Old Testament: Ezra 3:1-4:23
Ezra 3:1-4:23 Attacked!
It’s a shame that it takes a disaster to wake God’s people up to do what they should. After our one hundred thirty year-old church building burnt down (I had recently warned them to install better security), everyone was happy to get back to worshipping together in our own building. The very first business meeting in the new building though, a group was assembled to oust me as pastor after I had brought them through the trauma of the burning and the rebuilding process. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I survived. I think Ezra and Nehemiah endured similar attacks. Satan never wants to waste a good opportunity. As we shall see, the revival that occurred stirred up opposition.
When the people had moved back into their towns, they came to Jerusalem in unity (v. 3). They began to celebrate all the feasts that had been neglected without even waiting till the entire edifice had been erected. They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles which speaks of Christ’s millennial reign. The first day of the seventh month was coincidentally the day of the Feast of Trumpets (v. 2, cf. Num. 29:1-6) celebrating the Israelites coming back into the land in the end times. What a coinkydink.
The Day of Atonement was celebrated on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 6, Lev. 23:26-32). The burnt offerings symbolized Christ. The people were, in essence, coming back to Christ.
Notice, as always, the revival began with a return to God’s Word. The elders who remembered the first Temple (v. 12), presumably were upset at seeing the new Temple. But others (v. 12b), presumably, the younger people were ecstatic. Some commentators use this to call for older Christians to be more tolerant of contemporary worship. However, “contemporary” is not the problem. I would love to preach sometime with Petra as the worship band. That would be fine with me. The problem is the newer music that has such insipid and vapid lyrics (look them up! that’s what dictionary.com is for!). I don’t care how loud it is!
Next comes the opposition from Satan. Enemies of Judah and Benjamin offered their “help” in re-building the Temple. With “friends” like those, you don’t need the Enemy.
Zerubbabel, who headed up the re-building, said in essence, “Uh, . . . that’s OK. We’re good.” Their enemies then bribed government officials to harass the Jews during the entire reigns of Cyrus and Dairus, kings of Persia (v. 5).
The enemies wrote a letter to the new king, Xerxes, warning him that if the re-building project succeeded that the Jews would not pay taxes to him. Further the letter they sent to the king accused the Jews of “sedition” and rebellion (v. 15) which is why the city had been destroyed in the first place. As a result of the letter, the king commanded the rebuilding to stop (v. 23).
New Testament: 1 Cor. 2:6-3:4
1 Cor. 2:6-3:4 The Third Man
Paul begins by quoting Isaiah 64:4 to show that it is not with the eye or ear that God shows believers all that God has for them. He proceeds to explain one of the one more important aspects of the Christian life.
Paul tells us that when we were saved (cf. Rom. 8:9) we received the Holy Spirit so that God can communicate to us better. Of course, we receive the things of God through the Word but the Holy Spirit also helps us (“Illumination” is the name of the doctrine whereby the Holy Spirit helps explain the Word to us, cf. 1 John 2:27).
Paul explains that there are three kinds of people.
First, there are natural people (v. 14). They do not “accept the things of the Spirit” (v. 14) because they do not have the Holy Spirit and spiritual things have to be “spiritually appraised” (v. 14).
Secondly, there are “men of the flesh” (1 Cor. 3:3b). The King James renders them “carnal” which means “fleshly” so the theological term has stuck, “carnal.” They are saved but they are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit. They are not spiritual people. In fact, and this is very important, they are acting as if they are unsaved! They are acting just like the world and not constantly checking in with God through the Spirit.
Thirdly, there are saved people that are spiritually sensitive. Paul refers to them as “spiritual men” (v. 3a). Paul expects all Christians to be “spiritual” but he recognizes that they are not. That is why he is exhorting them to be “spiritual.”
Paul makes a very important point. Of course, there is a difference between being saved or not. But within the category of saved, it is possible to be sensitive to the Spirit and thus understand the Word (see “illumination” above) or be spiritual and understand the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 2:12). Interpretation of the word is not according to personal whim or desire (2 Pet. 1:20-21). One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to show us the right interpretation of Scripture.
The reason Paul is explaining all this to the Corinthians is to try to get them on the same page in the church. They are divided, following different leaders, Paul, Apollos, etc. Paul is telling them that when they are divided like that, they are acting like “carnal” or “fleshly” Christians (“mere men,” v. 3).
Paul wants to feed them “solid food,” the deeper things of the Word, but they weren’t ready. Peter tells new Christians that they need to feed on the “milk” of the Word. Paul expects Christians to move on. There is so much to learn in God’s Word! Let’s get with it!
Psalm 28:1-9 Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us A Lament Psalm by David
Proverbs 20:24-25 Trust In The Lord With All Your Heart
I’ve spent years looking back at my life trying to figure out why my life turned out the way it did. I still can’t figure it out. I guess verse 24 explains things. We just trust the Lord (cf. Prov. 3:5-6) and keep close to Him.
Sometimes an evangelist can work up young people’s emotions to get them to commit to the ministry or missions. That’s not a good thing. However, if the Lord legitimately calls someone, they should go into the ministry (v. 25, cf. Word!, Jeremiah 13, Can You Take This Call?). It’s not good second guessing. It’s best to totally commit to the Lord.
Choose Life: Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:1 NASB “Learning From The Spirit”
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:1
Here is one frustration of living in the end times. People do not seem to have much of a spiritual sense. This includes pastors. What I mean is that not many people seem to have “an ear out to the Lord.” They are not listening to God. They are not trying to hear that “still small voice” (cf. 1 Kings 19:12, KJV; “gentle whisper,” NIV; “sound of a gentle blowing,” NASB).
“Religion” is running rampant. And “religion” will reign in the last of the last days (cf. Rev. 17). Religion is “man seeking God.” Christianity and the Bible is the story of God seeking man. Religion arises from man’s sinful nature (cf. Rom. 7:18, 25 NIV; “flesh,” NASB).
“Men of flesh” in our verse are referred to as “carnal” in the KJV, “worldly” in the NIV. What qualifies someone as “carnal”? I would think two characteristics would stand out for carnal people. One is that they act just like unbelievers (thus “worldly” in NIV). They just don’t mature. They don’t change. Their character is the same five or ten years after they are saved as the day they are saved. It might be normal for someone to still be carnal or worldly right after they are saved but there is no excuse for not developing over years of having the Holy Spirit indwelling (cf. Rom. 8:9). The norm for a Christian is to be changing from “one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18, RSV) as we are conformed to the character of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18, “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit).
The second way a carnal Christian is different from a spiritual Christian (v. 1, “spiritual men”) is that they don’t listen to the Lord. They may have been to seminary and learned a lot of things that fill their heads but they have not learned from the Holy Spirit. We call that having “head knowledge” instead of “heart knowledge.” But they also do not have Spirit knowledge. We are commanded by the Lord to follow the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:25, “keep in step with the Spirit, NIV, ESV) and to learn from Him (1 John 2:27) through the Scriptures (cf. 1 Tim. 3:16).
Listening to God through the Word and by the Spirit is to be spiritual.
Are you spiritual?
If you are, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Learning to hear from God is like learning to walk. Perhaps that is why the Scripture likens spiritual maturity to babies maturing. Paul says in our verse that not maturing means we are still acting like “infants.” Peter tells us that we should long for the Word like a baby craves milk (cf. 1 Pet. 2:2). But the writer of Hebrews rebukes his readers for not moving from the milk to meat (cf. Heb. 5:12-13, “strong meat,” KJV, “solid food,” NIV, NASB)!
What are you doing to make sure you are maturing? Are you attending a solid church? Are you reading Scripture every day or almost every day? Are you reading spiritual books? Are you developing your spiritual senses (see blogs Sensitivity To The Holy Spirit, Spiritual Sensitivity, and Sensitive To The Spirit)?
If you’re not doing these things, there’s no better time than now to get going. Can you commit yourself to learn the Word and to listen to the Holy Spirit (see also blog Fly Straight, Praying In The Spirit, or A Toi Story).
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: Attacked!