Reading #1 – Acts 5
Reading #2 – Psalms 118
Reading #3 – Proverbs 21
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 30
Reading #5 – Ezra 8
Ezra 8 – The People Who Went with Ezra. So, 1197 men started from Babylon to Jerusalem. At the Ahava river, a fast was proclaimed to seek the Face of G_d and safety through the journey (1-15). There were no Levites with them when they started the journey so Ezra called for the Levites from the house of Casiphia which was located in northern Babylonia near the Ahava river current day Jordan. The king offered to send a contingent of soldiers to protect the travelers but Ezra refused because of the implication “where is my trust”? By choosing to refuse protection, the “Protection of G_d was Invoked” and this helped Ezra to accomplish the mission. We set out from the river Ahava on the twelfth [day] of the first month to go to Jerusalem; the hand of our G_D was upon us, and He rescued us from the hand of the enemy and those who lay in ambushes along the way. So we came to Jerusalem and remained there for three days (31-32). When they got to Jerusalem, the items that Nebuchadnezzar took were put into the house of G_d. Because the satraps and governors would not believe the word of an exiled Jew, the edict was given to them and then people supported the rebuilding of the Temple.
Psalms 118 – Thanksgiving for the Lord’s Saving Goodness. G_d’s loving kindness is extended to “whosoever”. Saying “I trust the Lord” is not the same as “trusting the Lord”. When a building is being constructed, the first stone laid is called the “cornerstone” and it marks the geographical location. When we build our Temple (the heart), the cornerstone is faith in Jesus as our Savior. When a building is constructed without a cornerstone or the wrong cornerstone, its location can be incorrect. The nation Israel for several hundred years were called “G_d’s chosen people” and while this is great, if the cornerstone of their belief is not predicated on the Lord, that name means nothing to the nations around them. The Psalmist is praising the Lord for all that he has done in and through his life. The writer is compelling the people of Israel to recognize what the Lord has done. Oh Let those who reverently fear the Lord, say, “His lovingkindness endures forever (3).” When we fall to the lowest level or go to the highest peak, there the Lord will be also and His hand is open to receive you if you will only let him (Isaiah 5:25).
Proverbs 21 – On Life and Conduct. What we offer the Lord is as important as the motive behind it. The NT priests conducted the sacrifices, prayed lengthy prayers, and adorned themselves with phylacteries. To the naïve, it looked like they were truly “Holy men”. To the Lord, they were fools in Halloween costumes. Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs and examines the hearts [of people and their motives] (2). When we come to the Lord and ask for forgiveness for our sins, that is just the first step to rebuilding and it must be followed by turning 180 degrees away from the things that offend G_d. When we turn away from the world’s logic, we expect problems just like Ezra and Nehemiah did when they rebuilt the Temple. When the Lord begins to work in our lives and people see a change in us, they will ask “What happened to you.” We then have the opportunity to share the Good News; when no change happens in our lives and we stay in sin the Good News we share might just be the cry of the drunkard (Isaiah 28:3). The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance and advantage, But everyone who acts in haste comes surely to poverty (5).
Jeremiah 30 – Freedom from Captivity Promised. After 70 years, the Lord would come to the rescue of the nation. Unlike the Egyptian captivity, the person sending them out was a heathen king. This promise is a treasure to remember but not everybody in the nation would accept the message. The restoration would not be easy nor is it a “pie in the sky” theology it is a promise that would be fulfilled for some of the people. The promise is uttered at a time when the nation was destitute so would seem to be inconceivable yet, G_d changes the seasons if we are faithful and wait. ‘Ask now, and see Whether a man can give birth [to a child]. Why then do I see every man With his hands on his loins, as a woman in labor? Why have all faces turned pale? ‘Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; It is the time of Jacob’s [unequaled] trouble, But he will be saved from it (6-7). Trusting through situational difficulties is not for the faint of heart. Similarly, holding onto a hand you cannot see, touch, and feel would seem to be “foolishness” in the eyes of the naïve and unrighteous. Yet, when we refuse to let go of the hand of G_d and we get through the difficulty, the world will see fruit and want to know where it came from. Putting our trust in the Lord is not a “get out of Jail Free” card because, if it was, it would be a miscarriage of justice. ‘For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to save you; For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you, But I will not destroy you completely. But I will judge and discipline you fairly And will by no means regard you as guiltless and leave you unpunished (11).
Acts 5 – Fate of Ananias and Saphira. When Barnabus “Son of Encouragement” sold a field and gave the proceeds for the ministry, it spurned Ananias and Saphira to do the same thing. The field was sold and they back a part of the proceeds which, is not wrong, but they omitted that information so it was a lie. These two knew G_d’s command about lying and they died because of it. As long as it remained [unsold], did it not remain your own [to do with as you pleased]? And after it was sold, was the money not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this act [of hypocrisy and deceit] in your heart? You have not [simply] lied to people, but G_D (4).” This little “white lie” could have been the church’s undoing just like it was when the nation was defeated at AI because one man glommed onto the spoils of the previous battle (Joshua 7). When we do what is right and just in the eyes of G_d, we will do greater things than Jesus (John 14:12) if we will just believe and not let the current struggles drag us down.