Tag Archives: Ezra

Exile – A Mini-Ghazal

Wandering in the wilderness
exiled in darkness, I will return

Lost and lonely in a foreign land
without hope unless I will return

Like Ezra and Nehemiah I travel
towards home I press, I will return

Longing for home and security
if His name I profess I will return

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Ancient Words, Ever True

At our Women’s Retreat this past weekend we sang the song “Ancient Words.” Then we sang it again in church on Sunday. I love this song and decided I wanted to share it for Music Monday. I found this version by Michael W. Smith on YouTube, and I love the graphics showing the different Bibles.

My favorite part of this song is when it says, “Ancient Words, ever true. Changing me and changing you.” It reminds me that spending time in God’s Word will change a person’s heart and will draw them closer to God.

Jeremiah 29:12-14a says:

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

We are all in captivity to sin, but when we seek God with all our heart in His glorious Word, we will find Him and He will bring us back from that captivity. We are then changed from what we were to someone so much better. We are changed from lost captives to beloved children. It is with His Ancient Words that He changes you; It is with His Ancient Words that He changed me.

Perhaps this thought is particularly special to me because the very first Bible study I ever attended was a study of Ezra and Nehemiah. These two books of the Old Testament are the story the Israelites’ return from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. That study was the beginning of God changing me from an exile in the wasteland of depression into the confident woman of faith that I have become. It is because of my desire to learn from His Ancient Words that He has been able to effect such a huge change in me.

How about you? Do you feel a bit like you are in exile, lost and broken? Trust in God and seek Him with all your heart. Study and learn His Ancient Words and He will change you, too.

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The Third Day

Tonight I am going to go see the Christian band Third Day in concert. I love their music! Having seen them in concert before, I know that what lies ahead is a wonderful evening of praise and worship of our Lord.

I’ve always assumed that the band name is based on the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead on the “third day” after His crucifixion. Since I have VIP tickets for a before-concert Q&A session with the band, maybe I will get a chance to ask whether that assumption is accurate. But in the meantime, I decided to do a search on www.biblegateway.com for the phrase “third day” to find the scriptures about this glorious event and write about Jesus’ resurrection. To my surprise, my search yielded more than a few Old Testament passages referring to something that occurred on the “third day.”

Genesis 22:1-19 is the story of when Abraham was tested by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Before he actually sacrificed Isaac, God provided a substitute sacrifice. This story is an example of Abraham’s complete trust in God. Verse 4 says, “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.” The place referred to is the mountain on which he would perform the sacrifice.

In Genesis 42 is the story of when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food. Joseph had put them all in jail because of a “stolen” chalice in their bags of grain.

On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do. Genesis 42:18-20.

In Exodus 19, we find part of the story of Moses and the Israelites in the desert. They have come to Mt. Sinai and Moses has spoken with God.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Exodus 19:10-11.

The book of Ezra is the story of the Israelites returning to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Their return and the rebuilding of the city and the temple were assisted greatly by King Darius who believed in the Lord, the God of Israel. It took a long time for the work to be completed, but finally it was.

The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. 
Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. Ezra 6:15-16.

Hosea is one of the minor prophets. When we say he is a “minor” prophet, that does not mean his writings are less important than the major prophets. Rather, the book that bears his name is one of the shorter prophetic writings in the Old Testament. Chapter 6 of Hosea begins like this:

1 “Come, let us return to the LORD.
       He has torn us to pieces
       but he will heal us;
       he has injured us
       but he will bind up our wounds.

 2 After two days he will revive us;
       on the third day he will restore us,
       that we may live in his presence.

 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
       let us press on to acknowledge him.
       As surely as the sun rises,
       he will appear;
       he will come to us like the winter rains,
       like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Hosea is the last Old Testament book to include the phrase “third day.” The next time we see this phrase, Jesus is predicting His own death and resurrection in Matthew 16:21.

As I read through these passages, I saw a common theme. The third day is a day of redemption, a day on which God is powerfully present. It is a day of celebration of the wonders of our God. It is a day to be in awe of God’s mercy, of His power and desire to restore us through the death and third-day resurrection of Jesus.

Now when I recite the Apostles’ Creed in church, when I say with my fellow believers “On the third day He rose again,” it will have more meaning.

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Rebuilding in the Face of Opposition

I recently wrote about my return from exile and mentioned having gone through a Bible study on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. I decided it was time I reread those books, and today I started by reading through Ezra.

The book of Ezra is about the Israelites return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple of God. As I read through this book, I noticed of a couple of interesting things.

First, God used Cyrus, King of Persia, to facilitate His plan to bring the Israelites back to Jerusalem. Cyrus was not one of God’s people, but he knew enough about this God of the Israelites to want to please Him. Cyrus understood that God was in charge, as indicated by the first line of his decree regarding the Israelites: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.” Ezra 1:2.

But how did Cyrus come to know of God in the first place? It was because the Israelites had lived in Babylon since their exile under King Nebuchadnezzar. The wisdom of some of the Israelites and the power of God as revealed to the kings of Persia was recorded in the book of Daniel. Because they held onto God during their exile, the Israelites made Him known to Cyrus. After Cyrus, and in part because of his decree, King Darius supported the rebuilding of the temple and the Israelites’ worship of God.

The second thing I noticed is that the rebuilding of the temple did not proceed without opposition. The enemies of the Israelites sent letters to the kings of Persia complaining about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, asking the king to forbid it. In the case of the letter to King Artaxerxes, the enemies were successful and rebuilding was halted for a time. Even when the Israelites had the permission of the king, there was opposition. “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.” Ezra 4:4. But in spite of this opposition, the Israelites continued in their work and the temple was eventually completed.

So what does this mean for us today? First, we must grasp what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

When we believe in Christ, the building of God’s temple in us begins. In this process, God often uses non-believers to accomplish His purpose of drawing us to Himself. And sometimes they will come to know Him in the process.

Also, once the decree has been passed and the building begins, there will be opposition. The enemy will try to discourage us from growing in our faith. The enemy will try to make us afraid to move forward with God’s plan for our lives. But we must continue on in spite of such opposition.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:7-8a.

Continue building the temple of God within yourself in furtherance of God’s kingdom. God has decreed that it be so, and just as the decrees of the kings of Persia could not be changed, so the decree of God is forever.

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