Tag Archives: Ezra

Morning Thoughts (Ezra 9:13-14)

Morning ThoughtsEzra 9:13-14, “And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?”

This morning, there are a great many things changing quite quickly. In America these days, people are wondering what the future holds. Some live in doom and gloom wondering “how bad can it get?” However, no matter what happens daily as the courses of the natural realm come and go, certain realities and truths are timeless. These truisms are not “generally true” as so many aspects of life can be. These truisms are “absolutely true” since they are founded by the mouth of One that absolutely and fundamentally never changes: God Himself. While people on the fatalist end of the spectrum have taken God’s actions too far, we need to understand that God works in certainties based on the power and authority of His person. If He speaks, it is done. If he commands, it stands fast. (Psalm 33:9) Therefore, let us look at the absolute truths of this text, and see what lessons we can learn for our lives today.

The setting for our verses refers to an interesting time in the history of the Jews. During the life of Jeremiah the prophet, the land of Judah was overrun by the Babylonian empire to suffer and endure 70 years of captivity as the mouth of the Lord spoke in the close of II Chronicles 36. After Babylon was overtaken by the next world power (Medes and Persians), the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem by the decree of Cyrus the king. It was during this period of restoring the city of Jerusalem and the temple that men like Ezra and Nehemiah lived and wrote their respective books. However, during the process of rebuilding, some of the people mingled themselves with the idolatrous people of the land. These unions and the children they bore yielded a great wrong as the idolaters led the Jews into idolatry, and that point rings true today. The good hanging around the bad do not make the bad good. Rather, the bad make the good bad. (I Corinthians 15:33)

The first absolute truth (no matter the context or application) is that God has “punished us less than our iniquities deserve.” Whether speaking the realm of eternity or time, we do not experience the fulness of the wrath that our wrongs deserve. Speaking of eternal matters, what we deserved, God laid upon the darling head of His Dear Son. (Isaiah 53) What was justly ours to endure, He endured willingly and joyfully for us, simply because He loved us so. Speaking of timely matters, we deserve to have much more chastening and affliction than we have. God has mercifully given us so much in timely blessings that no matter what chastening we experience from Him, none of us can say, “That whipping could not have been any worse.” All of my chastening has been far less than I deserved, and therefore, I should never grow angry with the Lord over my experience here. Job endured far worse than I have and could in good grace say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

The next absolute truth builds upon the first one: He gives such deliverance as this. Ezra was speaking primarily from a temporal aspect that he and his companions should be so blessed to be able to see their homeland again. Captivity had ended, and they got to be partakers in the building and restoration effort. That was a great deliverance – and even though we could talk again about eternal deliverance too, we will regulate this section to the timely blessings of the land – which we have insights into today. God has blessed us with a land in our time. True, most of us that I know have been blessed to live in such a free land as America, but our better land while here pertains to the Lord’s church and vineyard. This land may seem like nothing in the eyes of the world (like Jerusalem was seen as a ruined city then), but it is a precious deliverance to be able to say that we have seen such a land as this.

How do we merit this land? Is it simply because we deserved it? Absolutely not! The previous truism shows that our deliverance to this land was not based on desserts as the Lord punishes less than we deserve. If he did not, none of us would ever see the church as we do not deserve such a great land. As an aside, I will say that the Lord expects obedience and faithfulness to those in the land, as He expected it in that day from Ezra and his brethren. However, Ezra’s return to Judah was not his just desserts but a blessing and mercy from the Almighty. Those of us today who have been blessed to see and experience the rich fragrance and elegant fruits of the Lord’s garden need to remember that God has given us such a deliverance as this so that our toils and labours here have a measure of relief to them.

The next truism stings harder than most truths do for me: should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? No man, woman, or child is without excuse for breaking God’s commandments, for God even commands the non-elect to uprightness. He will judge them for their lack of it in “the books” according to “their works” from Revelation 20. What stings for me is that I have sinned so greatly and abominably after I knew better. A lot of times growing up, I would get spankings and suffer consequences for doing things wrong, but the greatest sting came when the chastening was preceded by these words from Dad, “Son, you knew better than this.”

Oh how much greater the sting, when the Almighty speaks through the conscience to say, “Child, you knew better than this!” How could people such as we are who have been not only quickened by God’s grace but also blessed to have His word, see His truth, rejoice in His Son, and glory in His goodness still fall so easily to the affinities of this old world? Yet we do again and again! Just as they joined themselves in marriages to idolatrous people of the lands, we so often join our affinities and attention to a union with the things of this world. These affinities turn our minds from God and eventually lead our children to speak more of the world’s language without a good knowledge of God’s language – much like the children of these unions did.

The logical question to our continued wrongdoing would be: wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? These questions are actually answered in verse 15, but let us consider them in question form to draw out some more absolute truths. Firstly, does the Lord get angry with us? Scripture undeniably affirms this as just a cursory reading of His dealings with Israel in the wilderness under Moses will show. However, that anger never leads to an absolute consumption. God does absolutely get angry with us for wrongdoing, and we should never think that heaven views the affairs of life with complete indifference. He smiles upon goodness, and frowns in anger over wickedness. Yet, God’s anger still fits within a subset of the other absolute truth of not punishing us as we deserve.

Will there ever be a time without a remnant or escape is the question that troubles Ezra over their present state. Since God had already blessed them with such a great deliverance, had they “blown if completely forever?” Now, to answer that question, we must consider some other great truths. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that with every temptation we encounter there is a way to escape somewhere. We do not always utilize it, but the escape is there. God never leaves us in a completely impossible situation with no way out. If we feel completely hedged in, we need to pray that He open our eyes as there is escape somewhere, and the answer to that portion of the question must be met with a resounding, “No!”

The truism of the “remnant” is a very interesting thought, and one page after page could be written about. The simple answer is that “no, God will not leave the world without a remnant” as the next verse shows. However, to see this “remnant” in the proper light, we must understand a few things. 1. The remnant will not always appear like some would expect. For example, the Jews thought the remnant would always be Jewish, which history has shown to not be the case. 2. The remnant will not always reside at a particular location. For example, the Lord’s central housing of the remnant is no longer Jerusalem as the pages of history have shown the footsteps of the flock encountering many different regions over time.

By the time that our Lord and Saviour walked these shores, He referenced His church and kingdom far more than He addressed national Israel when He talked about providential preservation. Through promises of “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18) and others like it, we see that God will not leave this world without a shining light of the remnant. Though the faces changes and locations change, the providential protection of the Lord will manifest that no matter the circumstance or season a remnant will be present telling every generation following, “The Lord hath done this.” (Psalm 22:31)

Beloved, though Ezra penned these words many centuries ago, the force of the thoughts are just as weighty today as they were then. God has not changed, and therefore, these principles remain ever sure and steadfast. So, how should these thoughts touch our existence here? Knowing that God punishes us less than we deserve – and the flip side of blessing us with deliverance that is so great – we should reserve our lives in more holiness to Him. Though we still stumble as frail creatures of dust, we should strive to leave off the affinities of this present world more than we ever have. Though failure comes, we should double our efforts every day to “do better than we ever have before.”

Finally, we should take the comfort and solace that God has not, does not, and will not cast away His people that He loves from His sight. The remnant of faithful bands will continue in this world as a testimony to this great love and covenant. The remnant’s existence redounds to glorify and underscore the other promises of God, such as this great people and family that He everlastingly loves. If we have been blessed to experience the pleasure and privilege of being part of that remnant, we should value it highly. No other place in this world could be found that is higher, and nothing in this world should be viewed more highly than the blessed land that He has given us to dwell in. Tomorrow, these things will hold true, and verily, as long as the natural realm follows its courses, these truths will endure for every generation following.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Ezra 9:8)

Ezra 9:8, "And now for a little space grace hath been shewed 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 place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage."

This morning, much in this old world gets us down. Satan uses the same cards when playing his game against God's children, and those same cards yield effective results in his warfare against us on a daily basis. Even though our foe is a defeated enemy at the hands of our Captain Jesus Christ, he valiantly attempts daily campaigns against us,oftentimes with much success. Discouragement continues to be an effective card in the devil's hand that raises its ugly head on a daily and consistent basis. Bad things are going to happen in this world. With the presence of sin still very much manifested in the works of the flesh, corruption, misery, and associated sorrow from these things will remain until the Lord Jesus mercifully says that time shall be no more. Yet, while we do not "get happy" when unpleasantness transpires in our life, we should still not allow Satan to steal our rejoicing in the Lord by falling down when he plays the card of discouragement in our lives.

Our study verse above comes during an interesting time in Israel's history. Ezra, Nehemiah, and others were part of a small remnant of Israelite descendants that are going to emerge as the captivity of their nation comes to an end. By God's judgment, Judah (and even a trace of old Israel) were carried into Babylonian captivity for seventy years (see II Chronicles 36). When Babylon was eventually overrun by the Medes and Persians in the book of Daniel, the time of captivity was nearing its end. Finally, a king named Cyrus proclaims that these Jews could return to Canaan's Land, and the work to restore the wall of Jerusalem and their lost city began. Ezra and Nehemiah were two of the leaders during this campaign.

Yet, even though God had blessed these few to return again to their homeland, wickedness still reared its ugly head. God had forbade the children of Israel from marrying certain nations of people. The reason for this prohibition was that those idolatrous nations would turn the heart of Israel unto other gods. If anyone might doubt this inevitable result, just view the latter-end of Solomon's life to see how idolatrous women stole his heart from following after the Lord. Today, our hearts can equally be stolen away by people who follow after idols. They may not bow down to idols of gold and silver, but they worship in grand arenas with much entertainment. Their idol is whatever hinders their service to God, and should our path "run with theirs," our hearts will be stolen away to follow after their idols. As an aside, have you ever heard someone justify their associations by saying, "Well, I want to be a good influence on them?" If a good apple stays in a bad barrel long enough, I have never seen a good apple make other apples good, but I have repeatedly seen bad apples make good apples go bad.

Therefore, amid this great time of restoration and rebuilding, the people of God stumbled again into error. Even though God's merciful hand had blessed them in this effort – even in the face of many adversaries – they forgot the Lord and did what "they wanted to do." So, Ezra makes this statement in our verse above about their situation. His attitude shows a great lesson and good example for us today. Sure, Ezra could have gotten discouraged, laid down, or thrown up his hands, but he chose a different path.

Ezra acknowledges the fact that the reason a remnant is left is by the grace of Almighty God. When we continue to see a remnant today following after the Lord in spirit and in truth being given a nail in a sure place, we should acknowledge the wonderful grace of God to us. One of the most hitting statements to my soul during a worship service came at the tail-end of a glorious three day meeting. The final sermon was being delivered, and it was like the cherry atop a beautifully made and deliciously tasting sundae. The statement came, "We have had a wonderful meeting, but you don't deserve it and neither do I." Truly, the Lord was pleased with all of the efforts we made that weekend to worship Him, but when you count how good He is to us during times like that, there is no way to make an equal comparison or ratio. He puts in exceeding abundantly above any effort of ours.

Why are these people back in their home country? God mercifully granted them release from bondage and escape back home. Why does the church still continue in this old earth today? God mercifully and providentially keeps her (despite our failings) to bless a remnant with His most special of blessings. Yet, knowing all of those things, Ezra still understood something else that must constantly be sought after. His last clause is one that carries over into the next verse (Verse 9). He mentions reviving from the hand of our God.

People today like to talk about revivals. They are special times that people have for different reasons. Oftentimes, people think that revival means "giving of life." Certainly in some cases – even Biblical cases – that definition is valid. (I Kings 17:22) Yet, most of the time, the word does not mean to give life, but oftentimes – as in our verse above – it means the "preservation, sustenance, or the good part of life." One lexicon/study aid that I have (Gesenius) actually uses an interesting illustration to make the point. To illustrate the good part of life that "reviving" gives, it says, "the most fresh and raw place for a leprous spot or cancerous tumour." In other words, it is at the most prosperous place for that sickness. How does that transform into our verse? Ezra attributes God's continuing and abiding presence as the best part of their life and circumstance. Having that sense and feeling is the true and real spirit of reviving or revival.

The lesson for us today – as it was for Ezra then – is not to get cast down and discouraged when so many bad things happen. People today (myself included) lament the fact that scores of people seem disinterested in spiritual things. As congregation sizes dwindle, spirituality seems dried up in some, the first love is lost in others, and people only see the bad instead of the multiplied good in church settings, it is enough fodder to make us discouraged and want to lay down.

For those examples above and many others that we could list, we should pray that reviving be found in their hearts, but also for ours as well. May we continually see that God's presence with us – particularly in the setting that Ezra describes as the remnant that is standing in liberty and not bound in bondage – is the "sweet spot" in our lives. How do we feel about the church today? What sense do we get from going up to worship in the house of God? How do we approach those times of Bible reading and study or private prayer to God? These moments are our feast times with the Lord, and our hearts should look up and forward to these times like the standing corn perks up in reviving during rain. Ezra certainly bemoaned the state of these horrible and wicked marriages, particularly at such a time in the face of God's rich mercy. Yet, he still looked up to the hills from whence his help came. (Psalm 121:1)

Briefly noting the language of verse 9, Ezra attributes reviving most of all to having this homeland to go to (even though it was desolate at the time). We will never have to re-build the house of God or the wall of Jerusalem as they did then. (Isaiah 33:20) Yet, even though they were in a more difficult situation then than we have today in having to rebuild it, they still saw their circumstance as a reviiving from their previous condition. How do we view the church today? Do we remember what she looked like when we first came out of Babylon (the world)? Do we remember how she first felt to us? When we can recall to mind that "first love" or "earliest love" feeling, we experience the reviving (sweet spot) that our spiritual walk so desperately needs. In closing, I relate a phrase I learned as a boy that now often comes from my lips, for every day I feel the sense of it more and more. "I need the church way more than she needs me. I am but one man inside her walls, but she is the strong city and defense for my soul in a cold dark world."

In Hope,

Bro Philip