Old Testament: Ezra 7:1-8:20
Ezra 7:1-8:20 A “Good Hands” Person
Ezra returned to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artaxerxes’ reign (v.7). It took him about four months of traveling to get there. He was not in the first wave of exiles to return. He brought about 2,000 more exiles with him (cf. McGee, verse 7, cf. Wiersbe on Ezra 8:20-21).
Although Ezra wrote this book, we don’t learn much about him till this chapter. This is a great verse to memorize which I did years ago when I was first saved, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (v. 10). He “set his heart to study the law of the Lord and practice it” (v. 10). Notice he didn’t just study it but he also set his heart to do it. James would have been proud (James 2:18, 20, 26). Of course, he only had the Pentateuch and Joshua to study at the time. Having written on those books, that is probably a lifetime of study. How do you compare to Ezra?
Ezra says the “good hand of God” was upon him (cf. Ezra 7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31)). Wouldn’t you say? The King of Persia told him to take total control of the situation and do what he needed to fund the project. The King also told him to use whatever force he needed to maintain the keeping of the law.
Note that this decree of Artaxerxes in 484 B.C. is not the starting point of the prophecy of years given by Daniel 9:24-27. What an amazing prophecy that is! The decree that begins those remarkable chain of events was in 444B.C. and we’ll see it in Neh. 2:1-8. It accurately predicts the arrival of the triumphal entry of our Lord in Jerusalem, implies the church age, and picks up again at the literal seven year tribulation or time of Jacob’s trouble (cf. Jer. 30:7). We’ll get there eventually.
New Testament: 1 Cor. 4:1-21
1 Cor. 4:1-21 Pity The Fool
Do you worry about what people say about you? In one of the Narnia books, The Voyage of the Dawntreader, one of the young characters is enabled to hear what her friends are saying about her. Aslan, a type of Jesus, rebukes her for eavesdropping. Aslan explains that the girl she overheard didn’t mean what she said. But the harm had already been done. Maybe it’s best that God made the world in such a way that we can’t hear people’s thoughts or hear everything that they say. This is probably the reason why Paul says, ” . . . it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself” (v. 3). Paul is saying that the only judgment that really matters is the Lord’s. He does not even know himself as well as the Lord knows him. His was a life of faith not of weighing works. He states in the book of Philippians (3:13), “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [it] yet; but one thing [I do]: forgetting what [lies] behind and reaching forward to what [lies] ahead.” 2 Cor. 13:5, he tells the Corinthians to examine themselves but that is not about outside criticism, it is to see if they are living the life of faith. Trying to judge our own works or the works of others only gets us tied up in a pretzel. However, we can judge whether or not we are living by faith “Test yourselves [to see] if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5, cf. our assurance of salvation is always by faith, 1 John 5:13).
In verse five, Paul ties things together, telling the Corinthians to wait till the (bema) judgment to see how everyone comes out. In the meantime they should not be picking one minister over another. Everyone has only what God has given them (v. 7) so there is no reason for pride.
My Christian birthday is April 1. Haha. God’s sense of humor. Paul says the apostles are “fools for Christ’s sake” (v. 10). Then he engages in some sanctified sarcasm saying the apostles were weak and without honor but the Corinthians were strong and distinguished in comparison. Those of you thinking of going into ministry, here is Paul’s description of his ministry: hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless; toiling, working with [their] own hands; reviled, persecuted, enduring, slandered, [like] the scum of the world, and the dregs of all things. What fun! So much for prosperity theology! His point is that whatever they have gone through has been for them, implying they should appreciate it and not be warring amongst themselves over their teachers.
Paul pulls rank now on the Corinthians as their “father” in the faith (v. 14-15). He exhorts them to follow his example (v. 16). He is going to send his close associate, Timothy, to continue his teaching to them (v. 17). If the Corinthians don’t start getting along, he is going to smack their knuckles (v. 21, “come with a rod”). If things calm down he’ll be able to bring love and gentleness (v. 21). It’s up to them.
Psalm 30:1-12 From Heel To Heal A Psalm of Thanksgiving by David
Proverbs 20:28-30 Growing Hoary Hair
You know when Solomon is writing about the king, you know he means you, right? You are the king of your domain!
Remember how much we saw that word hesed in Psalms? It meant lovingkindness, faithfulness, or covenantal binding love? Solomon uses that word twice in this verse. The king holds his realm together with love and faithfulness (v. 28). It’s the only way to live your life.
The Apostle John said, “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 20:29). Young believers are physically strong but they are also spiritually strong and should be subduing Satan (v. 29a). But when they get older their hair will turn gray from the fighting (v. 29b).
I like the KJV of Proverbs 16:31. It says that older men have hair that is “hoary.” Hoary is a reference to “snowy” or “frosted.” Doesn’t that sound a lot better than just gray?
A disciple is one who is disciplined. The writer of Hebrews tells disciples that God disciplines those He loves (cf. Heb. 12:3-11). Suffering and pain wipe our sin away. It is called “sanctification” or growing in practical righteousness (v. 30a). That suffering will cleanse our inner selves (v. 30b).
Choose Life: Scripture: Ezra 7:10; 1 Corinthians 4:10 NASB “I’m A Fool For Christ, Whose Fool Are You?”
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:10
“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.” 1 Corinthians 4:10
My spiritual, “born-again” birthday is April 1. I say I am officially a “fool for Christ.” That is what Paul called himself, “a fool for Christ.” Some would maintain that I was a fool before Christ. Probably a good point. Nevertheless, I believe anyone who would follow Ezra’s example to study the Word and then model Christ to others will appear a fool to the world. So that’s the commitment. Trust Christ and expect to be rejected by the world. In fact, expect to be rejected by worldly Christians, too.
Paul told us in Romans to “yield” (KJV; “present,” NASB; “offer,” NIV) the members of our bodies to God. He meant we were to show Christ in our lives by acting like Jesus would have (cf. 1 John 2: 6, the real WWJD!). But if you do that, act like Christ, you will be rejected by the world (cf. John 15: 20b, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”).
You can be saved without being a disciple but “abundant life” is promised to those who are committed to Christ (John 10:10b). Where do you stand today?
My cousin, Connie Francis, used to sing, “Everyone is someone’s fool.” My question is whose fool are you? Are you a fool for Christ?
If you are, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Is there anything Jesus could ask you to do that you wouldn’t do? Make a list of things you’d be embarrassed to do for the Lord. Are any of them Biblical? Are you afraid to share Christ with others? Are you apprehensive about using a spiritual gift? Are you afraid to give God of your resources or finances for fear you will run out or not have enough? What are you afraid will humilate you? Are you more fearful of being ashamed than you are of shaming the Lord (cf. Matt. 10:32).
What is keeping you from being a fool for Christ?
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: Pity The Fool