2490.) Psalm 48

November 16, 2018

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The blue building with the gold dome is the Dome of the Rock, the third most sacred mosque in Islam. The pointed tower at the far left is the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City. The gray dome about in the middle is Holy Sepulchre, or as the eastern Christians call it, the Church of the Resurrection. Tall buildings in the background are in the new city of Jerusalem.

Psalm 48 (NIV)

The City of the Great King

1 Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain.

Great is the LORD: He is great indeed.

· He is greater: For God is greater than man (Job 33:12). 

· He is greatest of all: For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods (Psalm 95:3). 

· He is greatness itself: His greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:3). 

–David Guzik

2 It is beautiful in its loftiness,
the joy of the whole earth.
Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,
the city of the Great King.

Ultimately, this is what makes Jerusalem wonderful. There are cities with better natural resources and more natural beauty. Yet there is only one city of the great King, the King of kings. 

3 God is in her citadels;
he has shown himself to be her fortress.

The Jerusalem Citadel, also known as the Tower of David, is located just south of Jaffa Gate on the western side of the Old City. Its location is  the highest point of the city, higher even than the Temple Mount. There have been fortifications here for over twenty centuries, protecting and defending the city.

4 When the kings joined forces,
when they advanced together,

5 they saw her and were astounded;
they fled in terror.

“In Hebrew the words are similar to the well-known report of Julius Caesar about his victories in Gaul: Veni, vidi, vici (‘I came, I saw, I conquered’). Only here the kings did not conquer; the fled from the city in terror. The verbs literally say: ‘They saw [Jerusalem is implied]; they were dumbfounded; they were overwhelmed; they fled in panic.’ The fast pace of the language captures the confusion and fearful flight.”

–James Montgomery Boice

6 Trembling seized them there,
pain like that of a woman in labor.

7 You destroyed them like ships of Tarshish
shattered by an east wind.

8 As we have heard,
so have we seen
in the city of the LORD Almighty,
in the city of our God:
God makes her secure forever.
Selah

Do we speak enough of the faithfulness of our Lord? Do we share with our friends and family what God has done for us today? We are always ready to discuss the problems and problem people around us — do we eagerly also share the joy, the kindness, the grace of the Lord in our lives? 

9 Within your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.

10 Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.

11 Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments.

the walls of Jerusalem

12 Walk about Zion, go around her,
count her towers,

13 consider well her ramparts,
view her citadels,
that you may tell of them to the next generation.

14 For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end.

And so the city fades from view, and we see God alone. God! — the one who is enough.

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

“For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end.”
–Psalm 48:14

In the Hebrew language, the future is behind a person and not out in front. Instead of striding confidently into the future, the Hebrews talked about stumbling backward into it. We can see the past, but we cannot see the future, and we can never tell exactly where our foot will land. Isn’t this an accurate description of life’s uncertainties? Christ asks us to put our hand in his because he can see the future as well as the past. He is the one who transcends time’s boundaries. He is the Lord of tomorrow as much as he is the Lord of today and yesterday. He can see exactly where each footstep will go. It is never irrational for us to put our hand in the hand of God. In fact, it is the only rational choice for us, considering our vantage point in life. If we choose to go alone, we will most certainly back into something destructive.

As a Christian you do not know what the future hold, but you do know who holds your hand. If you get ready to put your foot down in the wrong place, he will stop you and nudge you in another direction. He will shift your direction often, and as you look back on the way he has led, you will find that he has never guided you into a dead-end street or into a destructive situation. When your hand is in his and you come to the end of the way, you will be able to say, “I never lost a day.”

The essence of being a Christian is putting your hand in the hand of Christ and turning your back on any rights to the direction of your life. Your future becomes his, and he leads you.

_________________________

Music:

Using the opening phrases from verses 1 and 2, HERE is “Great is our Lord.” The song continues with praise and thanks to God!

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica
Images courtesy of:
Jerusalem overview.    http://www.synergise.com/travel/Homepage/ecards/israel_jerusalem_dome.jpg
Jerusalem Citadel.     http://www.katapi.org.uk/images/Archaeology/JerusalemCitadel.jpg
God is faithful.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/48-god-is-faithful.jpg
walls of Jerusalem.     http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_RRV7ci01pYA/TCyn2f4uUkI/AAAAAAAACMo/dlpZdFxW-M0/s1600/jerusalem+walls.JPG
past-present-future signs.   http://donnalenz.blogspot.com/2014/06/change.html
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2489.) Haggai 2

November 15, 2018

Haggai 2 (ESV)

The Coming Glory of the Temple

1 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month (October 17, 520 B.C.), the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 2“Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?

Some of the returnees were old enough to have seen and remembered the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple before its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. They could recall the “former glory” of “this house,” since the second temple was considered a continuation of Solomon’s.

Ezra 3:12-13 (NIV)

But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.  No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

4Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.

How often we are tempted to think that it is too hard, that our gifts are so small, that our work does not really matter all that much. This passage tells us otherwise:  God has work for us to do that He values. Let us be about our Father’s business — cheerfully, diligently!

6For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.

In the “Every Promise in the Book Is Mine” folder:

Are you concerned about your finances, present or future? This verse is for you! We can boldly trust God, who owns every resource, and give ourselves generously to the work he has called us to.

9The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.'”

Blessings for a Defiled People

10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius (December 18, 520 B.C.), the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, 11“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?'”

The priests answered and said, “No.”

13Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?”

The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.”

14Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.

Living in the Holy Land and offering sacrifices will not make the people acceptable, as long as they themselves are unclean through neglect of the house of the Lord.Since the exile to Babylon, the people of Israel focused on getting back to the Promised Land. In and of itself this was not a bad focus; yet it led to the thinking that once they made it back to the Promised Land everything else would just fall into place. Haggai reminds them that their presence in the Promised Land doesn’t make everything they do holy. If the priorities of our heart are wrong, nothing we do is really holy to God.

“The ruined skeleton of the Temple was like a dead body decaying in Jerusalem and making everything contaminated.”

–David Guzik

15Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the LORD, 16how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider: 19Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

Zerubbabel Chosen as a Signet

 20The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21“Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.
23On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”

What was so special about Zerubbabel? He truly was chosen of God – in the ancestry of Jesus, Zerubbabel was the last person to stand to be in both the line of Mary (the blood lineage of Jesus – Luke 3:27) and Joseph (the legal lineage of Jesus through Joseph – Matthew 1:12).

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

HERE  Don Francisco sings “I Have Chosen You.”  May this song encourage you to do great things for the Lord today!

Like a king who hides in shadows while a thief usurps his throne
You stumbled down through all your days without direction.
While the soldiers and the servants who should be at your command
Are all abandoned to surrender and defection.

As the kingdom groans beneath the load,
Your feet go running down the road
In panic you’ve forgotten all I’ve told you.
If you’ll just call you’d see Me there
At the very instant of your prayer
But you’ve bought a bill of goods the liar’s sold you.

I have chosen you
There’s no need to run away.
I have chosen you
Why do you doubt the words I say.
Through it all I’ve been right by your side.
Ask me and you will not be denied.

Like a slave who wears the collar of a hard and cruel man
And is convinced that he deserves the treatment given.
Tortured to believing nothing’s ever going to change
Till you’ve forgotten there was ever more to living.

But as you struggle with your load
The messengers come down the road
And the slaver flees in fear as he beholds them.
They break your chains and set you free
To stand amazed in liberty
And at last they give the word that God has told them.

I have chosen you
And I will not turn you down,
I have chosen you
You were born to wear a crown.
I’ll give you what you need to carry on
Till all that stands opposed to you is gone.

And though the devil’s cut you down
And made you feel so small
I’ve seen your desperation
With your back against the wall
But I’ll still be here beside you
Even if you’ve given in
Until you see My love for you
Is all you need to win.

I have chosen you
And I will not turn you down,
I have chosen you
You were born to wear a crown.
I’ll give you what you need to carry on
Till all that stands opposed to you is gone.

I have chosen you
There’s no need to run away
I have chosen you
Why do you doubt the words I say
Through it all I’ve been right by your side
Ask Me now, you will not be denied.

Ask me now, you will not be denied
Ask me now, you will not be denied.

_________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Haggai signet.    http://blessendaniel.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/haggai_istock.jpg
stop whining sign.    http://edbatista.typepad.com/edbatista/images/2005/02/Stop%20Whining.jpg
silver and gold.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/silver-and-gold.jpg
shalom.   http://diarios.izcallibur.com/siguelboim/archives/paloma%20shalom.jpg
decayed body.    https://www.documentingreality.com/forum/attachments/f10/374984d1341321478-police-believe-decayed-body.jpg

2488.) Haggai 1

November 14, 2018

Of the 12 Minor Prophets, the first 9 spoke before Judah was carried away captive, exiled to Babylon. The last 3 Minor Prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) each spoke to those who returned from the 70-year exile.

Haggai 1 (ESV)

The Command to Rebuild the Temple

Zerubbabel had returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., along with about 50,000 Jews to rebuild the temple. Over the years the returnees had become discouraged by opposition and had abandoned the project. Haggai’s messages were delivered to encourage the Jews to complete the temple rebuilding project. Haggai’s words were directed to the postexilic community 18 years after the initial return from exile.

–The Archaeological Study Bible, “An Introduction to Haggai”

1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month (August 29, 520 B.C.), the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”

The citizens of Jerusalem  told themselves that it wasn’t time to resume work on the temple. There were some good reasons why they might say this, and why the work of rebuilding the temple was hard:

  • The land was still desolate after 70 years of neglect
  • The work was hard
  • They didn’t have a lot of money (Haggai 1:6) or manpower
  • They suffered crop failures and drought (Haggai 1:10-11)
  • Hostile enemies resisted the work (Ezra 4:1-5)
  • They remembered easier times in Babylon

3Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?

Psalm 132:3-5 (NIV)

“I will not enter my house
   or go to my bed,
I will allow no sleep to my eyes
   or slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the LORD,
   a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

5Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.

The Hebrew figure of speech for this phrase is literally “put your heart on your roads.” Haggai asks God’s people to consider what direction their life is headed, and if they really want it to continue that way.

–David Guzik

6You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

7“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 8Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.

Psalm 132:13-14 (NLT)

  For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem;
      he has desired it for his home.
  “This is my resting place forever,” he said.
      “I will live here, for this is the home I desired.

9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

Grain, wine, and olive oil were the three basic crops of the land.

The opening statement of the sermon quotes the people concerning the task of building the temple. After the first return in 538 B.C., an abortive attempt had been made to rebuild. Due to the lack of economic resources, it was left unfinished. The people saw the continued economic plight as reason enough for the continued delay. Haggai had a contrasting point of view. The people thought that economics prohibited religious activity, whereas Haggai proclaimed that their economic plight was caused by their lack of religious commitment.

The theological basis of Haggai’s message lies in the Deuteronomic expression of the Mosaic covenant. How the nation responded to the demands of God as expressed in the covenant determined God’s response to them; obedience brought national peace and prosperity, but disobedience meant economic and political disaster along with disease and pestilence (Deut. 28).  Haggai applies this theology in his sermon.  The people survived, but they never had enough to satisfy their desires. Harvests were inadequate, and their money’s value eroded through inflation (v. 6). This was not due to the normal course of affairs, but because of God’s direct intervention. He was responsible for the droughts and poor harvests (vv. 9-11). 

–Asbury Bible Commentary

Psalm 128:1-2 (CEV)

  The LORD will bless you

   if you respect him

   and obey his laws.

   Your fields will produce,

   and you will be happy

   and all will go well.

The People Obey the LORD

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. 13Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.”

14And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king (September 21, 520 B.C.).

The task of completing the temple became a joint venture as God himself encouraged (stirred up the spirit) the leaders and the people.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Consuming Fire”  by Hillsong. Will we allow the Lord to stir US up?

_________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
establishing priorities.    http://closerdaybyday.org/haggai-1/
stop making excuses.   https://billmuehlenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/excuse-3.png
living in a nice house.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/haggai-1-4.jpg
Enough is enough.    http://covers.openlibrary.org/w/id/729766-L.jpg

2487.) Psalm 84

November 13, 2018

Psalm 84 (New International Version)

For the director of music. According to gittith. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

Spurgeon called Psalm 84 “The Pearl of the Psalms.”

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
   LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
   for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God.

“Crieth aloud, as a child when hungry crieth every whit of him, hands feet, face, all cry; and then the mother flings by all, then she flies and outruns herself; so here.”

–John Trapp

3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
   and the swallow a nest for herself,
   where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
   LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

Think of the sparrow as a picture of small significance and the swallow a picture of restlessness. The insignificant can find their place in the House of God, and the restless can find their rest (nest) there – near God’s altar.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
   they are ever praising you.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Brahms’ “How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place” (Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen) from Ein deutsches Requiem, op. 45, performed by the Holden Consort Orchestra and Choir.  Take your time to listen and watch — breathe deeply.

_________________________

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

From all the corners of the earth, from all the nations of the world, we come as pilgrims to Jerusalem.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

Usually when travelling we go from strength to weakness. But not so for those whose strength comes from God! Their strength grows greater!

8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

“To bear burdens and open doors for the Lord is more honour than to reign among the wicked. Every man has his choice, and this is ours. God’s worst is better than the devil’s best.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

TO BE IN HIS PRESENCE

Meeting God profoundly affects our confidence and our expectations. When we find him, it is always a shock to realize how much he cares about us. Instead of confronting a vindictive judge who waits for a chance to deal with us about our shortcomings, we find a God of grace who looks for the chance to forgive our sins, establish us in his favor, and pour on us his blessings. To our surprise, we learn that he will withhold nothing good from those who walk in sincerity and uprightness before him. He is the source of all good, and his will toward us is loving concern. He is our sun who gives us light and our shield who surrounds us with protection.

The most important consequence of meeting God is what it does to our sense of priorities. We come to realize that we need him more than anything else. In fact, we need him even more than we need his gifts. It is for God himself that our soul cries out. The association with God will leave in us the hallowing impact of place and people and seasons, but our hearts will hunger for his presence. He is the source of all good, but he is better than all good. There is no justification needed for our searching for him. Although some do not know it, to be near God is the deepest desire of every human heart.

12 LORD Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Better is one day in your courts,” by Matt Redman. Hard not to sing along!

_________________________

New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Images courtesy of:
Psalm 84:10.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/psalm8410.jpg
Welcome to Jerusalem, photograph by Marcel Hubers.   https://www.flickr.com/photos/beyondthegrave/41171829824
Golden Gate, Temple Mount, Jerusalem.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/hananisacharcorbis_goldengatetemplemount.jpg
God bless you.  http://ilovemydarling.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/may-god-bless-you-my-darling.jpg

2486.) Ezra 6

November 12, 2018

“For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling.” –Psalm 132:13

Ezra 6 (New Century Version)

The Order of Darius

1 So King Darius gave an order to search the records kept in the treasury in Babylon.

This was the response to the respectful request made by Tattenai described in the last part of Ezra 5.

2 A scroll was found in Ecbatana, the capital city of Media.

This is what was written on it:

Note:

 3 King Cyrus gave an order about the Temple of God in Jerusalem in the first year he was king. This was the order:

This is the decree originally recorded in Ezra 1, giving the Jewish people who wanted to return to Jerusalem and Judea the right to return and to repopulate Judea and to rebuild Jerusalem. Not only did Cyrus give permission for the temple to be rebuilt, he commanded the funding of the work from the royal treasury. Furthermore, Cyrus ordered that the spoils taken from the temple some two generations before be returned to the Jerusalem temple.

    “Let the Temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices. Let its foundations be laid; it should be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide. 4 It must have three layers of large stones and then one layer of timbers. The costs should be paid from the king’s treasury.5 The gold and silver utensils from the Temple of God should be put back in their places. Nebuchadnezzar took them from the Temple in Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon, but they are to be put back in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

Other similar letters dealing with permission to rebuild subject peoples’ temples have been found among ancient Aramaic papyri.

 6 Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and all the officers of that area, stay away from there. 7 Do not bother the work on that Temple of God. Let the governor of the Jewish people and the Jewish elders rebuild this Temple where it was before.

 8 Also, I order you to do this for those elders of the Jewish people who are building this Temple: The cost of the building is to be fully paid from the royal treasury, from taxes collected from Trans-Euphrates. Do this so the work will not stop. 9 Give those people anything they need—young bulls, male sheep, or lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, or wheat, salt, wine, or olive oil. Give the priests in Jerusalem anything they ask for every day without fail.10 Then they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven, and they may pray for the life of the king and his sons.

Such generosity from the king! And so the work of God is not hindered, but furthered.

 11 Also, I give this order: If anyone changes this order, a wood beam is to be pulled from his house and driven through his body.

Impalement was a common form of execution in ancient Persia; I will spare you the pictures and statues!

Because of his crime, make his house a pile of ruins.12 God has chosen Jerusalem as the place he is to be worshiped. May he punish any king or person who tries to change this order and destroy this Temple.

    I, Darius, have given this order. Let it be obeyed quickly and carefully.

Completion of the Temple

13 So, Tattenai, the governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai, and their fellow workers carried out King Darius’ order quickly and carefully. 14 The Jewish elders continued to build and were successful because of the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo.

“Work on the temple made little progress because of opposition and the preoccupation of returnees with their own homes (Haggai 1:2-3). Because they had placed their own interests first, God sent them famine as a judgment (Haggai 1:5-6, 10-11). Spurred by the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, a new effort was begun (Haggai 1:12-15).”

–Edwin Yamauchi

They finished building the Temple as the God of Israel had commanded and as kings Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes of Persia had ordered. 15The Temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar in the sixth year Darius was king.

16 Then the people of Israel celebrated and gave the Temple to God to honor him. Everybody was happy: the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the Jewish people who had returned from captivity.17 They gave the Temple to God by offering a hundred bulls, two hundred male sheep, and four hundred lambs as sacrifices.

Compared to the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:62-66), this was a meager dedication celebration. Solomon sacrificed some 142,000 animals at his dedication of the temple; here at the dedication of the second temple they only sacrificed a total of 712 animals. However, given the relative wealth of Israel in the days of the first temple as compared to the second temple, the smaller gift recorded in Ezra may have been more beautiful to God.

–David Guzik

And as an offering to forgive the sins of all Israel, they offered twelve male goats, one goat for each tribe in Israel.

“It was a confession of failure but also faith. There was still atonement and still the covenant with the whole people – for this was the implication of the twelve sacrifices.”

–Derek Kidner

18 Then they put the priests and the Levites into their separate groups. Each group had a certain time to serve God in the Temple at Jerusalem as it is written in the Book of Moses.

Here in this place, new light is streaming
now is the darkness vanished away,
see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in the lost and forsaken
gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken
we shall arise at the sound of our name.

We are the young — our lives are a mystery
we are the old — who yearns for your face.
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light to the whole human race.

Gather us in the rich and the haughty
gather us in the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song.

Here we will take the wine and the water
here we will take the bread of new birth
here you shall call your sons and your daughters
call us anew to be salt of the earth.

Give us to drink the wine of compassion
give us to eat the bread that is you
nourish us well and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

–Marty Haugen

The Passover Is Celebrated

19 The Jewish people who returned from captivity celebrated the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.20 The priests and Levites had made themselves clean. Then the Levites killed the Passover lambs for all the people who had returned from captivity, for their relatives the priests, and for themselves.21 So all the people of Israel who returned from captivity ate the Passover lamb. So did the people who had given up the unclean ways of their non-Jewish neighbors in order to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.

Psalm 14:2 (ESV)

  The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
   to see if there are any who understand,
   who seek after God.

22 For seven days they celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread in a very joyful way. The Lord had made them happy by changing the mind of the king of Assyria so that he helped them in the work on the Temple of the God of Israel.

“Do not be afraid of joy; when God makes you joyful, do not think it necessary to restrain your songs or smiles.”

–F. B. Meyer

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Music:

Psalm 122 (NIV)

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
   “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
   in your gates, Jerusalem.

 Jerusalem is built like a city
   that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
   the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
   according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
   the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
   and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
   I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
   I will seek your prosperity.

“Shalom Jerusalem,”  HERE,  by Paul Wilbur.

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New Century Version (NCV)   The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Images courtesy of:
Jerusalem.   https://imgcop.com/img/Israel-Today-Prophecy-17632403/
scroll.    http://www.learnersdictionary.com/art/ld/scroll.gif
Proverbs 21:1.   https://www.hearthymn.com/proverbs-21-1-the-kings-heart.html
second temple.    http://bijbelseonderwerpen.nl/engels/kinderen/images/Levend%20water/tempel%20salomo/temple-zerubbabel-22g.jpg
bread and wine.    https://www.trinityportalberni.ca/ministries/worship
Passover Seder table.    http://www.ilanramondayschool.com/Websites/irds/files/Content/5522430/HOLIDAF.pdf

2485.) Ezra 5

November 9, 2018

Ezra 5 (Good News Translation)

Work on the Temple Begins Again

1 At that time two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, began to speak in the name of the God of Israel to the Jews who lived in Judah and Jerusalem.2 When Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak heard their messages, they began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and the two prophets helped them.

(We will soon be reading the books of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, hearing their encouragement!)

3 Almost at once Governor Tattenai of West-of-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their fellow officials came to Jerusalem and demanded:
Who gave you orders to build this Temple and equip it?4 They also asked for the names of all the men who were helping build the Temple.5 But God was watching over the Jewish leaders,

Psalm 33:18 (ESV)

 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
  on those who hope in his steadfast love.

and the Persian officials decided to take no action until they could write to Emperor Darius and receive a reply.

The official asked for information and the Jews provided it. He seems to be a reasonable official who just wants to cover his bases, and while the inquiry to the ruler is in progress, work on the temple is allowed to continue. After all, as verse 5 says, God was watching over them. And as Psalm 1 says, “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.”

6 This is the report that they sent to the emperor:7

         To Emperor Darius, may you rule in peace.8 Your Majesty should know that we went to the province of Judah and found that the Temple of the great God is being rebuilt with large stone blocks and with wooden beams set in the wall. The work is being done with great care and is moving ahead steadily.9 We then asked the leaders of the people to tell us who had given them authority to rebuild the Temple and to equip it.10 We also asked them their names so that we could inform you who the leaders of this work are.11 They answered,

         We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the Temple which was originally built and equipped many years ago by a powerful king of Israel.12 But because our ancestors made the God of Heaven angry, he let them be conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, a king of the Chaldean dynasty. The Temple was destroyed, and the people were taken into exile in Babylonia.13 Then in the first year of the reign of King Cyrus as emperor of Babylonia, Cyrus issued orders for the Temple to be rebuilt.14 He restored the gold and silver Temple utensils which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple in Babylon. Emperor Cyrus turned these utensils over to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he appointed governor of Judah.15 The emperor told him to take them and return them to the Temple in Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple where it had stood before.16 So Sheshbazzar came and laid its foundation; construction has continued from then until the present, but it is still not finished.

   17 Now, if it please Your Majesty, have a search made in the royal records in Babylon to find whether or not Emperor Cyrus gave orders for this Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and then inform us what your will is in this matter.

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Music:

We have all had experiences when we knew we were doing the right thing, yet, like the returning Israelites, there are so many problems and delays and set-backs! Where is God in all this?! As Scripture and this song attest, “Your Love Never Fails.”  We can rest in the Lord as he works all things together for good.  Chris Quilala sings it  HERE.

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Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
map of Persian Empire.    http://www.keyway.ca/gif/persian.gif
Psalm 33:18.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/psalm-33-18-christian-wallpaper.jpg

2484.) Ezra 4

November 8, 2018

Ezra 4 (Good News Translation)

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

“From this point onwards right to the end of Nehemiah there is conflict. Nothing that is attempted for God will now go unchallenged, and scarcely a tactic be unexplored by the opposition.”

–Derek Kidner

1 The enemies of the people of Judah and Benjamin heard that those who had returned from exile were rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel.2 So they went to see Zerubbabel and the heads of the clans and said,  Let us join you in building the Temple. We worship the same God you worship, and we have been offering sacrifices to him ever since Emperor Esarhaddon of Assyria sent us here to live.

Coptic icon of the Good Samaritan

These people are Samaritans, from the area of the former northern kingdom of Israel. After Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BCE, many of the Jews of Israel were deported and scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire, never again to return to their homeland. And the Assyrians settled other deported from their homelands into what had been the northern kingdom. The remaining Jews and these new inhabitants cobbled together a new culture which included the worship of God and reverence for the books of Moses. The newly returned Jews refused their help because the Samaritans were seen as half-breeds, both physically and spiritually. To the Samaritans, Yahweh was one of many powerful gods. This was a dangerous partnership for the returned exiles.

The antagonism between the peoples was openly displayed well into New Testament times. Jesus, of course, treated the Samaritans with his usual respect:  the first person to whom he clearly said, “I am the Christ” was the Samaritan woman at the well, and when a Jewish lawyer asked him to narrow the field by defining just who exactly is my neighbor, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

3 Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the heads of the clans told them,  We don’t need your help to build a temple for the Lord our God. We will build it ourselves, just as Emperor Cyrus of Persia commanded us.

4 Then the people who had been living in the land tried to discourage and frighten the Jews and keep them from building.5 They also bribed Persian government officials to work against them. They kept on doing this throughout the reign of Emperor Cyrus and into the reign of Emperor Darius.

Construction of the second temple was begun in 536 B.C. on the Solomonic foundations leveled a half century earlier by the Babylonians. Not until 516 B.C., the sixth year of the Persian emperor Darius I, was the construction finally completed at the urging of Haggai and Zechariah (6:13-15).

Of the temple and its construction little is known. Unlike the more famous temple structures razed in 586 B.C. and A.D. 70, respectively, the temple begun by Zerubbabel suffered no major hostile destruction but was gradually repaired and reconstructed over a long period. Eventually, it was replaced entirely by Herod’s magnificent but short-lived edifice.

–from the Archaeological Study Bible

Opposition to the Rebuilding of Jerusalem

6 At the beginning of the reign of Emperor Xerxes, the enemies of the people living in Judah and Jerusalem brought written charges against them.

7 Again in the reign of Emperor Artaxerxes of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their associates wrote a letter to the emperor. The letter was written in Aramaic

The Lord’s Prayer, written in Aramaic

From 4:8 to 6:18 this book is not in Hebrew, but Aramaic, the official language of the Persian Empire.

and was to be translated when read.

8 Also Rehum, the governor, and Shimshai, the secretary of the province, wrote the following letter to Emperor Artaxerxes about Jerusalem:

         From Rehum, the governor, from Shimshai, secretary of the province, from their associates, the judges, and from all the other officials, who are originally from Erech, Babylon, and Susa in the land of Elam,10 together with the other peoples whom the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved from their homes and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in West-of-Euphrates Province.

11 This is the text of the letter:

         To Emperor Artaxerxes from his servants who live in West-of-Euphrates.

 12 We want Your Majesty to know that the Jews who came here from your other territories have settled in Jerusalem and are rebuilding that evil and rebellious city. They have begun to rebuild the walls and will soon finish them.13 Your Majesty, if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the people will stop paying taxes, and your royal revenues will decrease.14 Now, because we are under obligation to Your Majesty, we do not want to see this happen, and so we suggest 15 that you order a search to be made in the records your ancestors kept. If you do, you will discover that this city has always been rebellious and that from ancient times it has given trouble to kings and to rulers of provinces. Its people have always been hard to govern. This is why the city was destroyed.16 We therefore are convinced that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, Your Majesty will no longer be able to control West-of-Euphrates Province.

Their attack by letter was a skillful combination of truth and lies. It was true that Jerusalem had a sinful past; yet with these returned exiles, it truly was the past and not the present. However, that truth was completely irrelevant because of the great lie – the lie that Jews and the builders of Jerusalem had a rebellious intent.

–David Guzik

17 The emperor sent this answer:

         To Rehum, the governor, to Shimshai, secretary of the province, and to their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of West-of-Euphrates, greetings.

 18 The letter which you sent has been translated and read to me.19 I gave orders for an investigation to be made, and it has indeed been found that from ancient times Jerusalem has revolted against royal authority and that it has been full of rebels and troublemakers.20 Powerful kings have reigned there and have ruled over the entire province of West-of-Euphrates, collecting taxes and revenue.21 Therefore you are to issue orders that those men are to stop rebuilding the city until I give further commands.22 Do this at once, so that no more harm may be done to my interests.

23 As soon as this letter from Emperor Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their associates, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop rebuilding the city.

24 Work on the Temple stopped and remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of Emperor Darius of Persia.

That is a delay of some 16 years.

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Music:

What to do, when you cannot do the work you want to do? When the frustration piles up? When the disappointment overwhelms? Scripture suggests singing, and may I add to that suggestion, singing songs of praise and power! Like this one, which has been translated into many languages since it was first composed by Martin Luther in 1529. This is a good hymn to know by heart so you can sing it whenever you need it!  HERE  is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” sung so wonderfully by the men’s a cappella choir GLAD.

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Good News Translation (GNT)   Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
stop sign.   http://www.dimensionsguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Stop-Sign.jpg
Good Samaritan.   https://i0.wp.com/www.dustinlyon.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Good-Samaritan.jpg
Expect delays.   https://randalldsmith.com/second-chances-delay-of-game-ezra-45-51/
Aramaic writing.    https://parsseh.ir/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Aramaic.jpg
coming to stop the building.    http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/ezra%204%20-%2023%20they%20went%20up%20in%20haste%20to%20jerusalem.jpg