God. You have to remember that the Jews went back and they could only rebuild the temple and not finish the work on the wall in Jerusalem. The king Artaxerxes stopped any building activity after all this because they had opposition they had complaints - Vs 4 it says that they were told to stop.

Only Nehemiah went back to the king, when he was with the king as a cupbearer. He went to the king. took permission, that's when he took permission to do some building work and they sent Nehemiah with bunch of people to rebuild the wall of the temple. You see how God works - when God starts something, he has to finish it. He will use different people, different prophets, different preachers and different writers. He will use kings and even non-believing kings Artaxerxes or Darius to fulfill his purpose.

Nehemiah was not a Levite or from spiritual lineage, but God used him. Ezra was from a priesthood lineage and God used him. God used him for a different reason. Nehemiah was a builder and Zerubabel was a builder but Ezra was there to rebuild people's faith in God and turn back people's faith towards God. That was the purpose God raised up Ezra to come back to Jerusalem. And that's same in the church. In church we all are different; we all have different gifts God has given us. God is using everybody's talents and gifts to go back to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple and to restore the word of God in people's life. That's the same way God wants to do in this modern time, in our life in this church.

Ezra 7:8-11
8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king.
9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.
10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
11 This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel:


Here it took 4 months for them to come from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra says the reason he came here because of the gracious hands of God was upon him, he saw that it was only by the grace of God, he can do something in Jerusalem there was no other way. God has to guide us in every thing; in fact, its Gods grace whatever good happens in our life. The credit has to always go back to God; it's so easy to take credit for ourselves that's our human, sinful nature.

The reason I have a house is because I worked hard, the reason I get good salary because I deserve and because I am so smart. Every thing we tempted to take credit for our selves. We have to understand, if at all we are intelligent - the intelligence came from God because there are so many children born mentally retarded. So whatever good we have, we have to always give the credit to God, if we are enjoying any thing good in our life today, its not because we are wonderful, its God who is so… wonderful. If at all we want to remember a scripture let us remember

Ezra 7:10
For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

This is how we need to be as Christians. What we need to do? We have to devote ourselves to study the word of God. Devote ourselves, in other way to translate is that, Ezra had devoted himself, Ezra set his heart firmly. One can imagine while he was in Babylon all these years how Ezra was with the Bible. He devoted himself to learn, to study the Law to understand. First to study, next to observe and whatever he studied he wanted to keep it, he wants to obey and he wants to follow in his life. If we spend our life only studying the Bible and not practicing we become hypocrites. What hurt them was not the lack of knowledge in the Bible but what hurt them was lack of practicing the Bible. So when we study the Bible the word of God should change our hearts, change our actions and change our mind. It's hard especially in the areas where we find hard to repent, we find ourselves quickly flipping those scriptures. Something we like because that seems easier to do and something we feel that's hard, that's challenging for us to do, so we don't practice those things.

Our Bible study should be in such a way that we are willing to surrender to what we read every day. That is where it's challenging to apply to us. It's so easy to say yes, that person should change in this, that person should get this, that person need to repent of this, and my wife/husband definitely need to listen to this, you know its so easy to put the challenge on somebody else rather than taking it personal.

Ezra studied, then he observed, and then he taught. That is what we need to do as Christians, we need to study, we need to observe and we need to teach others. All of us are qualified to teach whatever little we know, we can teach that to somebody. After all Ezra's teachings, lot of things happened in Israel. Many changes took place in Jerusalem, there were sins of intermarriage, people were marrying the non-believers of God and they had to change of what they were doing. Ezra was focused on making sure people were truly restored to God's word.

Ezra and Nehemiah was hand in hand helping people. Ezra came from Babylon in the 7th year of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah came from Babylon during the 20th year of Artaxerxes. So it took around 13 to 14 years in between them. We don't know whether he went to Babylon or he just stayed there but all that we know he did join Nehemiah much later. So the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem was completed by this time, So Nehmiah had finished the work that God had send him to do in 52 days after they began.

Nehemiah 8:1
All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.

Who told Ezra to bring out the Book of the law? The people of Israel, the people of Jerusalem, the 50,000 people present there. This is because they knew by the time, all these years what Ezra was teaching was paid in dividends because they were telling this is what we need to get everybody together and everybody needs to listen to the word of God. Sometimes the effect of our teaching the Bible will not be seen immediately it may take 14 years as in this case but we need to do what is right.

God was working through Ezra. He just don't want the people to build a nice temple, nice wall around it and say amen nice building. He wanted the people to respect, obey and love the word of God. God chose Ezra for that purpose.

Nehemiah 8:2-3
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.
3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.


How long did they read? The whole morning they were reading the word of God, all the men and women. Not just men alone women also; they all came together to listen to the word of God. They were not yawning and waiting to get over. Bible says they all were attentive to hear the book of the law.

Now its challenging in the modern time every thing is fast right? A scripture for that day not long verse but just a few letters 'Jesus wept'. The message should be just one verse and five stories. People like to listen to the story and not the word of God. What are we inspired to listen to? The miracle stories inspire us. We know how long this whole thing lasted 7 days every day they came in the morning and everyday they listened to the word of God.

Nehemiah 8:4-8
4 Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.
6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
7 The Levites - Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah - instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.
8 they read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.


We got to learn from these people. It shouldn't be a burden to come to the church or come to the mid-week meeting or listen to the word of God. The world and our desires will pass but what stands forever is the word of God.

Ezra devoted himself to study, observe and to teach. Let us all decide to do the same. Study, observe and teach.