Friday, February 27, 2009

Nehemiah Introduction

Nehemiah 1:1 "The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the Palace,"...

So begins the book of Nehemiah, a prophet, a statesman, governor, restorer, cupbearer to the king and a devout Jew.

Nehemiah followed Ezra by fourteen years according to my Scofield reference Bible. He went up to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2 Neh 7:7) .

The book of Nehemiah is the 16th of the Old Testament. He helped Ezra reestablish the law and build the wall.

The effort to rebuild Jerusalem is marked by opposition from man of his countrymen.

Scofield gives a number of divisions of the book of Nehemiah: journey to Jerusalem, building of wall, census, revival, dedication, restoration and legal order restored.

King Artexerxes was in charge at the time and allowed Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem.

Like a true man of God, Nehemiah's efforts start with a prayer meeting.

Nehemiah 1:5-6 "And said, I beseech thee O LORD God of heaven the great and terrible God that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned." ...

There is more to the prayer and the first chapter ends with "...For I was the king's cupbearer."

Being a cupbearer was a very high position with the king. It is not mentioned here but we have all heard the stories of how the king would have someone taste his wine before he drank it to see if the wine had been poisoned. Nehemiah does not mention tasting it but I suspect it was a possibility. There were always people who wanted throne and many in history have taken the throne from a family member by less that loving means.

Jeremiah 51:53 "Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from me shall spoilers come unto her, saith the LORD."

Nehemiah , the kings cupbearer, goes to Jerusalem.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pass the Word

As we leave Ezra and start Nehemiah, we have taken a long journey since 2006, from Genesis and the sin of Adam and Eve to the forming of a special nation and the calling out of a special people. We now know that it was from this nation that the author of our salvation came. Jesus Christ walked the hills and valleys many centuries with his angels and guiding and protecting Israel. We have come down to a small remnant that wishes to serve Him but it is enough and the promise of salvation is still there. When Jesus came in the flesh, he was very familiar with the geography of Israel. We have found him all over, from the mulberry trees to the myrtles, from talking to Joshua to speaking through the prophets. So if you know someone who might want to take this journey with us, please send them a note. Thank you for stopping by.

Action Ezra 10

Ezra 10:10 "And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. v11 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."

Israel had been told not to intermingle with the people of Canaan, yet they did to the point of marrying them and having children. The problem is the people of Canaan worshipped idols. It seems to always be the case that when a wife who worships idols is involved, that the husband is swayed toward that worship. Even Solomon built some places for his wives that were not pleasing to God.

Isaiah 1:4 "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward."

It was a day of much rain and the people sat in the streets. See 1 Samuel 12:18 . They decided the matter would take a long time to resolve so they appointed a time that the leaders would get together and speak for the people.

v19 "And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass."

I know it was tough to do that. The fact is, the LORD told them not to marry the locals before they did it. I suppose some of the wives may have come from Babylon as well. Israel was picked by the LORD to be special. They were worshippers of only one God and were given a special place to live. The LORD expected them to follow the law.

So a list is given in the last part of this chapter. We will now go on to Nehemiah. He too had a great part in building the wall of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 2:5 "Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?"

Strange wives are put away.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Confession Ezra 9

Ezra 9:8 "And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage."

Just a note. A nail was a very important object in these times. It was used, of course, to hold things together like wood. But even in my child hood, a nail was important to hang things on. We did not have fancy clothes racks and such, we'd drive in some nails in a row and hang our clothes there. Sure they got wrinkled but the cows, pigs and chickens didn't care.

The most important part of this verse to me, is 'a little space, grace' . Without grace we would all be in trouble.

v3 "And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished."

Ezra has made the journey to Jerusalem but now has found out that the people had married people of the land which was expressly forbidden under the law. His word astonished, is a good description of how he felt. He then confesses the sin to God and wonders how God can show grace and mercy to such a people.

v6 "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."

There is a time, for a Christian, when we come face to face with our sin. It is when we are under, what is called, conviction. The Holy Spirit of God reveals to us our lost state. We know then that nothing we can do will bring us into reconciliation with God. We are altogether sinful. That is when we realize that Jesus is the only answer. He made the ultimate sacrifice for sin and was himself sinless, so he could represent, take our place, in the debt we owed for sin. That is why Ezra mentions 'grace' (unmerited favor). He realized it was not anything good they had done that they were brought back to Jerusalem but wholly because of God's grace.

The state of Jerusalem represented the spiritual state of Israel.

Nehemiah 2:17 "Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire; come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach."

Ezra 9:15 "O LORD God of Israel, thou are righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses; for we cannot stand before thee because of this."

Thank God for Grace. Refer to New Testament: Romans, Hebrews and others.

Ezra acknowledges the sin of the people.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Down by the River Ezra 8

Ezra 8:15 "And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people and the priests and found there none of the sons of Levi."

Ezra is setting off on his journey with Artaxerxes', the king, approval. He is gathering those he will take with him and found that there were no Levi's among them. They needed the Levi's to offer sacrifices and do service in the house of the LORD as prescribed by Moses.

v17 "And I sent the with commandment unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia and I told them what they should say unto Iddo and to his brethren the Nethinims, at the place Casiphia that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God."

I am not sure who Iddo was but he had a lot of pull in the neighborhood. So did Ezra.

v18 "And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding..."

Also, a number of other people to minister, as Ezra requested. Once Ezra had the right people to go up to Jerusalem with him, he made the effort to prepare them and to seek the LORD. He declared a fast.

v21 "Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance."

The situation is this, they were traveling with their family and with the treasures for the house of the LORD. There were reasons for highway robbers to be interested in attacking them. Ezra separated men to take the treasure and to guard it safely to Jerusalem. Ezra did not want to ask for the kings help because he had already told the king that God would care for them.

v23 "So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us."

v31 "Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way."

We are seeing names we remember from previous studies i.e. Eleazar, Phinehas.

Included in this chapter is the genealogy of those who went up to Jerusalem and the amount of the sacrifices made: i.e. 96 rams, 77 lambs, etc. It was a big event.

Zechariah 4:6 "Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."

Ezra gathers his company to go to Jerusalem.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ezra's Authority Ezra 7

v6 "This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him."

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, gave Ezra the authority to take anyone who wanted to go with him, to Jerusalem. He also had legal authority to exact judgment on anyone who hindered or did not obey his commands in building the house of the LORD. He also had authority over the treasures to be taken to Jerusalem. It was a monumental task and the LORD had put in the heart of the king to give him the monumental power to fulfill the task. Ezra traced his roots all the way back to Aaron. He also studied to know the law.

v10 "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments."

We must remember that it has been 70 years. Many of those carried away have died and their children were raised in a foreign land. They probably were not all taught the law.

Here is the blank check given to Ezra

v18 "And whatsoever shall seem good to thee and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God."

v23 "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?

Ezra does not take credit for getting all this accomplished.

v27 "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. v28 And hath extended mercy unto me..."

Ezra was a scribe, although I have had trouble figuring out the sequence of events and kings, it seems to me that the first part of Ezra is Ezra's description of what happened, then in this chapter he starts to tell the story from a personal point-of-view. I am not sure about that though.

Zechariah 6:15 "And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts, hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God."

Ezra's authority to build the temple.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Decree to Build Ezra 6

Ezra 6:1 "Then Darius the king made a decree and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon."

This search was made in response to the letter where the counselors complained that the building had started again and also to see if there was an order from Cyrus as the Jews said.

It resulted in finding the roll giving the order. That was one decree. The other decree, the main one came from the LORD of hosts and we have touched on it in the books of Haggai and Zechariah.

The house of the LORD was to have an amazing foundation as described in King Cyrus' decree. v3-4 "In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits; With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber; and let the expenses be given out of the king's house;"

A cubit is about 18 inches or actually 18 inches. So you would add 1/2 foot to each number making the foundation 90 feet high and 90 feet wide. That is a strong foundation. The church is built on such a foundation where Jesus is the chief cornerstone.

Not only did the governors have to let the Jews build the temple but they had to pay their expenses while they did so. (I wonder if those lawyers got fired.)

v8 "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."

Just one more thing. To enforce these two decrees, the king placed a penalty of death on anyone who tried to stop the building.

v11 "Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon, and let his house be made a dunghill for this."

So the building went forward unhindered and the elders setup the sacrifices and people in their proper offices.

v15 "And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king,"

So once the legal matter was settled, it took about 4 years to finished the house of God.

Zechariah 2:10 "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for lo I come and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD."

Temple rebuilding is finished.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Building Resumed Ezra 5

Ezra 5:1 "Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.

We will need to look at parts of these two books of the Bible to see what they said. They are located near the end of the Old Testament just before Malachi.

v2 "Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them."

At this time it seems there were four men working on the temple: Haggai, Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Joshua in the mentioned books).

Then came the adversaries and confronted the builders wanting to know who told them they could start building again. Remember Cyrus told them to do so, then Artaxerxes stopped them after the governors told the king that it would take away his revenue. Now Darius is on the throne and the LORD has encamped at Jerusalem to see to the building.

v5 "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."

The letter to Darius from the counselors of the governors included the report that building had resumed against the orders of the previous king but it also included the testimony of the elders who told how Cyrus had ordered the building of the temple. It included a challenge to the king to search the records to see whether it was true. This goes to a legal term called a precedent. It means that if it has been done in the past by law makers, it can be done again based on that action, or something like that.

v17 "Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king's treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter."

The counselors asked for a ruling from the judge, in this case the king. The answer in the next chapter is not what they were expecting and dramatically turned the tide in favor of the children of Israel.

Ezra shows us what is happening in the physical world. Behind the scenes, so to speak, there is also action which we have to go to the prophets to find. As example, we will look at some verses in Zechariah:

The Lord speaking: Zechariah 1:15 "And I am sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction." The LORD intended to punish his people for their sin, he used the other nation to do so, but he was not pleased when they took it on themselves to increase the punishment.

v16 "Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem."

These chapters are very interesting: We have the LORD of Hosts, two angels and a prophet talking.

Chapter 2:3 "And behold the angel that talked with me went forth and another angel went out to meet him v4 And said unto him Run, speak to this young man, saying Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein. v5 For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her."

The tide has turned away from the heathen and in favor of the builders. Of course, it was the LORD who made the difference. We will close with this verse from Chapter 3:8 "For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.

Temple work resumes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adversaries Ezra 4

Ezra 4:1 "Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; v2 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."

That sounds good on the surface. These people were brought in to possess the land while Israel was in captivity. They were not loyal to the nation Israel but to their own purses. I do not know what their motive was for asking to help but I think it was not out of worship. When they were told they could not help, they got together with their lawyers to stop the work which tells me they were not for it in the first place.

v5 "And hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even unto the reign of Darius king of Persia."

Lawyers can sure drag things out even if they do not have a case. It just takes having the money to pay them. Now, sometimes a lawyer is good if you are going up against a lawyer. Judges like having those who can talk legal jargon. But that is a subject for another day and another place. Nevertheless, it was a hindrance for Israel in building the temple.

v7 "And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia, and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue."

The letter is full of double talk and truth mixed with untruths but the essence of it was that having the temple built would give rise to a great nation that would take away the revenue the king was getting. And also the tribute these people were getting as well.

v16 "We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river."

King Artaxerxes got the message and stopped the building. So for a time the work did not go forward but the prophecy would be fulfilled and incredibly, the people would end up getting paid to do the building. It reminds me of when Moses' mother ended up raising her son for Pharaoh's daughter, at least for a while.

Jeremiah 29:12 "Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you."

Work on temple is stopped for a time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Temple Foundation Ezra 3

Ezra 3:10 "And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel."

Building again the temple was not just erecting any old building. The temple was where the LORD had chosen to put his name. Besides the place where offerings were made for the sins of the people, the temple symbolized the nation Israel. When the temple was torn down and Jerusalem destroyed (the walls and gates and many houses), symbolically, it was the end of the nation Israel. Now, the LORD remembers those he has scattered (because of their sin) and this is among the first steps of bringing them back. We have dealt with and will again, king Nebuchadnezzar who took the children of Israel away into captivity. Cyrus who ordered the rebuilding, Artaxeres and Darius. It was not a small thing for a band of Jews to go back into Israel and began laying the foundation of the temple amidst those who were having a good time reaping profits from the land.

v3 "And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening."

There were some prominent men who led the building. Jeshua, Zerubbabel, Kadmiel and no doubt others. But note is made that these men stood up. Then they got the building started.

So the foundation was laid and they rejoiced with song and shouts of joy. There were some very old men there who remembered the glory of the original temple. They had different feelings:

v12 "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."

So there was a mixed reaction but overall, the shout of joy made it impossible to distinguish the sounds of sadness. We cannot always wait for past glory before we rejoice, things seldom are like they use to be.

v13 "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."

That noise heard afar off will bring them trouble in the next chapter.

Zechariah 4:6 "Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."

Temple foundation is laid after the return from captivity.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Genealogy Ezra 2

Ezra 2:1 "Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, everyone unto his city;"

This chapter is primarily a listing of those who went to Judah out of the captivity. It list families, Levites, singers, porters and so on.

It is important to have these records because the land to be reclaimed must have evidence from those claiming it. Certain areas were given to certain families. Some were not authenticated and so this is said of them.

"v61 and 62 "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; 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."

This was like another exodus with so many people heading out for Judah. Look at the numbers.

v64 "The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and three score, v65 Besides their servants and their maids of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women."

Add to these people their animals and it is a great company. They went first to their cities, I suppose to put up their stuff and dust the furniture.

God said he would bring them back and he is doing so.

Exodus 30:4-5 "If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou salt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers."

Returning from the captivity.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

King Cyrus Speaks Ezra 1:3

Ezra 1:3 "Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem."

Why would king Cyrus decide to let the Jews go back to Judah for the purpose of building the house of the LORD? Only God could do such a thing.

v2 "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."

I can only imagine the power this man held. It is obvious then as now that the worlds attention is ever focused toward Jerusalem. After all, it is where the LORD put his name.

Some wanted to stay where they were but others decided to go do the work.

v6 "And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered."

This captivity was not like the slavery of Egypt. These Jews were doing pretty good or else they would not have had these treasures to bestow on those who were going to Jerusalem. It was a massive amount of treasure in precious metals and livestock.

-thirty chargers of gold
-a thousand chargers of silver
-twenty-nine knives
-thirty basins of gold,
-410 basins of silver
-and other vessels

v11 "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."

Isaiah 44:28 "That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid."

Isaiah 45:3 "And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel."

Ezra prepares the journey back to Judah.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ezra (kings of other nations)

To help us under the story, I will list what information I have on the kings of the other nations involved in the captivity and the return to Jerusalem:

Darius: a common name of the time. Darius Hystaspes B.C. 521 was the king of Persia who confirmed the degree of Cyrus concerning building the temple back.

Cyrus: founder of the last great Persian monarch. He allowed the Jews to return home to Judea after he conquered Babylon. B>C> 538 See Isaiah 44:28 also and 45:1-7 Daniel was favored by this king Daniel 6:28.

Artaxerxes: King of Persia. In the seventh year of his reign Ezra went up to Jerusalem. In the fourteenth year Nehemiah went up to rebuild Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar: King of Babylon. B.C. 605-561. Carried away Jews captive. Defeated Egypt. See first 4 chapters of Daniel. Builder including the hanging gardens of Babylon.

I believe we can say that Ezra and his company went to work on the temple while Nehemiah went to work on the city itself. We will discover if that is correct and we study further.

These prophets tell the story from their own perspective. Events could be seen a little differently from where they were but the facts are the same in all the books and they compliment and complete the story of the return to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ezra - Back from Captivity Book Intro

Ezra tells of the return of the Jews from captivity. It is in two parts: 1-6 covers the return of 50,000 under Zerubbabel under the reign of Cyrus. 7-10 covers the return of the colony under Ezra. It deals with building the temple and returning the people to the law, i.e. doing away with intermarriage with none Jews.

Ezra was a priest, probably descended through Caleb. It is said he was also a scholar which would mean he knew the law.

As for the children of Israel, most stayed in the land of the captivity because they were prospering there. Those who returned were a remnant with a heart for God. Those who stayed in Babylon and Assyria did, I think, add to the treasury of those who returned to Palestine to lay the foundation for the temple.

Key Verse: I think, for me this would be the key verse of the book: Ezra 9:8 "And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage."

It is a book of relearning the law and of guilt and repentance for their sin. It goes along with the books of Nehemiah, Ester, Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi.

So after studying the events of the kings and the return after the captivity, we will look at the other side of the events from the prophets view as it happened i.e. the warnings during the time of transgression of the nation and the people.

Ezra: return from captivity.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Johoahaz & Eliakim(johoiakim) II Chronicles 36

II Chronicles 36:1 "Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah and made him king in his father's stead in Jerusalem. v2 Johoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem."

These are fast moving events, Johoahaz was taken prisoner by the king of Egypt after only three months. He installed the brother of Jehozhaz as king and changed his name to Jehoiakim. So it depends on whose history you read what the kings name will show up as. It is much like those taken in captivity where their names were changed, probably to take away their Hebrew distinction, perhaps to nationalize them.

v5 "Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. "

Nebuchadnezczar came on the scene then. He took Jehoiakim and bound him and carried him away to Babylon. Then came Jehoiachin was made king.

v9 "Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD."

We are seeing the greatness of Israel and Judah disappear. They are easily invaded by other nations and the kingships are short and unproductive. It is what God told them would happen if they turned away from Him. There was another king who reigned. His name was Zedekiah in v11 who reigned 11 years. Jeremiah was sent to him but he did not humble himself.

v16 "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."

The Chaldees invaded and killed many. The vessels of the house of God were taken. Those who escaped the sword were carried away to Babylon.

The land is left untended for for its sabbaths. It was 70 years.

v21 "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."

Jeremiah 2:13 "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."

We have largely looked at the events that took place under all the various kings of Judah here in Chronicles and Israel in the Kings. In the books of the prophets, we see the seemingly endless warnings given by God to his people to turn from evil and honor Him. In the prophets we can see words that show the disappointment and heartbreak of the LORD over his chosen people's sin.

Jeremiah 25:9 "Behold I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations."

Next we have king Cyrus, king of Persia who has been told to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem and ask for those willing to go up to Jerusalem to do the work. We are going into the book of Ezra next.

v23 "Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah, Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up." See Daniel 2:21

Psalm 42:1 "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."

The last kings and fall of the nation Judah.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Josiah II Chronicles 35

II Chronicles 35:1 "Moreover Josiah kept a passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month."
The passover represents the deliverance of the firstborn while the children of Israel were in Egypt. Blood from the lamb was splashed on the door post and mantle. This prevented the death angel from entering. The passover also represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.
Josiah honored this command to observe and remember how God had made a way for their deliverance.
v6 "So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses."
v11 "And they killed the passover, and the priests sprinkled the blood from their hands, and the Levites flayed them." It reminds us of the suffering of Christ as they beat him with the cat of nine tails.
v20 "After all this when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Charchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him."
There was some talk between the two kings where Necho warned Josiah to stay out of the war which did not concern him but Josiah remained to help Charchemish. Josiah was injured and later died at home.
v23 "And the archers shot at king Josiah and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.
So Josiah was taken home before the people were taken into captivity. It was the promise God had made to him, that he would not see the judgment to come.
Psalm 95:1 "O come let us sing unto the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation."
Josiah observes the passover and later dies in battle.

Friday, February 06, 2009


As we approach the end of II Chronicles, we can look back and see the long journey we have taken since 2006. We have but studied the Bible to seek an understanding of what took place. For Israel (and the world) it has been a long journey through time. As a result of the sin in the garden, man has been separated from God. Sin placed a barrier before us to keep us from the close personal relationship Adam and Eve had at the beginning. Much of our study has been about the building and actions of the nation Israel. The world has not been forgotten. The sin barrier has not been forgotten. The story of the nation Israel is also the story of the promised salvation for all humankind. It shows us our helplessness to deal with sin on our own. He shows us that even with explicit rules we still ere toward sin. So what is the answer? It was to change the heart of man. Man's sin must be reconciled before we can stand before God in full fellowship. We are all sinners because the inclination to sin runs in our veins. It is genetic, it is passed down to us through the blood of our fathers. So if we cannot deal with this sin that leads us away from God, there must be another answer. ONE who does not have the sin nature must fulfill the penalty that we all face for sin. If there could be one who could stand before God and offer payment for sin then we would be forgiven, the sin debt paid and fellowship restored. In a sinful world where Satan tempts and distorts and tries to taunt God by hurting man, a plan is developing. Israel was chosen by God to be his people but also to bring salvation and fellowship with God back to people. I have likened Israel to a pregnant lady who bears within a promise that would be delivered in time. We have learned about sacrifices, priests and kings. Christ would be all three. One king tried to be priest also but was found unworthy. Only God himself was pure enough to live a sinless life and pay the price for sin. HE paid the price for Adam's sin and those that followed. And so, these books we are studying in the Old Testament are not just a story but a teaching of how the plan came about. You can see how Satan tried to corrupt the nation Israel and foul the plan. As we approach the captivities, it seems the plan of God is lost. Later we will see how a remnant still believed in God and were brought back for a time so that Christ could be born in Israel. It is a magnificent story. God brought his plan for salvation about even amidst a troubled world. The plan is in place and salvation is a reality. It is now possible to not just have the law written on paper, doorpost and other places but in our heart where Christ will dwell if one simply ask him to do so.

Josiah II Chronicles 34

II Chronicles 34:1 "Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. v2 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."

Josiah was very young when he started to reign. It does not say here but he must have had someone guiding him in the tasks of the king. His life was very systematic so far as his growth was concerned.

v3 "For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images."

He was sixteen when he turned to the LORD on a personal level. That says a lot for him when he had the authority and riches of a king to play around with but he choose to follow God and seek his will. Then when he was twenty, he shook up the kingdom by exerting his authority as king and working to do away with idol worship.

v8 "Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land, and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God.

Important to note here the last part of the verse: "...his God." He did not say the God of Israel, thou he is, but his own personal God. So Josiah found the God he was seeking when he was sixteen.

Something happened when they were repairing the house of the LORD. Hikiah the priest found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses. v14 It was given to Shaphan who gave it to the king. Honestly, I do not know how a people such as Israel who were schooled in the wilderness from the very lips of God could loose the book of law that Moses had written down but they did. It was put aside when they turned to idols and apparently got covered over. Now it is found.

Josiah did not hesitate. He found out what was in the book and realized that they had sinned against God by not following the law written in the book. He took action.

The king was distressed over the pronouncements of the book which described the punishment for Israel for turning away from God. But the LORD was touched by Josiah and told him he would die and not see all that took place.

v27 "Because thine heart was tender and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, ...I have even heard thee also saith the LORD."

So Josiah read the book to the people, further cleaned up the land of idol worship and caused the people to honor the law. "...And all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers."

Psalm 149:4 "For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation."

Josiah, a very good king, follows God at a young age and does not turn aside.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Manasseh II Chronicles 33

II Chronicles 33:1 "Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem;" See II Kings 21:1 also

It seems a long time for a bad king to reign but there is a difference with Manasseh. He turned his life around by humbling himself before God.

v2 "But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel."

He did the usual stuff but with a lot of enthusiasm.
v3 "For he built again the high places... v4 Also he built altars in the house of the LORD... v5 And he built altars the two courts... v6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire...observed times, and used enchantments...witchcraft...v7 And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made in the house of God..."

He tried about everything that was against the teachings of the law, so it appears. He did not get away with it though.

v10 "And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people; but they would not hearken. v11 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."

Manasseh had a good example in Hezekiah but there must have been other influences in his life. It is often the case when a man of God is off busy with the LORD's work, his children take advantage of his absence to do mischief. Most grow out of it and return to their teachings, some do not.

v12 "And when he was in affliction he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. v13 And prayed..."

God heard and brought him back to his homeland where he tried to undo all the evil he had done such as set up the idols. He started out really bad but ended up trying to honor God.

He had a son named Amon who started to reign at 22 years old but did evil. He reigned only two years before his servants killed him who in turn lost their lives to the people. Instead of humbling himself as his father did v23 "...Amon trespassed more and more."

Isaiah 32:1 "Behold a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment."

Manasseh humbles himself before the Lord.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hezekiah Part 4 II Chronicles 32

II Chronicles 32:1 "After these things and the establishment thereof, Sennach'e-rib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities and thought to win them for himself."

Sennacherib stayed at a place called Lachish and sent his servant to carry his message to king Hezekiah. This in itself seems like an insult to king Hezekiah that another king would send a servant instead of coming himself. It may have be a ploy to lower Hezekiah to a servants level. His reasons are not mentioned here. When I saw the name Senacherib (and there is no spiritual insight here) I could not help but think it sounded like snatch-a-rib which I thought was funny.

Anyway the servant came to Jerusalem and started out telling how Hezekiah had done away with all the high places and idols and so the people had no gods to pray to for deliverance. He bragged about all the other nations they had destroyed who gods of their own, which seems a contradiction to me. Then he made a grave mistake, he bundled the true God with the false gods and railed against him.

v10 Thus saith, Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?" Then he asks a bunch of questions like the serpent did in the garden of Eden.

v11 "Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst... v12 Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars...v13 Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? v14 Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people...v15 much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?"

The man was full of questions. It was all an effort to dishearten the people and turn them against their king and their God. Hezekiah did the best thing, he called a prayer meeting.

v20 "And for this cause Hezekiah the king and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven."

v21 "And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword."

After this Hezekiah became sick but prayed for more years and was given 15 more. During this time he had a son whose name was Manasseh who started his reign as king at the age of 12.

Hezekiah made some mistakes near the end but in the end he humbled himself and was buried with honors.

Isaiah 48:10 "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."

Hezekiah prays and is delivered from the king of Assyria.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Hezekiah Part 3 II Chronicles 31

II Chronicles 31:1 "Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities."

Now that is a revival. Many will not remember but in the 60's there was such a revival in this country, at least, in the southeast. There was others before but this one I remember. The renewal spread from church to church. It was like one big long revival meeting. Young people got involved and brought their friends. Schools and work places were impacted. I barely remember when I was a child when my folks went house to house in cottage prayer meetings and there were prayer meetings before work in the plants. It is what our country needs today.

v5 "And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. See Exodus 22:29 James 1:18

Spiritual renewal results in physical action. Hezekiah has taken the remnant and brought them back to the law and dedication to the true God of Israel. It will not set well with the idol worshippers who later attack Judah but that will turn out good too.

v20-21 "And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. 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.

The key phrase has to be 'he did it with all his heart'. See also I Kings 15:5, John 1:47, Deut 29:9 I Timothy 4:8.

It was during these times that Isaiah, a prophet who knew Hezekiah, penned some of the most beautiful words of the Bible. Isaiah even got a glimpse of Jesus on the throne of heaven.

Isaiah 6:1 "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. v3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory."

Hezekiah and the people cleanse the land of idols.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Hezekiah Part 2 II Chronicles 30

II Chronicles 30:1 "And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel."

Hezekiah is the king of Judah but he is now reaching out to the whole nation to observe the passover. He is a man with a broader view that just his immediate area. He is considering the law as it applies to all Israel. It is a profound move on his part if you consider the history we have studied concerning the wars and killing between the two nations (or the two divisions of the original nation).

v5 "So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written."

The posts went out and were met with scorn and laughter in Israel. Yet it did have some effect for many showed up from these places, although not as a unified nation.

v11 "Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem."

They were not disappointed for it was a grand occasion. In fact, it is described as the best event since Solomon's time.

There is a demonstration of grace in this chapter. The LORD was pleased with the effort of his people to honor his commandment by observing the passover. After all, it represented their deliverance from death while judgment was being executed on the firstborn of Egypt.

When some were not cleansed, as they were taught, the LORD heard Hezekiah's prayer for them and healed them so that they could observe the passover. Hezekiah prayed in v18 "...The good LORD pardon everyone."

v20 "And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people." See Exodus 15:26 James 5:16

Hezekiah did not miss the opportunity but had great patience with the Levites who were taxed greatly by all the work involved in preparing the sacrifices.

v22 "And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the LORD:..."

It went so well that they extended it seven more days as Solomon did in I Kings 8:65.

v27 "Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven." See Numbers 6:23

One thing that stands out in the reign of Hezekiah is that there was a lot of praying going on. The Bible plainly says that the LORD heard them.

note: Although the kingdoms of Judah and Israel were often drawn to idols and away from the LORD, there were prophets in the land which warned them and counseled them. Isaiah was available to Hezekiah while Elijah and Elisha were in Israel.

Isaiah 32:17 "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." See Luke 2:14

Hezekiah and the people observe the passover.

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