608.) Psalms 29 and 30

August 31, 2011

Psalm 29 (New International Version)

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his  holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

Water is the most abundant compound on Earth's surface, constituting about 70% of the planet's surface.

4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

Cedars from Lebanon were used by King Solomon in the construction of the Temple.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion (Mount Hermon) like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.

Lightning rapidly heats the air in its immediate vicinity to about 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about three times the temperature of the surface of the sun.

8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sits  enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.

11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

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Music:

“How Great Is Our God” was written by Christian singer-songwriter Chris Tomlin, born in Texas in 1972.

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Psalm 30 (New International Version)

A song. For the dedication of the temple.

1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.

Mark 10:46-52 (New Living Translation)

Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

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3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave ;
you spared me from going down into the pit.

4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

1 Peter 1:8 (New Living Translation)

You love him even though you have never seen him.
Though you do not see him now, you trust him;
and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

_________________________

6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”

7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain  stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:

Ephesians 2:4-7 (Contemporary English Version)

But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ, and God’s wonderful kindness is what saves you. God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven. God did this so that in the future world he could show how truly good and kind he is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done.

_________________________

9 “What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help.”

When a man is at his wits’ end it is not a cowardly thing to pray, it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality. 

–Oswald Chambers (author of the widely-read devotional book My Utmost for His Highest)

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11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

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Music:

American Jewish composer and singer Debbie Friedman has set a number of Psalms to music — here is Psalm 30, “Mourning into Dancing.”

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New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Psalm 29:2.   http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_mox51A7lXhU/SbbTLZoegUI/AAAAAAAAAs4/42d3GNG0MrM/s400/Ascribe+to+the+LORD+the+glory+due+his+name.jpg
waves breaking.    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/220/511215046_caa55421ae.jpg?v=0
cedar of Lebanon.    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/41/100083847_9de945d7d7.jpg
lightning.    http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/images/purple%20lightning.jpg
Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus.    http://freetobefred.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/blind-man-healed.jpg
“Greet the morning.”    http://i74.photobucket.com/albums/i242/formebb/Greet_the_Morning_by_phatpuppy.jpg
Mercy window from Central Christian Church, Orlando, FL.   http://www.cccorlando.org/Central/Church%20Pictures/windows/mercy.JPG
Lord’s Prayer.    http://www.drpaulose.com/wp-content/uploads/Lords-prayer.jpg
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607.) Psalms 27 and 28

August 30, 2011

Psalm 27 (New International Version)

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

_________________________

Music:

I have a soft spot for musical plays, and one of the best, I think,  is Fiddler on the Roof. My favorite song from this touching show is “If I Were a Rich Man” — for what Tevye thinks would be “the sweetest thing of all” to do with his wealth. . .

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5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Revelation 22:1-4 (New International Version)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

_________________________

9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

    Our Father, which art in heaven.

    What does that mean?

    Answer.  With these words God invites us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may pray to Him in confidence and in all trust, as little children do to their fathers.

–Martin Luther’s Small Catechism

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11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

Waiting is one of the hardest things to do.  We want to be people of action.  We feel better if we are doing something to address our need, but waiting forces us to rely on God.  David learned what it meant to wait.  He was chosen by God to be the next king of Israel, then spent years waiting for the day God’s word would come to pass in his life.  As he waited, a paranoid, egocentric king occupied the throne that had been promised to him.  David spent his time hiding in caves and living among his enemies.  As he waited he saw good friends murdered and his family and possessions taken.  He saw Israel’s enemies wreak havoc on his nation.  Perhaps no one ever faced greater adversity while waiting upon God’s promise than David did.  He certainly understood what it meant to become discouraged and fearful.

But David also enjoyed the reward for waiting upon the Lord.  He became the greatest king in Israel’s history, and, more importantly, through his trials he became a man after God’s own heart.  The psalms David wrote during his days as a fugitive have been cherished words of encouragement for millions of people through the ages.  Through David’s descendants came the Messiah.  David’s willingness to wait has blessed us all.

Times of waiting on the Lord can be some of the most precious moments in your life (John 11:1-6).  If you are waiting on God for something, read Isaiah 40:31 and find encouragement as you wait for Him to fulfill His promises to you.

_________________________

“God’s timing is always perfect, and always later than mine.”

–my dear friend Hansi

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Psalm 28 (New International Version)

A huge rock!  Stone Mountain is “a quartz monzonite dome monadnock” outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  That means! — it is a granite-like solitary outcropping of rock, measuring 5 miles around its base and rising 825 feet above the surrounding area.  I suggest the steep walk to the top for a beautiful view; only wimps take the Skyride!

1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

_________________________

Music:

The hymn “Rock of Ages” was composed in 1775.  Here it is sung by the Antrim Mennonite Choir.

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3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.

4 Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back upon them what they deserve.

5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.

6 Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.

Mark 1:40-42 (New International Version)

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

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7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Revelation 7:13-17 (New Living Translation)

Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”

And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

“That is why they stand in front of God’s throne
and serve him day and night in his Temple.
And he who sits on the throne
will give them shelter.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty;

they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
For the Lamb on the throne
will be their Shepherd.

He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Psalm 27:1 and lighthouse.    http://i131.photobucket.com/albums/p308/christianmyspace/graphics/psalm27_1.jpg
“Face of Jesus” sculpture by Patrick Rankin.    http://fineartamerica.com/images-medium/face-of-jesus-patrick-rankin.jpg
“Waiting in repose.”    http://www.artbywicks.com/waiting%20in%20repose%20with%20texture.jpg
wrist watch.     http://www.men-access.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/zinedinezidane_watch.jpg
Stone Mountain, Atlanta, GA.    http://markandmegan.net/images/StoneMountain.jpg
Jesus healing a leper.    http://www.sundayschoollessons.com/sunfolderzh/image3.gif
Psalm 23 shepherd.    http://theeaglesnest.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/shepherd-1662c.jpg

606.) Psalms 25 and 26

August 29, 2011

Psalm 25 (New International Version)

Of David.

1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

2 in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.

3 No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.

4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;

5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

_________________________

a poem by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

_________________________

6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

This prayer is a pattern for all Christian praying. Jesus is teaching that prayer will be acceptable when, and only when, the attitudes, thoughts, and desires expressed fit the pattern — that is to say: every prayer of ours should be a praying of the Lord’s Prayer in some shape or form.  We never get beyond this prayer; not only is it the Lord’s first lesson in praying, it is all the other lessons too.

–J. I. Packer (renowned theologian, author of Knowing God, General Editor of the English Standard Version)

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10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

11 For the sake of your name, O LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.

13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.

14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.

_________________________

Proverbs 3:32 (New International Version)

The LORD takes the upright into his confidence.

_________________________

15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.

17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.

18 Look upon my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.

1 Timothy 1:15 (New Living Translation)

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

_________________________

19 See how my enemies have increased
and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.

21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope is in you.

_________________________

Music:

“My Life Is in You, Lord” — my strength is in you, Lord, my hope is in You, Lord!  Hillsong.

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22 Redeem Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!

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Psalm 26 (New International Version)

Of David.

1 Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
without wavering.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind;

3 for your love is ever before me,
and I walk continually in your truth.

4 I do not sit with deceitful men,
nor do I consort with hypocrites;

5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers
and refuse to sit with the wicked.

_________________________

Psalm 1:1 (New American Standard Bible)

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

_________________________

6 I wash my hands in innocence,
and go about your altar, O LORD,

7 proclaiming aloud your praise
and telling of all your wonderful deeds.

8 I love the house where you live, O LORD,
the place where your glory dwells.

9 Do not take away my soul along with sinners,
my life with bloodthirsty men,

10 in whose hands are wicked schemes,
whose right hands are full of bribes.

11 But I lead a blameless life;
redeem me and be merciful to me.

12 My feet stand on level ground;
in the great assembly I will praise the LORD.

Psalm 143:10 (New International Version)

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
25:5 with sunrise.   http://www.doorpostverses.com/1525_sunrise_w_tree_Psalm_25.gif
hope.    http://emilygallardo.typepad.com/.a/6a00d835343a2869e2010535faa079970b-800wi
sailboats.    http://inlinethumb25.webshots.com/3480/2288119120051563516S600x600Q85.jpg
Lord’s Prayer.    http://www.drpaulose.com/wp-content/uploads/Lords-prayer.jpg
cross.    http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&hl=en&safe=off&q=cross+of+jesus&sa=N&start=36&ndsp=18
26:2 with white lilacs (a northern flower; I miss lilacs in FL!).    http://wonders.wallpaperdave.com/reqw12.jpg
level ground.   http://miriadna.com/desctopwalls/images/max/Level%20ground.jpg

605.) Ezra 6

August 26, 2011

“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. 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:

    “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.

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

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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 (English Standard Version)

  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.

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Music:

Psalm 122 (New International Version)

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,”  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.  http://designsbyrainbow.com/wallpaper/jerusalem.JPG
scroll.    http://www.learnersdictionary.com/art/ld/scroll.gif
second temple.    http://bijbelseonderwerpen.nl/engels/kinderen/images/Levend%20water/tempel%20salomo/temple-zerubbabel-22g.jpg
bread and wine.    http://www.reep.org/resources/easter/2003/images/11lastsupper_s.jpg
Passover Seder table.    http://www.lakenormanjc.org/_storage/Pages/1152/passover_Seder.jpg

604.) Ezra 5

August 25, 2011

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 (English Standard Version)

 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.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.

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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.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_2Ks_Im1Ni8c/TSLifQthAlI/AAAAAAAACa0/fg1lCgz1nC4/s1600/Psalm-33-18-Christian-Wallpaper.jpg

603.) Ezra 4

August 24, 2011

Ezra 4 (Good News Translation)

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

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. 

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 is my neighbor, Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

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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.

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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:

9
         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 suggest15 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.

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!  “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” sung so wonderfully by the men’s a cappella choir GLAD.  (Note: at 2:25 it should be “his rage we can endure,” not “his rays.”)

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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.   http://74.53.25.146/~copticon/images/good%20samaritan%20web.JPG?osCsid=b2e92a988b93b01b354101ca951c4757
Aramaic writing.    http://www.christusrex.org/www1/pater/images/aramaic.jpg
coming to stop the building.    http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/ezra%204%20-%2023%20they%20went%20up%20in%20haste%20to%20jerusalem.jpg

602.) Ezra 3

August 23, 2011

The foundation of the new Temple is started!

Ezra 3 (Good News Translation)

Worship Begins Again

1 By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. Then they all assembled in Jerusalem,2 and Joshua son of Jehozadak,

Jeshua (Joshua) the high priest was the grandson of Seriah, who had been put to death by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces.  There being no king in Jerusalem after the exile, the high priest’s office took on great prestige and political power.  By the time of the New Testament, priestly involvement in politics had led to great corruption in the priesthood and discontent among the Jews.

–footnote from the Archaeological Study Bible

his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, together with his relatives, rebuilt the altar of the God of Israel, so that they could burn sacrifices on it according to the instructions written in the Law of Moses, the man of God.3 Even though the returning exiles were afraid of the people who were living in the land, they rebuilt the altar where it had stood before. Then they began once again to burn on it the regular morning and evening sacrifices.4 They celebrated the Festival of Shelters according to the regulations; each day they offered the sacrifices required for that day;5 and in addition they offered the regular sacrifices to be burned whole and those to be offered at the New Moon Festival and at all the other regular assemblies at which the Lord is worshiped, as well as all the offerings that were given to the Lord voluntarily.6Although the people had not yet started to rebuild the Temple, they began on the first day of the seventh month to burn sacrifices to the Lord.

They could not wait for the building!  They had to worship God just as soon as they had an altar!  (How eager am I, Sunday morning or otherwise, to worship the Lord?)

The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins

7 The people gave money to pay the stonemasons and the carpenters and gave food, drink, and olive oil to be sent to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in exchange for cedar trees from Lebanon, which were to be brought by sea to Joppa.

This is how the first temple was built . . .

1 Chronicles 14:1  (ESV)

And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also masons and carpenters to build a house for him.

All this was done with the permission of Emperor Cyrus of Persia.8 So in the second month of the year after they came back to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, they began work. Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of their people, the priests, and the Levites, in fact all the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, joined in the work. All the Levites twenty years of age or older were put in charge of the work of rebuilding the Temple.9 The Levite Jeshua and his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons (the clan of Hodaviah) joined together in taking charge of the rebuilding of the Temple. (They were helped by the Levites of the clan of Henadad.)

10 When the builders started to lay the foundation of the Temple, the priests in their robes took their places with trumpets in their hands, and the Levites of the clan of Asaph stood there with cymbals.


They praised the Lord according to the instructions handed down from the time of King David.11 They sang the Lord’s praises, repeating the refrain:

The Lord is good, and his love for Israel is eternal.

Psalm 118:1 (English Standard Version)

   Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever!

Everyone shouted with all their might, praising the Lord, because the work on the foundation of the Temple had been started.12 Many of the older priests, Levites, and heads of clans had seen the first Temple, and as they watched the foundation of this Temple being laid, they cried and wailed. But the others who were there shouted for joy.

Some, remembering the richness and grandeur of Solomon’s temple, wept at this lesser model.  But others rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to return them to their homeland so they could begin to rebuild the house for the name of the Lord!

13 No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the crying, because the noise they made was so loud that it could be heard for miles.

Psalm 27:6 (English Standard Version)

And now my head shall be lifted up
   above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
   sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

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Music:

I have a perfect fit for our song and our chapter today!  “You’re Amazing, God”  was written by Brenton Brown  and is sung here by Anthony Evan.

We can hear it growing louder
songs from every nation
rising to your throne
Saints in every generation
singing for your glory
telling what you’ve done
.
From the north and south, we are crying out
There is hope in Jesus’ name
.
You’re amazing God, You’re amazing God
You can bear the weight of every heavy heart
You can heal the pain, you can clean the stain
You can turn our tears into songs of praise
You’re amazing God
.
Beauty rises from the ashes
sorrow turns to gladness
when our God is near
You speak light into our darkness
you heal the broken-hearted
you wipe away our tears
.
Songs of praise surround us, songs of praise surround us
Hear it growing louder, we are growing louder

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

Images courtesy of:
Temple foundation started.   http://www.templeinstitute.org/gallery_images/2nd_temple_stone_gallery.jpg
priests with trumpets and cymbals.    http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/ezra%203%20-%2010%20they%20set%20the%20priests%20with%20trumpets.jpg