Archive for March 2012

Ezra and Nehemiah, the great leaders of their generation [1]   2 comments

Ezra

Have you ever wondered why there’s such a mediocrity among Christians? You see non-engagement, everything in ruin and chaotic. The church service is not going great, attendance is low, you see sinful behavior and the world is not being reached. You’re probably one of those rare people still firm in the faith, but you find yourself alone and you wonder what a lone cowboy can do. You see the needs around you, you see ruined lives, a great harvest and a lot of work to do but not enough hands together with you. Your vision is great, you do what you can to help Christians to be serious in their faith, serve God and bear fruits but you sadly notice that no radical changes occur.

When I read the book of Ezra, I see God as the initiator[1] of this “boom” in people’s life. All of a sudden you see God touching the heart of people to bring restoration. This God stirred the heart of King Cyrus, a pagan. How He did that? I don’t know. But it was God behind the scene.

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah.He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.

Do you see that? God used a pagan political leader to give orders for the restoration of the temple. God can dispose the heart of pagans to give money, food, materials and anything needed to accomplish His will. If God is behind, He will provide. Now who are those people who will build the temple? Pagans? No sir. It’s this rebellious people of Israel. God’s people[2]. God touched the heart of the religious leaders to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.Do everything without complaining and arguing,so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Phil 2:13

Jonah was complaining when he had to leave and Lot’s wife looked behind when asked to leave. This should not be so with us. If God has put in you the desire to do something, just do it[3].  Don’t complain. For about 60 years Israel remained without a temple. They most probably stopped religious activities[4]. If Ezra wanted to go and tell the people to rebuild the temple and restore the religious activities, he would have been right. He could have argued zealously and give hundreds of reasons to do that. But to move this big rock in people’s heart and to get the approval of this pagan king who rules on the whole earth, it would have been impossible[5]. If it was not yet God’s time and Ezra started his recruitment, the king might have considered it as a rebellion from the Jews and ordered a genocide.

A priest might have wondered “God you want us to go and do the service in the new temple, but we do not have our tools and articles to do the service. King Nebuchadnezzar has taken all these valuable items and put it in the pagan temple”. But we read in verse 7 that King Cyrus personally took this matter in hand. He took the initiative to restitute everything.

King Cyrus himself brought out the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods.”

A temple cannot be build with 2 or 3 people. Labor force is needed. Mind you it would be on voluntary basis. I also guess that it would not make sense to have a big temple without people to worship there. So who will convince all these people to move? Ezra? Even if he could, would the king let them go? I remember that Pharaoh did not want the slaves to leave Egypt, it would have been a financial crisis. Here again we see God’s hand in touching hearts[6].  It is also said that each leader gave as much money as they could(2:69)

Everything was in place and perfect, people were personally convinced of this need[7].

While counting the number of people from different tribes, some irregularities were found. It was found that the wrong people were in religious positions(2:59-61). I guess some of them were charlatans, impostors, religious parasites who took an office exclusively reserved to those specifically called to do it.  Their ancestors were not Jews so how could they be religious leaders? Even nowadays we see that in the church. We see self proclaimed apostles, prophets and pastors. Oh they will show you their pastors’ license, their theological degree, their father was a pastor so they are the successor. Being a pastor is perhaps just a lucrative job for them. These people should be removed because they are taking the place of people who were really called to be pastors, teachers…It’s not a degree which qualifies someone to be a minister, it is God who calls.

Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name.) They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests.The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots.”

Is not it amazing that these wolves in sheep clothing hold this position for such a long time without being unmasked? Even if people knew that something was fishy, they showed tolerance. Let’s never forget that Jesus made a rope to clean the temple of all impurities. 1 Tim 3 has a lot to say about those who aspire leadership position.

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach…

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