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Isaiah 23: Right on Time

Although it is not the most well-known prophecy regarding Tyre, Isaiah 23 makes a claim about the fate of the city.

Isa 23:15  And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

Isa 23:16  Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

Isa 23:17  And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.

Isa 23:18  And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.

It is interesting. Tyre was prophesied to be commercially wiped off the map for all intents and purposes for 70 years. It doesn’t say the city would be destroyed, but it would pretty much be forgotten. That is a pretty measurable prophecy. We can tell if it happened or not because there is a number attached to it.

That being said, it is not necessarily a deal breaker if it hasn’t happened yet. There are prophecies in the Bible that have not been fulfilled yet. In theory, this could be one of those, but I don’t think it is.

Most secular historians will tell you that Jerusalem was taken over in 587 BC. Tyre would have been silenced shortly after that. There are now a few other things that we know.

From verse 18, we can gather that when commercial activity begins again in 70 years, they will do something that is called a God. Specifically, they will provide wood for the rebuilding of the Temple.

Ezr 3:7  They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.

They hired people from Tyre to deliver wood at some point during the construction process. They probably did not deliver it right away. After all, you would not use the wood in the foundation, and you wouldn’t want it just sitting around for years while you wait for the foundation to be in place.

We know that King Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, and we know that he died around 530 BC. We also know that after he died, there was a little bit of a gap before King Darius ordered that the Temple to continue being constructed from Ezra 6. King Darius reigned from 522 BC to 486 BC. That fits perfectly into the 70 year prediction. He would have been in the right position at the right time to order the people to continue finishing the Temple.

Tyre would then be resuming the commercial activity of providing wood just as was predicted.

It is remarkable how well the prophecies work out with what we know from history.

Ezra 10: Glorifying God Is Our Main Purpose

Ezra 10 is kind of a difficult chapter. Basically, because God had told the Israelites not to marry outside of their own people, we see a massive separation. Anyone who had married a foreign wife had to basically get a divorce.

Ezr 10:11  Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.

Ezr 10:12  Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.

It is worth mentioning that there was more going on here than just separating from their wives. They also had to separate from all the people of the land. I think that this could also refer to the fact that if a woman married husband from that region, she had to separate as well. I’m not sure how often that would have happened given that I have a feeling that the woman’s father would not have been willing to give her away to a foreign man, but it seems as if the separation would apply to them too.

Now, put yourself in the position of one of these Israelite men. You may have married the best woman ever. She might have been everything you could have possibly wanted, but then order comes down from God that you need to separate from her. You need to separate from her because she is “strange.” In this context strange simply means foreign as far as I can tell from my Strong’s numbers.

You might wonder what God was doing. You might wonder why all of these people had the separate. What if the marriage was working out really well? What was going on here?

I think that we have to remember that originally God had told the people of Israel not to marry people from the land because they often times led to idolatrous practices. That was the commandment, so people needed to follow the commandment. If they didn’t, they were living in sin. However, at the same time in my scenario, maybe some of those people were outwardly happy.

I think that we see this kind of thing happen all the time just looking around. People can indeed be outwardly happy, and they can be living in sin.

However, external happiness is not the ultimate goal of our existence (and there is an interesting argument to be made for the fact that we cannot be truly happy outside of God, but I will not go into that today). We are meant to be on earth to glorify God and follow Him. Part of doing that means putting away sin.

I know this isn’t a popular thing to talk about, and I know that it is difficult to realign our thought processes. In society today, we are taught that fulfilling our own happiness is what should be most important. Biblically, that’s not true.

1Co 10:31  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

We should do everything to glorify God. I will meet you tomorrow in Nehemiah.

Ezra 9: Get Rid of Sin

This might not be the happiest post that I have ever written, but Ezra 9 is not necessarily a happy chapter.

Ezr 9:1  Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

Ezr 9:2  For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

Remember, this is something that the Israelites were never supposed to be doing. Even from way back in Joshua, they were not supposed to be taking on cultural practices from the other people around them. They were not supposed to get married to them, and they were not supposed to do what they did.

Nevertheless, here we are in the later time in history, and this was happening again. The people of Israel were giving into sin once again.

Ezra got really upset about that.

Ezr 9:6  And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

He even said that he was ashamed of all of these problems. He was morally upset by the sin that he saw around him.

Sometimes I wonder if we are losing that today. Sometimes I wonder if we just kind of sweep sin under the rug. We get comfortable and we figure that is not such a big deal. So what if it was just a little sin? It doesn’t matter that much. It was just a small lie that saved me a lot of trouble. There’s no big deal with that.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? Ezra got visibly upset that the people were living in a sinful lifestyle. He couldn’t tolerate sin because God cannot tolerate sin. I think that we have lost some of that repulsion. I don’t really know why, and I don’t really know how to fix it, but I think that we need to think about problems in our lives. Sin is not acceptable to God, so it should not be acceptable to us.

Obviously, we mess up every now and then and need forgiveness. I don’t want to discount that whatsoever. Jesus died to make that possible for us, but that doesn’t mean that we can just do whatever we want.

Heb 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

We need to lay aside sin rather than embrace it.

Ezra 8: God Makes a Difference

In Ezra 8, we find out that Ezra was ready to lead a group of people back to Jerusalem. However, he was a little bit worried there were no Levites in that group. He must have been worried that when they got to Jerusalem, there would be no one to perform all of the sacrifices that were necessary in the Temple.

This made him call back to the city and try to find some more volunteers.

Ezr 8:18  And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;

Ezr 8:19  And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;

Ezr 8:20  Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinims: all of them were expressed by name.

Notice that he immediately attributes all of this to God. He could have said that there were some really nice guys who decided to volunteer. However, the first point he hit was that because of the help of God, the people were coming.

I think that we need to develop this attitude in our lives and recognize that without God, we can do nothing. Jesus himself said that while he was in his earthly ministry.

Joh 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If we can indeed do nothing without God, then when we do something, God is the one who made the difference. Ezra realized that, and he was grateful that God had supplied priests for him as he went back to Jerusalem to reestablish the Temple.

Ezra 7: God Is Active

Ezra 7 is another chapter that really surprises me. Again, the Persian kings were not necessarily believers in God. They believed that God existed undoubtedly, but it seems as if they were pretty open to the idea that a wide variety of gods existed, and the God of Israel was just another version.

All of that being said, it seems as if they realized there was something different about the God of Israel. For some reason, they were willing to always give the people of Israel a pretty good deal. We have seen that the past few days, and we see that today as Ezra the priest was sent to Jerusalem.

Ezr 7:23  Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?

Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, didn’t want to get on the wrong side of God. This is how we can conclude that they believed He existed. Why would you be afraid of something that you believe is not there?

Because of this mindset, the king gave Ezra permission to basically take whatever he needed to build the Temple. If he needed money, all he needed to do was ask for it. That is an amazingly generous offer that I am sure Ezra was not expecting.

Of course, Ezra knew who to attribute all of this privilege to when it all did come to be though.

Ezr 7:27  Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:

He knew that God was and still is behind the universe. He’s still involved and watching over us every day. Ezra knew that he was doing what God wanted by being involved in the rebuilding of the Temple, and God was right there to help and support him.

We still have God beside us today. He still has a plan, and He still uses people to help accomplish that plan. He supplies the power, but we are the instruments that He uses many times. We need to be like Ezra and make sure that we give all the glory back to God.

Ezra 6: How to Gain Trust

The Israelites were right. In Ezra 6, the archives were searched, and, just like they had written in the previous chapter, there was a decree that gave them permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

The evidence came out, and it clearly supported Israel.

Ezr 6:6  Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:

Ezr 6:7  Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.

Ezr 6:8  Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.

Ezr 6:9  And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:

Ezr 6:10  That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.

Basically, they got what they originally wanted and were able to build the Temple. On top of all of that, they were given even more. Whenever they needed the sacrifice, it would be provided to them.

Their honesty paid off for them. Similarly, honesty will make a difference in our lives as well. I am definitely not saying that by being honest we will get financial gain like the Israelites did. However, we will get the other thing that Israel received.

We will gain the trust of those around us. Because they were honest, they became more credible, and they were actually allowed to exist outside of the tight captivity they had been in.

As Christians, this should be important to us. We are called to be witnesses for God, and the only way we can do that effectively is if people are willing to trust us. They need to be able to trust that we are really bringing a message that will be worth their time.

The way to gain that trust is to practice what we preach. We have to make sure that we are living our testimony.

1Pe 2:9  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Ezra 5: Taking the Appropriate Approach

I told you yesterday that we would learn something about appropriate reactions today in Ezra 5. The Israelites had been falsely accused of trying to start a revolution. They were now facing military danger because of these false charges.

However, even though I imagine they must have been a little bit upset, their reaction was the kind of reaction that we need to strive for.

Ezr 5:3  At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?

Ezr 5:4  Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?

Ezr 5:5  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.

They went right back to the Persian court. They knew that there was a way that they could prove they were right without confrontation. They wrote a very polite letter that basically said that the Israelites knew that they had been given royal permission, and if anyone wanted to double check, they could search to find that while document that gave them this permission.

It was an all-around pleasant affair. However, it was also firm. The people of Israel knew that they were right, and their letter never wavered. Their tone was also polite. They probably figured that there was very little to be gained by yelling about the injustice. All that would have served to do was irritate everyone else and maybe even create a less favorable situation.

For application in our lives, it is important to remember that our reactions are important. We never have to give up our stance on truth. As you can see here, Israel did not soften that whatsoever. They realized that politeness and tact were in order for the situation to accompany that truth.

We need to remember this as we interact with other people on a daily basis.

Ezra 4: We Do Not Repay Evil with Evil

Ezra 4 would frustrate me. For one thing, the other cities made up a totally fake story just to discredit what Israel was doing in Jerusalem. They told the king of Persia that they were building up a rebellion and would no longer want to pay tribute to Persia.

We have no record that that was anywhere near remotely true. The only reason it seems that they made up these charges was because the Jewish people would not allow them to help build the Temple.

Ezr 4:2  Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.

Ezr 4:3  But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.

Nevertheless, when the false charges came up, the Persian king gave all of these rivals permission to go and force the people of Israel to stop rebuilding the city.

All of this happened because of a total lie that was retaliatory.

I think that all of us can relate to this on some level. People might make up a false story about us for some external purpose. Maybe they want to get that promotion ahead of us, or maybe they want to knock down our popularity for the benefit of their own.

They are not right to do that, and the Ten Commandments themselves tell us not to bear false witness. However, we cannot force other people to act morally. We can only make sure that we do not retaliate in a similar way. We don’t repay evil for evil.

Tomorrow, we will find that how the Israelites responded, so I might just leave you hanging until then on that level.

Ezra 3: Forgiveness Should Not Be Taken Lightly

Ezra 3 finally brings the people back to Jerusalem, and I have to admit that it seemed like they had their priorities right. Immediately, they began working on rebuilding the Temple, and by the end of the chapter, the foundation had been laid and the altar had been built.

This was obviously a highly emotional time for the Israelites though. There was a lot of joy mixed with a lot of sorrow.

Ezr 3:11  And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Ezr 3:12  But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:

Ezr 3:13  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.

Of course, this was a happy occasion but also one that brought back tears. I am obviously not entirely sure why they were crying, but I have a few potential ideas.

They could have been weeping over the lost opportunity. Maybe they realized how wrong the people had been 70 years ago. Maybe they couldn’t believe how they had allowed themselves to wander so far from God.

Along with that must have come the realization that God is incredibly merciful. Despite all of the wandering and bad behavior, God had not forgotten His people. Recognizing our sin nature and then the forgiving nature of God is certainly a powerful contrast that could have moved their emotions.

You know, this can be kind of a metaphor. We are removed from where we should have been because of our sin nature. It is something that we are born with. We then spend time away from the ideal location and in captivity to sin. However, because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can be brought back to God just like the Israelites were because of His love and mercy.

I know it is not a perfect metaphor, but forgiveness is a huge deal and should not be taken lightly. Realizing that we are separated from God but can be reconciled should be a pretty emotional thought.

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.