Reading #1 – John 20
Reading #2 – Psalms 112
Reading #3 – Proverbs 15
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 24
Reading #5 – Ezra 2
Ezra 2 – The Returnees to Jerusalem. The people who returned had to prove through the genealogy that they were from Israel. The total number returning was 3630 who were not priests. The number of returning priests, singers, and temple servants were 4948. The people that could not prove they were priests, singers, or temple servants by showing their lineage were excluded (59-62). The Priests that could not prove their lineage would not be able to heat the holy things or the “priests food” until a Priest with the Urim and Thummim could in his breastplate determine G_d’s will in the matter (63). Remember the Urim and Thummim were like dice that were cast for difficult decisions. The easiest thing to do is make a snap decision but there was more at stake than a simple matter of being unable to prove you were the child of ____ so by using the dice, the priest considers everything involved to make a wise decision. Those that returned also provided money to help with the building project which brings out the notion that serving G_d is more than just being present, it means putting your shoulder to the plow. So the priests, the Levites, some of the people, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the temple servants settled in their [own] cities, and all Israel [gradually settled] into their cities (70).
Psalms 112 – Prosperity of the One Who Fears the Lord. There is a problem with scripture that is hard to reconcile with and that is, our view of “prosperity” and G_d’s are two different things. Praise the LORD! (Hallelujah!) Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who fears the LORD [with awe-inspired reverence and worships Him with obedience], Who delights greatly in His commandments (1). Elsewhere in scripture, Solomon laments how the wicked get what the righteous deserve and vice versa (Ecclesiastes 8:14). When we place the prosperity of the unrighteous against what we are getting, the scales do not balance. This inequality is a cause for us to have a crisis of faith and we complain to G_d in prayer about the matter and still not be able to reconcile the matter to our satisfaction. A book that I am reading is a memoir from a survivor of Bergen Belson a German concentration camp or “death camp”. One of the characters was a Yeshiva student a righteous young man after surviving the holocaust, he said to G_d, “If you are our Father, then I would rather be an orphan. I will never step foot back in your temple again.” This young man had an intimate knowledge of Torah because of his education yet, he looked back on the mess that he had endured and could not reconcile how a G_d as loving as scripture portrays him to be would allow the Germans to do the awful things they did. Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous (upright—in right standing with God) (4). Prosperity in the eyes of the Lord G_d is not necessarily “money” instead, it is about the type of peace that rules our home and our lives. The young man referenced above survived the horrible conditions that claimed so many lives. He has given freely to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted in honor. The wicked will see it and be angered, He will gnash his teeth and melt away [in despair and death]; The desire of the wicked will perish and come to nothing (9-10).
Proverbs 15 – Contrast the Upright and the Wicked. Scales are used to balance items to come up with the cost for the produce. In legal terms, scales of Justice weighs the crime against the cost of that person’s actions so that the judgment fits the crime (which in this world does not always happen). When it comes to the word of the Lord, scales also have a purpose and that is, “weighing the person’s heart against the truth. Of course, scales can be skewed by putting more weight on one side or the other; so, if a person claims to be a Christian but his/her actions are inconsistent with the G_d’s laws but is given a pass but, that person derides the world of wickedness something is out of balance. The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good [in all their endeavors] (3). There are times when we need to listen to the wisdom of the world by looking at the outcome of their actions to find the right path to take (8). Consider how when a person accepts a bribe however innocuous it may be, that person becomes snared by the person who receives or pays the bribe (27). The heart of the righteous thinks carefully about how to answer [in a wise and appropriate and timely way], But the [babbling] mouth of the wicked pours out malevolent things. The [reverent] fear of the LORD [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the instruction for wisdom [its starting point and its essence]; And before honor comes humility (28,33).
Jeremiah 24 – The Basket of Figs and the Returnees. The exile had begun with the removal of Jehoiachin, the craftsmen, and smiths or the artisans (1). Jeremiah received a vision of two different baskets of figs one had excellent figs and the other basket had rotten figs. The people who went to Babylon (the good figs) would return whereas the ones who remained in the land (rotten ones) would escape into Egypt never to be heard from again (8). I will make them a focus of ridicule and disappointment [tossed back and forth] among all the kingdoms of the earth, a [notorious] disgrace, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all places where I will scatter them. I will send the sword, famine and virulent disease among them until they are consumed from the land which I gave to them and their fathers (9-10).'”
John 20 – The Empty Tomb. Three days had passed since that horrible day on Golgotha where the righteous prophet and teacher was crucified because of jealousy, envy, and anger. While Jesus died physically, he arose on the third day something the disciples could not understand although Jesus had told them days earlier what would happen. Jesus is referred to in the old testament prophets as the “King of Kings and Lord of lords” although he was inaugurated on an earthly throne yet people flocked to him and his disciples for countless centuries. The disciples ran to the tomb after hearing the testimony of the female servants. Peter saw the face napkin and believed that Jesus had indeed risen from the grave. Thomas or Didymus was not with the group when Jesus appeared in their midst so he said, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe (25 B) so, Jesus appeared to him and held out his hands and invited Thomas to put his hand in the side where the Roman pierced him.” This book was written for the express purpose of ministering to the diaspora and to convince them that Jesus is Lord of lords and king of kings. There are also many other signs (attesting miracles) that Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe [with a deep, abiding trust] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God; and that by believing [and trusting in and relying on Him] you may have life in His name (30-31).