Saturday, June 8, 2024

June 8, 2024

Darius responded to the letter sent him by Tatnai by having the records searched to find the original decree by King Cyrus. It seems that he and his companions were hoping it wasn’t true that Cyrus had commanded them to rebuild the temple; they wanted to hinder the work of the children of God. However, Darius sent them a letter telling them that if they stopped them from working, they would be hung in the rafters of their house. It would be destroyed and become a dunghill. Darius believed that God would deliver the judgment and recompense. He coveted the prayers of God’s children for himself and his sons. Darius seemed to be a believer; I wonder if we will see him in Heaven. They finished the temple twenty years after the foundation was laid, then celebrated the first Passover feast by making sacrifices and worshipping God in peace. They had been keeping the feasts; however, they were in the open, and those around them would disturb their peaceful remembrance of God. They celebrated joyfully because, by this time, all the elderly who had cried previously remembering Solomon’s temple had most likely passed away. This celebration included every tribe of Israel, with Judah and Benjamin as the chiefs. 

This story shows that when God has a plan, he will use whatever means necessary and whoever he wants to carry out that plan, even unbelievers. If God will do this for Judah and the people of Israel, imagine what he will do on our behalf because of our love for Jesus. God sees the oppression of His people and has a plan to rescue us when the time is right. Wait for it; it will surely come. 

And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. Ezra 6:14

Friday, June 7, 2024

June 7, 2024

Word came from the Lord through Zechariah and Haggai to the people living in Jerusalem and Judah. This chapter of Ezra was incomplete without reading the prophetic word associated with it: Zechariah 1:1-21 and Haggai 1:1-15. The prophets spoke a word from God to the people, telling them that while they were comfortable in their homes, the temple remained unfinished. Previously, they were told to cease and desist, but now it’s been over nine years and time to get moving on rebuilding God’s house. 

The governor, Tatnai, sent a letter to Darius, the king, asking him to pull out the records to find out who told them to rebuild the temple. Tatnai explained to the king that the people of Judah had told him it was Cyrus, king of Babylon. Tatnai wanted to verify if what they said was true. 

When God instructs us to do something, we must act decisively and obey Him. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. Why are you leaving it in disrepair? Are you waiting for Jesus to come in with a whip and turn over the tables? Shore up the walls and patch the roof with spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance; there is no law against these things. He will help you make the repairs if you stay connected to Him through prayer and hearing His directions by reading your Bible.

But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter. Ezra 5:5

Thursday, June 6, 2024

June 6, 2024

It doesn't matter how good you are at doing the work of God; you will always face opposition. The people of Judah, who were sent back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall and the temple, dealt with the enemy who pretended to be like them, wanting to help with the temple. They were sinister in their plan, much like we see today; they were usurpers of the Jewish belief, sullying the reputation of the genuine Jewish people, the ones who love God. Many of the Jewish people we see today are not genuinely Jewish and have continued worshipping false gods and idols, much of which is hidden from the view of the general public. It's best not to take sides in holy wars because we don't understand the truth. The enemy has a way of distorting what we see and hear through fake media. Solomon was right when he said there's nothing new under the sun. Don't get me wrong, Christians are the same; some are true believers, but others are in it for a profit. 

These fake believers sent a letter to the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, who was from Esther's timeline, telling him that the people of Judah would stop paying taxes to the king. The king replied with a cease-and-desist order until he decided whether to allow them to continue. It doesn't say this, but it makes you wonder if Haman, the villain from Esther, had something to do with these orders.  

The lesson is to be careful of what you believe to be accurate; things are not as they seem. The devil can confuse the truth and spin it to his benefit. The people inhabiting Judah and Jerusalem didn't want the actual Jewish people there. However, the captive found favor with God and the previous king, who released them from captivity. 

Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Ezra 4:23

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

June 5, 2024

Shortly after becoming settled in their homes, the people gathered in Jerusalem, built an altar to the Lord, and began making sacrifices. They were fearful of the people of the land around them and sought to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. They followed the law of Moses and kept the feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month, the new moons, and all the set feasts as was written. They began preparing for laying the temple foundation, hired masons, and ordered timber with the grant given by Cyrus. Months had passed, and they were now in their second year. All the priests and Levites twenty and up who came out of captivity gathered for the work of the temple. When the foundation was completed, the people celebrated; the priest was in their garb, the musicians played, and they sang songs to the Lord. The older men who had seen the original temple cried so loud that their cries and shouts of joy could be heard far away. 

I couldn’t help but see the comparison when coming to Christ. When we realize that Jesus is our firm foundation, we cannot help but become overjoyed at his overwhelming love and are so grateful that we sob at the notion that he loved us so much that he died to become our firm foundation and the cornerstone we continue to build upon. We were captives, but now we are free and are grateful for Jesus’s sacrifice for our lives. Worship him like he just snatched you from the fire because that’s what he did!

So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off. Ezra 3:13

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

June 4, 2024

Thousands of exiles in Babylon from Judah went back to dwell in their cities, even though after seventy years of being vacant, the homes were probably in shambles. Nevertheless, they were compelled to return to their own land. While exiled, they increased their wealth and number, so more went back home than were initially taken seventy years earlier. I have so many questions about their return. How did they know which cities belonged to their families or which homes to inhabit? Maybe it didn’t matter. I expect that most of their parents who were brought into captivity had passed away or were too feeble to make the trip home. They took a lot of stuff with them, including animals. It couldn’t have been an easy trip. Even though they faced many trials along the way, they were willing to contribute freely to rebuilding the temple. They needed to use their newfound freedom to worship God. They went to great lengths to honor Him. 

Though no one realizes it, we, the United States, are not a free people. We have always been told we are free as a way to control us; all the while, our elected officials bring down heavy regulation and the immense burden of taxation. We pay taxes on what we earn and then again on what we spend. It’s become a vicious circle. Can you build what you want on your land? Absolutely not! Can you drive your car without a license? Absolutely not! Despite our lack of absolute freedom, we can still worship God, but that could end at any time. Remember, genuine freedom comes from God and is spiritual, a renewing of our minds. If we don’t endeavor to undo the damage the enemy has caused by confusing our minds, we will never indeed be free. It’s more of a state of mind than a physical existence. Pray for God to open your mind to the truth. Nothing feels better than having your mind set free.

And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: Ezra 2:68

Monday, June 3, 2024

June 3, 2024

I've decided to skip Chronicles except for the last few verses, as the books of First and Second Kings cover most of what is included in those books. My inclination was to jump right in and start reading Daniel to give some insight into what happened to Judah while they were in Babylon, but I decided to finish the history portion of the Bible so I could refer back to it when I began to cover the prophets. 

Now that the people of Judah were captive in Babylon, it had been empty for seventy years, as Jeremiah prophesied.

To fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years. 2 Chronicles 36:21

Here's a powerful reminder for us all: rest is essential. God will make us rest if we don't rest on our own. I don't want to know what that looks like!

Forgive me if this is too long; I'm trying to fit the pieces together in my mind. The king of Persia defeated the king of Babylon and took over the kingdom, including Judah's captives. Cyrus was a part of God's plan to release His people from captivity. One interesting note is that Nebuchadnezzar hadn't melted down all the temple vessels taken from Judah; they were left in the same condition they were found and were still useful for the temple services. Esther was a part of this captivity and was a stepping stone for such a time as this and the useful vessel to help procure the eventual release of Judah back to Jerusalem. Esther's story fits into the timeline of the book of Ezra. Cyrus called together the people of Judah to go and rebuild the temple of God; even though he didn't know God, he was compelled by the Holy Spirit to help. 

Even though the enemy may hold us captive in our minds, God will eventually procure our release through our belief in Jesus, and we will be as good as new when he begins using us as temple vessels for kingdom purposes. 

All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem. Ezra 1:11

Sunday, June 2, 2024

June 2, 2024

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, surrounded Jerusalem to seize it. King Zedekiah was caught fleeing with his men, and they killed his sons, then put out his eyes, leaving him blind, bound him with fetters, and took him to Babylon. After that, they burned down the king's house, the temple, and all the people's houses; then they tore down the wall around Jerusalem. They gathered all the brass objects left in the temple for worship and carried them back to Babylon; most of the gold and silver had already been stolen. The priest and other prominent people still left in Jerusalem were captured and carried before Nebuchadnezzar, and he killed them; so all that was left were a few poor people to maintain the vineyards and farm. Gedaliah was set over the people who were left and told them not to fear the king of Babylon. However, Gedaliah was killed by Ishmael, who was of David's royal lineage; he may have been jealous of his good nature toward the people. After that, the rest of the people left Jerusalem for Egypt and probably hid amongst them so they weren't discovered. 

Evilmerodach, Nebuchadnezzar's son, replaced him as king and was kind to Jehoichin. Remember, he and his family gave themselves up to Nebuchadnezzar, and he was held in prison this whole time. It is thought that Nebuchadnezzar had put his son in prison with Jehoichin, and they became friends. Evilmerodach let Jehoichin out of prison, and he was given a pension for the rest of his life. 

God will not allow a country or even his own temple to stand if his people deny him. Therefore, we must continue to warn people because it will not end well for those who reject Jesus. 

This last chapter of 2 Kings ends the rule of the biblical kings until Jesus, the King of kings, returns to rule and reign. 

And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire. 2 Kings 25:9