Reading #1 – Acts 4
Reading #2 – Psalms 117
Reading #3 – Proverbs 20
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 29
Reading #5 – Ezra 7
Ezra 7 – Ezra Journeys from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra is sent to Jerusalem with strict instructions and limitations on his authority. Ezra is skilled in the law of the Lord because he had studied it so that he would be prepared for the mission that lay ahead of him. or Ezra had set his heart (resolved) to study and interpret the Law of the LORD, and to practice it and teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel (10). To teach anything to anyone, the person must know what they are talking about. When it comes to the law of the Lord and the Word of G_d, it is more than book learning that is needed to be successful. When our hearts are not loyal to the Lord or approach our mission with one foot in sin and the other in the Kingdom of G_d, the Devil will be able to dispatch us with no problems (James 1:8). Ezra managed the resources honorably and gave the king proof of what the Lord requires of his children and his commitment to honor his headship – the King of Babylon (Micah 6:6-8). Whatever is commanded by the G_D of heaven, let it be done diligently and with enthusiasm for the house of the G_D of heaven, so that there will not be wrath against the kingdom of the king and his sons (23). Taxes needed to be received from the people other than the servants of the House of the Lord. It was not Ezra’s prowess for debate that won the day, it was the kindness of the King that the House of the Lord could be built and the cast of many that would help Ezra be successful (27-28).
Psalms 117 – A Psalm of Praise. O praise the LORD, all you nations! Praise Him, all you people! For His lovingkindness prevails over us [and we triumph and overcome through Him], And the truth of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! (Hallelujah) (1-2)! When I consider this Psalm, I have a couple of questions. First, why would the people have just cause to praise the Lord? The second, How would the people know that the truth of the Lord endures forever? The people will praise the Lord when they see the difference in our lives that transcends the words that we speak. When the fruit that G_d promises comes to fruition, you will know the quality of the seed (Matthew 7:15-20, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15). When we obey G_d as an act of worship, the Spirit of the Lord will fill our lives and our words of praise to G_d will edify others and compel them to follow our example.
Proverbs 20 – On Life and Conduct. Who we “say we serve” must align with “how we serve”. The Devil knows scripture and can quote it like a Bible Scholar but, the way he rules his kingdom will tell the truth (John 8:44). In the same way, all of our actions tell the world who we serve and what we truly think of that G_D. Honoring G_d goes beyond church attendance, financial prowess, and/or how big our Bible is. The book of Proverbs or “Wisdom” was written to the nation Israel and that included those who attended Temple and those who did not. Many a man proclaims his loyalty and goodness, But who can find a faithful and trustworthy man (6)? When we violate G_d’s laws, we are not the only ones that get a black eye, “we serve the Living G_d”, so we say but those in our family and our Lord Jesus are frowned on when we disobey Him (Hebrews 6:4-6). The righteous man who walks in integrity and lives life in accord with his [G_Dly] beliefs— How blessed [happy and spiritually secure] are his children after him [who have his example to follow] (7). The 10 commandments or the 101 commandments are not prerogatives nor, “suggestions”, they are the foundation on which our life must be built. G_d cares that we follow His laws and commandments not just so that we will become “Poster kids for the Kingdom” but that would live productive, happy, and content lives. Loyalty and mercy, truth and faithfulness, protect the king, And he upholds his throne by lovingkindness (28).
Jeremiah 29 – Message to the Exiles. The bulk of the southern kingdom and the entire northern kingdom were sent into exile. The exiles were being fed lies by the hands of the false prophets which causes false hopes. The letter written by Jeremiah and delivered to the elders at Babylon addressed some key points. First, “build houses and live in them, build and develop gardens so that you can eat” (5). Second, “get wives for your sons and husbands for your daughters and procreate (6) according to the word given to Noah” (Genesis 8:17B). Third, “Seek peace and wellbeing for the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray the Lord on their behalf so that you will have peace (7). For thus says the LORD of hosts, the G_D of Israel, ‘Do not let your [false] prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you; pay no attention and attach no significance to the dreams which they dream or to yours, for they prophesy falsely to you in My Name. I have not sent them,’ says the LORD (8-9). The exile would last for 70 years (10) so it was incumbent for the people to act wisely about that which was good and be innocent of evil (Romans 16:19). If the people were not faithful, the promise in verses 13-14 would become null and void so the people would stay right where they were. The commands given did not say, “wait until year 69 in exile before turning to the Lord and honoring him” because Jeremiah was writing to the current citizens those who came out of Judah, not to the upcoming elders or the future generation. G_d has and always had designs for his people the problem is, what “what plan do you want for your life” and “are you going to be obedient or disobedient (29). Anytime a prophet arises to minister to G_d’s people, false prophets will also appear with great promises that the originator has no intentions of fulfilling.
Acts 4 – Peter and John Arrested. Peter and John were preaching the Good News of Jesus the Risen Christ and Lord; while this is phenomenal and the healing of the man over 40 years of age certainly caught the attention of the people, by being obedient to what they were told by Jesus at the ascension and all the lessons learned in 3.5 years caught the ire of the Sanhedrin. The two men were put in jail to teach them a lesson under the guise of “until we can find out what do with them” (2-3). There were two outcomes of being placed in prison, the men could have denied the Lord and faced judgment or refuse to back down and let the Spirit of G_d do His work (Jeremiah 29:11). What the Apostles and elders had done in the few years since the ascension was more than the Sanhedrin had been able to accomplish in the many years of their ministry. And now, Lord, observe their threats [take them into account] and grant that Your bond-servants may declare Your message [of salvation] with great confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders (attesting miracles) take place through the name [and the authority and power] of Your holy Servant and Son Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of G_D’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of G_D with boldness and courage (29-31). G_d will never bless disobedience even if our lives are being threatened.