Old Testament: Ezra 1:1-2:70
Ezra 1:1-2:70 Finding Nebo
You might recall from yesterday’s blog that Ezra 1:1-4 is the same as 2 Chron. 36:22-23. Most likely Ezra wrote Chronicles as well as the book of Ezra. Ezra goes with Nehemiah like love and marriage, like a horse and carriage. It turns out that Haggai and Zechariah go together the same way as we’ll see when we get there. (In fact, if you were to buy Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Ezra, it comes with Haggai and Zechariah in the same volume.) Ezra was a priest and Nehemiah was a layman-cupbearer.
This is cool. Apparently through the witness of Daniel while he was in exile in Persia under the rule of Cyrus, Cyrus became a believer in Yahweh! Extraordinary, right? But the evidence is in this book. In verse 2, Cyrus calls Yahweh the Lord. He believed that his position had come directly from God (“appointed me,” v. 2) and verse 1 says Yahweh had “stirred up” his spirit (cf. 1 Pet. 2:13-17 for the place of rulers as ministers, in a general sense). Ezra is saying that Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 25:12) is being fulfilled by Cyrus, a Gentile ruler. Cyrus is letting the Jews return to their land! His decree allows them to finance the rebuilding of the Temple.
We haven’t gotten there yet but you might already know about the “handwriting on the wall” incident involving Belshazzar and his feast using the holy utensils that Nebuchadnezzar had taken. That night was the night the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon. Cyrus now returned those articles to the Jews to use in their worship (v. 7). Isn’t God amazing?
The number of Jews returning to Israel was total 49,897 people (7,337 servants and maids, 200 singers, 42,360 congregants, cf. McGee). Notice in the midst of all the names is Nebo (v. 29). We found him!
The number of priests was 4,289 and there were 341 Levites, some of whom were singers.
The same listing of people is found in Nehemiah 7. Why? Every person is important to God. The hairs on our heads are numbered (Matt. 10:30). Believers who do God’s will are especially important to God. If you’re reading this, this probably pertains to you!
New Testament: 1 Cor. 1:18-2:5
1 Cor. 1:18-2:5 Christians Stink
I remember that right after I was saved in college in Indiana, the very next day I got in a plane and flew back to New Jersey. I figured everyone would be just as excited about the Lord and the Bible as I was. The fella that led me to the Lord had given me a Reach Out New Testament. I was flashing it all around the plane. Did I mention that I was excited? People were backing off from it like I was waving kyryptonite around Superman. I couldn’t figure it out. Since then I have come to realize that people really don’t want to hear about Jesus or the Bible. As it says in John 1:9-10, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” I guess people, in general, don’t like flashlights in their faces! People know the Bible is about Jesus and just the presence of one can intimidate people.
Paul says something similar in verse 18. The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. In 2 Cor. 2:15, 16 he says to those who don’t believe, Christians stink,”For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.”
The reason that Christians have that peculiar smell and the reason that people move away from a Bible is because both represent Jesus and Jesus represents a Man crucified for their sins. The cross represents a Man crucified for sins. Paul says here that the cross is “foolishness” to the unbelievers (v. 18, 23) and to the “world” (v. 21). Paul quotes Isa. 29:14 to say that God holds man’s wisdom in low regard. “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than me” (v. 25).
Though those in the world might want to boast, we are told to “boast in the Lord,” a quote from Jer. 9:24.
This should be our testimony. Paul said when he came to the Corinthians, he “determined to know-nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul is going to reveal to the Corinthians that the answer to their disunity problem is Jesus.
I wonder what it would have been like to hear Paul preach. I don’t know if he was a dynamic preacher. He may have been but he says, his “message and . . . preaching not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (v. 4). I try to remember that when I do God’s work to do my best but always pray that the Spirit’s power runs under it and above it and through it (v. 5). My own “wisdom” never seems to have a very great effect. Being “sensitive to the Spirit” is the key to living the Christian life (cf. blog on Romans 8: Get The “Led” Out).
Psalm 27:7-14 Lights Are On, Someone Is Home, Part 2 A Trust Psalm by David (sorta)
Proverbs 20:22-23 Standards Are Standard
Isn’t it amazing how the entire Bible agrees with itself? Paul said that same thing that Solomon said in Romans 12:19. Moses said the same thing in Leviticus 19:18 (cf. Deut. 32:35).
Solomon repeats himself, “Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work'” (Prov. 24:29). He is even more direct there.
But in verse 22, Solomon tacks on the idea that God will protect you. He says we should follow behind God and let Him lead. That is what “waiting” on God means. It might be frustrating but it is ultimately comforting for us.
Do you know what’s wrong with the world these days (v. 23)? Have you heard anyone say, “everything is relative”? That’s what’s wrong with the world. Everything is not relative. Something might be everything. But everything is NOT relative.
Anyone selling things does not want everything to be relative. Yet, many people these days want everyone to think that intolerance is the worse sin. That is because everything is relative.
Intolerance is NOT the worse sin. Everything is not relative. The ten commandments are standards. When you work on a car, you have to use either metric or U.S. standard. Gravity is not a discriminator. You have to use United States currency in this country. You have to use euros in Europe. You have to use pesos in Mexico.
You have to abide by the rules of gravity. You have to eat healthy and exercise or die early. It’s just the way things go.
And morally, the same is true. God expects everyone to adhere to standards (v. 23). He will be very angry if people don’t adhere to His rules.
Standards are standard.
Choose Life: Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:2 NASB “It’s About Christ!”
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2
I remember when I first had gotten a church and was officially a preacher. I thought, “Oh, no . . . what should I do?” I wanted to be true to the Lord in everything I did. I prayed and I thought I couldn’t go wrong by making everything I did and every sermon about Christ. So that’s what I tried to do. I didn’t want the center of things to be about me or my sense of humor (as clever as I may be . . . ).
Paul always said that his ministry was about Christ and not about him (cf. “1 Cor. 2:4, “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” also note 1 Cor. 2:1). He realized that, ” . . . the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). He knew that wisdom came only from God (v. 30) and so there was no reason for him to boast except about God (v. 31). Paul realized he needed the power of God in his preaching (1 Cor. 2:4).
In cemetery, I mean, seminary, I learned this definition of evangelism: “sharing the good news about Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.” That is what Paul did. In fact, that definition of evangelism gives a good way to live all of our lives. Just fill in the blank instead of “sharing the good news” with whatever you are doing. Practicing medicine in the power of the Holy Spirit, gardening, being a CEO, a secretary, a minister . . . whatever you do, do it in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results up to God as you do the best job you possibly can do (cf. Col. 3:23-24).
How is your life going? Are you keeping everything Christ-centered?
If you are, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Here is a big, theological, technical word you can drop in conversation at your next dinner party: Christocentric. It just means that Christ is the center. Try using it the next time you get together with friends. People will be impressed . . . most likely.
The purpose of the “Choose Life” is to pick a positive help out of the One Year Bible (OYB) reading plan for the day. There is always something positive in the Word of God to cheer us and give us strength. For more on today’s reading, check out my One Year Bible blog: Finding Nebo