Reading #1 – Acts 2
Reading #2 – Psalms 115
Reading #3 – Proverbs 18
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 27
Reading #5 – Ezra 5
Ezra 5 – Temple Work Resumed. The tone of the prophetic messages sent by Haggai and Zechariah to the diaspora that were rebuilding the temple was different from the one issued by Jeremiah and other prophets before the exile in 586. The message given did not shrink back from addressing the reason for the temple’s destruction but it did encourage the workers to rebuild according to the decree given by Cyrus or Xerxes King of Babylon. Equally, the prophets work alongside the other workers while simultaneously encouraging them to accomplish the task that is set before them (1-4). The workers responded respectfully to the governor of the province, Tattenai, and his colleague’s question: At that time Tattenai, the governor of the province on the west side of the [Euphrates] River, and Shethar-Bozenai and their colleagues came to them and said, “Who issued you a decree and authorized you to rebuild this temple and to restore this wall (shrine)?” Then, accordingly, we told them the names of the men who were reconstructing this building. But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, so they [Tattenai and the others] did not stop them until a report could come before Darius, and then an answer was returned by letter concerning it (3-5). Once the adversaries heard the message, they did not stop the work but did write a letter to get the word directly from the King (6-16). So now, if it pleases the king, let a search be conducted in the king’s treasure house [in the royal archives] there in Babylon to see if it is true that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem; and let the king send us his decision concerning this matter (17).”
Psalms 115 – Pagan Idols Contrasted with the Lord. I believe this Psalm was written to encourage the people to return to rebuild Jerusalem; the people were driven to poverty during the time of the exile so the question could be asked, “How will we build the Temple” and “How do we know the voice of the Lord has spoken”? Many references in scripture talk about this thing called an “idol”. Idols of the nation have prophets who utter lies to get the populace to believe the lies. The idols rely on the eyes, ears, tongue, feet, and hands of the false prophets to live and have their being (Acts 17:28). The problem comes into place when the promises peter out and the prophets are found to be a hoax. The nation Israel was duped many times over by men with an agenda. Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But Your name gives glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth and faithfulness (1). When we are given a word from the Lord, we should write it down and be faithful to deliver it exactly as it is written. The difference between the false and the true G_d is that His word will always accomplish the mission He set out to do (Isaiah 55:11). But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. The idols [of the nations] are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands (3-4). Unfortunately, what G_d has to say to us does not come according to our timeline and sometimes not according to what we believe it should look like. A message from G_d will never violate His word either in part or in whole (Psalms 89:34). You who [reverently] fear the LORD, trust in LORD; He is their help and their shield. The LORD has been mindful of us; He will bless, He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron (11-12). I believe this Psalm was written to encourage the people to return to rebuild Jerusalem; the people were driven to poverty during the time of the exile so the question could be asked, “How will we build the Temple” and “How do we know the voice of the Lord has spoken”? The answers came from the testimony of Nehemiah and Ezra who testified to the events that unfolded during their encounter with the King (Ezra 8:18, 31).
Proverbs 18 – Contrast the Upright and the Wicked. When you consider the difference between the two entities, it should be easy to discern which one is which, however, the Devil is not foolish enough to make mistakes in judgment and always acts with a purpose; man, on the other hand, will act on a choice morsel and bring condemnation on himself/herself. He who [willfully] separates himself [from God and man] seeks his desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom (1). When we are compelled by self-righteousness, as mankind, we are not quick to back down and it leads to fights. The people that were sent to Jerusalem were under the auspices of the king of Babylon and would not lose sight of that fact even under the possibility of not being able to accomplish the mission. Because the leadership under Zerubbabel, Ezra the priest, and Nehemiah stayed true to the mission and were not dissuaded by the freedom afforded to them, they were able to accomplish the mission and maintained integrity. When the wicked man comes [to the depth of evil], contempt [of all that is pure and good] also comes, And with inner baseness (dishonor) comes outer shame (scorn) (3). Listening to a fool is shameful but so is playing the fool. The church lost ground spiritually over the past few decades and is responsible for the outcome. A fool’s lips bring contention and strife, And his mouth invites a beating (6).
Jeremiah 27 – The Nation to Submit to Nebuchadnezzar. Israel and her sister Judah were being sent into exile beyond Jerusalem. Just as there is a “voice over the waters” (Genesis 1) so there is also a voice under the waters or hidden by confusion to blind the eyes of mankind. The voice under the sea is the false prophets who were speaking by their authority calling for unity when violence would speak louder. This was the “mighty Judah” who wielded the scepter of the Lord (Psalms 60:7). “To David belonged the throne we won’t be taken away from it” or so they thought. “We have the Temple of the Great G_d and it is here that we will stay” again, so they thought. G_d does not give his authority to one person or people, he can and will give to whomever He chooses (5). Once we embark on a journey into sin, everything that G_d has graciously provided, He can and will take it away from us. And as for you, do not listen to your [counterfeit] prophets, your diviners, your dreams and dreamers, your soothsayers or your sorcerers, who say to you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ For they prophesy a lie to you which will cause you to be removed far from your land; I will drive you out and you will perish. But the nation which will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, that nation I will let remain on its land,” says the LORD, “to cultivate it and live in it (9-11).”‘” It appears that those who were sent into exile would be the ones to return and those who stayed in Judah, except for Jeremiah, would not return and they would be destroyed by Egypt. “Yes, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the articles which remain in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem, ‘They will be carried to Babylon and they will be there until the day that I visit them [with My favor],’ says the LORD. ‘Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place (21-22).'”
Acts 2 – The Day of Pentecost. Pentecost day is when the Holy Spirit of G_d indwelled the disciples. Pentecost is also referred to as the “Feast of Weeks” or Shavuot. The feast of weeks celebrates Moses receiving the Torah or the five books of Moses was revealed to the people. Remember, Judah had been occupied since the time of the Greeks and later the Romans, Jesus the prophet of the Lord who expected to stay for all eternity died on the cross of Calvary. The Torah commanded the people to speak and act differently from the nations that surrounded them. The land that the nation occupied was destroyed by the heathen nations and war. Israel was supposed to be the difference instead, they became another “Moab” with a calling card. When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place, and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which was being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit] (1-3). The disciples were an unlikely bunch or, a “motley crew”. Nobody would take them seriously until they spoke in the languages of the people watching the spectacle. Then how is it that each of us hears in our language or native dialect? [Among us there are] Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and people of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia [Minor], Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and the visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes (Gentile converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs—we all hear them speaking in our [native] tongues about the mighty works of God (8-11)!” The Greek word for “last” in this verse is “Echatos” or last in a series of events (far remote). The implication is that a series of events had to occur before this event could take place. The disciples had spent 3.5 years under the tutelage of Jesus called the Messiah, the sins of the disciples had to be paid for by a sacrifice which Jesus accomplished on the cross. For Jesus’ sacrifice to pay for the sin of the disciples and all of mankind, the crucifixion could not be because Jesus had sinned and his death paid the price for those actions (Hebrews 10:14-24). ‘THE SUN SHALL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD, BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD COMES (20). “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man accredited and pointed out and attested to you by God with [the power to perform] miracles and wonders and signs which God worked through Him in your [very] midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man when handed over [to the Roman authorities] according to the predetermined decision and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross and put to death by the hands of lawless and godless men. But God raised Him, releasing Him and bringing an end to the agony of death since He couldn’t be held in death’s power (22-24).