Reading #1 – Acts 7
Reading #2 – Psalms 119:25-48
Reading #3 – Proverbs 23
Reading #4 – Jeremiah 32
Reading #5 – Ezra 10
Ezra 10 – Reconciliation with G_d. Many of the men that returned to Jerusalem at the offering of Cyrus King of Persia, had married foreign-born wives and sired children. The suggestion to send the foreign-born wives and children away to appease G_d was proposed and accepted (3-5). While this is a “cultural thing”, I think it creates more problems than it helps (Genesis 21:9-20 as an example). You will notice that Ezra proclaimed without seeking the counsel of the Lord just like Joshua and the elders did (5-6, Joshua 9:14B). While sending the women and children away was expeditious and certainly solved the short-term problem, putting sin out of our site doesn’t make it go away as to have “never existed”. I don’t believe G_d sanctioned this move but because the action had already been implemented, there was no undoing it. Only two men refused to send away their wives and children which, I believe was prudent.
Psalms 119:25-48 – When we come to the Lord G_d with a sincere heart, he revives us as to lift us out of the pit that holds us bound. When we hurt people through sin, the wounds of those we hurt will remain. The only way to deal with those “wounds” is to heal them through proactive practices (Ephesians 4:28). Make me understand the way of Your precepts So that I will meditate (focus my thoughts) on Your wonderful works (27). Healing, to me anyway, is a three-way healing process. The first way is our eyes turned to G_d (28). The Second is the offender reaching out to the offended or their family (30). The third is G_d sending his word into our heart to heal the broken relationship. I will run the way of Your commandments [with purpose], For You will give me a heart that is willing (32). “Keeping the Law of the Lord” alive in our hearts cannot be done by human strength or diligence, we must always walk in agreement with the Lord G_d and allow the Holy Spirit to fill our lives. And I shall lift my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes (48).
Proverbs 23 – On Life and Conduct. When it comes to living a G_dly life, there are choices and decisions we must make that are not always “crystal clear”. Being invited to dine with a ruler is a privilege very few are offered. Some offers come with strings attached that we are not always aware of. Deceptive food (3) appears to be sumptuous but, after the food is consumed the person eating is trapped. King Hezekiah caused Judah problems because he selected the daughter of Ahab for his son (2 Kings 11:1-3). Athaliah was beautiful on the outside but evil on the inside; the outside attracted the Prince the evil, however, ruined the prince and his son. Setting boundaries in our life is not pleasant because the world says “don’t limit yourself” and G_d’s word says “I can do all things through Christ which gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) so which way do you go? The answer is found in the law of the Lord that perfects the heart (Psalms 19:7). o not weary yourself [with the overwhelming desire] to gain wealth; Cease from your understanding of it. When you set your eyes on wealth, it is [suddenly] gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings Like an eagle that flies to the heavens (4-5). No one enjoys discipline because the person being disciplined may think “____ doesn’t want me to have fun”. For us to say “I identify as a Christian” yet refuse the Lord’s discipline, we are telling G_d “You are not my father” and then become a guest in His home and are duty-bound to obey the laws of His house. As children of the Living G_d, we accept His discipline and obey his laws by choice. Do not let your heart envy sinners [who live G_Dless lives and have no hope of salvation], But [continue to] live in the [reverent, worshipful] fear of the LORD day by day (17).
Jeremiah 32 – Jeremiah Prisoned. Jeremiah had been warning Judah about the pending invasion of the Chaldeans but the people refused to listen so, he was charged with “discouraging the people” (3). Telling the truth of the Lord, however difficult it is to swallow, must be done. By putting the people of Judah out of His site, G_d turned His back to them and called the heathen nation. With every destruction, there is also redemption and healing by the hand of G_d; the physical stuff like homes and the temple could be rebuilt albeit much smaller. The message about Jeremiah’s cousin bringing a deed to land owned by the family was G_d’s deposit (7-8). After signing the paperwork and placing the document in an earthen jar, Jeremiah gave the jar to Baruch to bury. Jeremiah then turned his eyes to the Father and sought his counsel. Knowing that G_d would restore the land in time and having a deposit to prove it, would help the prophet endure the days ahead just like it for the disciples (John 14).
Acts 7 – Stephen’s Defense. Stephen had been arrested by the Sanhedrin on false charges of “speaking against the law of Moses (Acts 6:13). In his defense, Stephen addressed the actions of the nation in the past as they related to the present. Abraham was called to leave his family’s land to go to a new land (3). Because of his faithfulness to the Lord, he was promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance but did not receive the land yet. Abram’s lineage would go to the new land but not before being in slavery for 400 years. The Devil knew about these plans set out to stop them but to do it, he manipulated mankind into doing the unG_Dly. What G_d promises, He always comes through on but the Devil will talk the foolish man into counteracting the promise. It seemed that not too much changed from the time of Abraham to the time Stephen was about to be stoned because the people refused to listen to G_d’s best for their lives and their religion was the wall. No one likes to hear that they are stubborn and unmoveable as a wall but sometimes it is true and we need to do something about it. Of course, being confronted with sin means we either confess it or try to remove the pinprick that reminds us where the sore is. For this reason, Stephen was stoned to death. Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of G_D and Jesus standing at the right hand of G_D; and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of G_D (54-56)!”