Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ezra 2: Being in the Family

Ezra chapter 2 is mostly a long list of all of the people who left captivity and were allowed to go back to Jerusalem. What is very interesting about the list is that people were known by their lineage. They obviously did not list everyone’s names individually, but they were identified as a family.

In fact, when they found someone who could not be verifiably tied to a family, the person was disqualified from the priesthood.

Ezr 2:59  And these were they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel:

Ezr 2:60  The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two.

Ezr 2:61  And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name:

Ezr 2:62  These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.

The priesthood was a privilege given to the tribe of Levi, so that people who were not part of that tribe could not be priests. Being in the family was what granted a person that privilege.

A very similar process will happen with a much larger family in the future. This time, we all will need to be able to say that we are children of God.

Rev 20:11  And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

Rev 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Rev 20:13  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Rev 20:14  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Rev 20:15  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

I know that there is a lot of controversy as to the exact nature of the final judgment, and it might not be the happiest note to end this post on. However, we can safely conclude from this passage that it is a whole lot better to be written in God’s book of life.

Obviously, our human lineage has no impact on whether or not we get to heaven. God doesn’t care if our parents were pastors or missionaries. He cares that we are in His family.

Ezra 1: Human Will Is No Match for God’s Will

We are now entering the book of Ezra! In chapter 1, we find the Israelites in captivity. They are part of the Persian Empire ruled by Cyrus, and he seems to be a pretty powerful man.

Ezr 1:1  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,

Ezr 1:2  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

However, even though he was such a powerful man, God was still able to influence him by steering his spirit. I have to imagine that being the king of Persia meant that he was a pretty strong-willed individual. He must have gotten to the top by showing quite a bit of ambition and mental strength. Regardless, he was powerless to resist the call of God even though I have to imagine that he would have resisted letting part of his kingdom wander back to their homeland.

He was also powerless to resist the call of God even though it probably flew in the face of everything he believed as well. Judaism was not native to Persia, and as far as I know, Cyrus was not an active practitioner. In these verses, he obviously recognizes God, but I have to imagine that he probably had a pantheon of other deities that he believed in.

For both of these reasons, there was probably not very much incentive for him to actually encourage someone to go back to Jerusalem and build the second Temple.

He did order that though, and I think that that is an example of how powerful God is.

We generally think that we are going to do what we want to do. The human will is perceived to be a pretty powerful force. However, in reality, God is so far above all of that. He doesn’t really care about what is “expected” on earth. He does what is in His will.

2 Chronicles 36: Rejecting the Cure

Judah really messed everything up. After the death of Josiah in the previous chapter, we see several kings in 2 Chronicles 36 that all decided to move away from God. They did not quietly move away though. When God tried to bring them back, they simply would not listen and were awfully arrogant.

2Ch 36:15  And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:

2Ch 36:16  But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.

Earlier in this chapter, we hear about Jeremiah trying to help the people, but they didn’t want to listen to him, and it seems that he wasn’t the only messenger. When the people of God told them what they needed to do to straighten everything out, they simply laughed at them and apparently threatened physical harm.

I know that with this type of chapter I have to wonder what was wrong with the people of Judah. They must have realized that their country was going downhill. It wasn’t hard to tell that they were being overrun by rival nations. They must have recognized the symptoms of their disbelief.

However, even when people came with an idea of how to make everything better (get right with God), they didn’t even want to give it a try. They simply mocked the people who brought the medicine to cure the symptoms.

You can see something like this today. Christianity is certainly not as popular as it once was, and people often times make disrespectful attacks on the faith. Some of us who still believe might feel like Jeremiah at times. We keep speaking the truth, but people just don’t want to hear it.

Nevertheless, we need to persevere. Jesus himself predicted that the world would hate His message, so it really shouldn’t be surprising when we encounter opposition. Our job is to be faithful and continue to fight the good fight.

2 Chronicles 35: Discernment Is a Gift

Josiah was a great king, and for most of 2 Chronicles 35, we read about him having the one of the biggest Passover ceremonies ever.

Nevertheless, it is rather interesting how his life ended near the conclusion of the chapter. It is somewhat surprising.

2Ch 35:20  After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him.

2Ch 35:21  But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.

2Ch 35:22  Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo.

I don’t know what I would have done if I was Josiah. The Egyptians were not always known for their godliness, but it says that in this situation, the words of the Egyptian king Necho were true. He said that God had commanded him to go to war, and he did not have any intention of attacking Israel.

Josiah then decided that that wasn’t good enough for him. He went to war nonetheless, but he went in disguise like kings often did to avoid recognition.

Unfortunately, as you continue reading the chapter, you find that he was shot by an archer and eventually died from the severity of his wounds.

This chapter seems to speak to the importance of discernment. We need to ask God to help us understand other people and help us evaluate their motives. If someone came up to me who had generally been my enemy but told me he actually wasn’t coming to attack me, I probably would have been a little bit suspicious.

In this case, the king of Egypt was even brave enough to say that God told him that he was supposed to attack a different country. Should have Josiah trusted him? In this case, it appears that he should have.

Perhaps Josiah did not bring this issue before God to acquire wisdom and understanding. We have no record that he did, but given his past, it would be surprising if he actually did not. Whatever the case, he made a decision that ended up killing him because he was trying to interfere with the will of God.

2 Chronicles 34: We Are on a Hill

Even though Josiah came on to the throne at the very young age of eight years old, when we meet him in 2 Chronicles 34, he seemed to make wise decisions.

2Ch 34:1  Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years.

2Ch 34:2  And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.

I like the word choice here because if you deviate to the right or to the left, it is a decline. Some alternate translations for this word in Hebrew according to Strong’s numbers are revolt or depart. Nevertheless, I like the imagery of this word decline.

When we are following God, it is kind of like we are on the crest of a hill. We are as high as we could possibly get. God’s plan is our best and highest plan. However, if we start to fall away from that path, we get a little bit lower. Any direction we go in is a decline unless we stay on the crest. The more we deviate from the plan that God has established, the more we slip down the hill.

This is the kind of story that happened to many of the kings of Israel and Judah. Saul started out on the right path. However, when he made the vital error of performing the sacrifice by himself rather than waiting for Samuel, he got bit off track.

He kept getting farther and farther away from where he needed to be as he moved on. He continued declining away from the ideal path at the top of the hill.

We need to make sure that we are more like Josiah and less like Saul. God does have a plan for us, and that involves taking a certain path. If we curve off of that path, we are the only ones that will lose out. By following God, we will have the peace that passes understanding and will be able to be used however God sees fit.

2 Chronicles 33: Changing Lives in Prison

2 Chronicles 33 brings Judah into a difficult spot. Manasseh became king after his father Hezekiah passed away, but he did not follow in the great tradition that his father had established.

2Ch 33:9  So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.

It is definitely something to say that the people were worse than all of the idolatrous nations that Israel had destroyed in the past. It must have gotten pretty bad.

Like God seems to do quite a bit, He brought a storm into Manasseh’s life to make him realize what he was doing and to understand that he needed God.

2Ch 33:11  Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.

2Ch 33:12  And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,

2Ch 33:13  And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.

He had a life-changing experience. He was no longer interested in ignoring God. It took a difficult time to make him realize that, but God does that from time to time.

He loves people, and He wants to bring people into a relationship with Him. Manasseh must have had solid Biblical teaching as a child given who his father was, but he went away from it for some reason.

God brought him back though. He didn’t just forget about him. While he was in captivity, something changed for Manasseh. He suddenly realized what he had been doing wrong, and after his time in chains was done, he came back as a better leader who brought the people of Israel in the right direction.

It must not have been pleasant to be in a Babylonian prison, but that is what he needed to realize his problems. God will allow things to come into our lives to help us grow as well as correct us if we start to wander.

2 Chronicles 32: Attacking God with a Straw Man

I’m not an expert on debate techniques yet, but it seems as if in 2 Chronicles 32, the king of Assyria was ordering his men to commit a pretty large logical fallacy as they tried to dishearten the defenders of Jerusalem.

Hezekiah was absolutely certain that God would be able to defend Jerusalem.

2Ch 32:7  Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:

2Ch 32:8  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

However, the men of Assyria took a shot directly at this claim indirectly if that makes sense. It is similar to a straw man argument.

2Ch 32:15  Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?

Hezekiah presented the first argument that said that God would be able to protect the city of Jerusalem and all the people. That is what should have been the debate topic.

Rather than debate the argument directly, the Assyrian presented the argument that no other god had been able to stop his army yet. Based on that argument, he then said that the God of the Bible would not be able to stop him.

Do you see the problem with this argument? He was setting up an argument that he knew was true, but he did not take the current situation into account and actually avoided the topic altogether. He had never come up against the one true God, so it is kind of irrelevant what happened with all the other deities.

I have become very interested in this field of apologetics lately, and this is very similar to what we often encounter in the world every day. I am not saying that we all need to become brilliant orators, but it is beneficial to think about the situation and be able to follow a conversation.

If you need a good resource to get you started, check out my review of Tactics by Greg Kokul. I would definitely recommend it.

2 Chronicles 31: How to Be Successful

Hezekiah did not make it overly complicated. He followed the laws of God had set down, and God blessed him and all the people of Israel through him.

2Ch 31:20  And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.

2Ch 31:21  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.

There are a few major reasons for all of his success.

First, he did the right things. The Bible says that he did what was right. That is how we need to evaluate our activities as well. I know that this phrase has been used to death, but it might not hurt to think, “What would Jesus do?” We want our conduct to be to the highest level.

Second, as he was doing all of this work, he was seeking God. Keeping in touch with God is vital. If we are wandering along on our own, we are going to deviate from the path that God intended. The problem with that is that God has a better plan than we could ever draw up on our own. He wants to use us, so we need to seek Him and be available.

Finally, Hezekiah did all of this with all of his heart. He wasn’t just a Sunday morning church person. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with going to church, but if that is the only time during the week that we actually think about God, we have a problem. His whole heart was into this mission. God wants our entire commitment so that He can use us in mighty ways.

If we line up these three items, we too will be successful. I don’t necessarily mean that we will have financial prosperity, but we will make a difference for God. That is what we are called to do here on earth, so we do need to be about our Father’s business.

2 Chronicles 30: Revival Comes to Jerusalem

Hezekiah basically led a revival in 2 Chronicles 30. Even though they technically missed the time of year for Passover, Hezekiah decided that it would be a good idea to have the ceremony and bring honor to God.

Then, on top of that he sent out messengers to all the wayward tribes of Israel inviting them to come back and begin worshiping God again. Naturally, not everyone accepted his invitations, but he was trying to Israel back together under the leadership of God.

2Ch 30:25  The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in Judah, rejoiced.

2Ch 30:26  So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.

2Ch 30:27  Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.

It must have been different to have that type of leadership. He had the people tear down the altars to the various idols, and the people were apparently having a great experience worshiping God and getting their lives right with Him.

Revival needs to start somewhere. In this case, it started with the powerful. Revivals have also started with ordinary people. John the Baptist was nothing overly special on an earthly level, but he began preparing the hearts of the people for the coming Messiah.

In either case, someone was there to get people moving in the right direction. That is what we need today. We need some type of revival. I’m not sure how it will happen. It could come from the top or from the average everyday person, but if it does happen, it will naturally have a beginning. Maybe God wants to use one of you to kick off this movement.

2 Chronicles 29: Cleaning up the Temple

Some people like to make excuses. They would rather blame the circumstances that they are put in a rather than step up and make them better.

In 2 Chronicles 29, it is a good thing that Hezekiah was not like that. He inherited Judah in a pretty sad state after the mess that Ahaz made. Nevertheless, he immediately got around to taking steps in the right direction.

2Ch 29:5  and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place.

2Ch 29:6  For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs.

It is kind of sad that the people of Judah allowed such a beautiful building that served such an important purpose to fall into utter disrepair. We find out later that it took all of the priests that were there 16 days to entirely clean everything out.

That is a pretty major job, but it is one that Hezekiah wanted to be done.

He could have simply folded up and not done anything. The generation before that made such a mess that maybe trying to clean up and make everything better could have taken too much effort. The status quo would have certainly been easier.

Regardless, he knew that that was not a good response. He knew that the house of God needed to be a place that would indeed honor God. Not only that, but he was happy about the end result.

2Ch 29:36  And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had provided for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.

He knew that God was with them and was helping them. It seems like that made all of the effort worthwhile.