Ezra 5-7 presents the Spiritual battle with Kingdom of God work. The adversaries brought allegations and rumors about the motives for rebuilding the Temple. In the work of God, there will be many insiders and outsiders that will question the motivation of pastors, ministers and laymen. No one is exempt from the scrutiny that “Man” brings against the work of God. At this point anyone in ministry must remember that there is politics in Church. To not recognize this is fact goes beyond naivety into just sticking our heads in the sand. The people who had lived and occupied the city and surrounding area resisted any changes to their world. Anyone in ministry understands the problems of trying to change/improve a Church congregation. People all people acquiesce to a place of comfort. Once there they don’t want to be moved – even if the changes are for the better. We live in a difficult time of ministry to the Body of Christ. Too many Churches are dying. It has become epidemic across denominations and America. Estimates project that America could close 100,000 church within the next five years. [Quote from Thom Rainer]. As a revitalizationist, I have found that some Churches would rather die than do what is necessary to live. The resistance that Ezra and the Jews experienced from the local people is not that dissimilar to what we find in our own neighborhoods. In Ezra there were letters written filled with accusations against the work. I know pastors receive letters, many times unsigned from people who are disgruntled. I had some good advice as a young pastor – if people haven’t signed them – shred them. Back to our passage – King Darius instigates a search through the historical records to find out if the accusations are true or false. In the search, Darius finds King Cyrus’ decree allowing the Jews to rebuild. The records substantiated the work and the Temple restoration began again. There is another application here – especially for the Believer: Satan will contest any and all movements to live a holy life. He will bring accusations against the brethren. Satan is a liar, and the father of lies. So many people have tried to restore their lives through the work of God, only to have their failures and motives brought into question. All of us are guilty of sin and rebellion. Satan would rather that we wallow in our failure rather than bask in the glory of Jesus Christ’s redemptive forgiveness!
In chapter 6, we have the Temple restored and the celebration of worship through the Passover. The Temple, which believers are has to be restored when life and sin have devastated and destroyed the place of worship to our King Jesus. It takes work, hard work to stay the course to restoration. I have met so many people who felt because they had fallen back into sin, or lapsed into some rebellious behavior, that they lost their salvation and were no longer fit for God use. Our God is longsuffering and merciful – our salvation has never been based on our behaviors, but the Saviors blood and righteousness. The foundation of our salvation is the Finished work of the Cross by Jesus. So don’t let Satan or any of hos emissaries try to destroy your faith. While we will always have adversaries we MUST remember that we have a Great High Priest and Advocate that is defending us before the Father in Heaven. Jesus our Savior and Advocate is our defense against the wiles of Satan. We are not strong enough to defeat Satan – but he has already been defeated – do not let his lies imprison us again. Romans 8:1 – no condemnation!
The scriptures tell us that righteous, godly living by us that the Father will make even our enemies to be at peace with us. King Artaxerxes reacts favorable towards Ezra when he visits in Chapter 7. Throughout chapter seven, we hear of the graciousness of King Artaxerxes towards the Jews and specifically the work of Ezra, the priest, the scribe and the man of God.
If America is to be a righteous nation, it must deal with its failures and sin. There is great devastation in the Land. Many evil spirits are at work to destroy anything that can be used to proclaim the Glory of God. There are churches and individuals that must correct their “lives” and rid themselves of unholy behavior. There are thousands of churches that need to “get to work” instead of resisting the movement of God. Also there are Pastors who need to remember who called them to the ministry and not succumb to the wiles of the evil present in churches and the world!
Of Course Bethlehem
This year I am bringing a Christmas series titles “Because of Bethlehem.” I have borrowed from the author Max Lucado, the title of his book about Christmas. While I have used the title, that’s probably as close as I will get to his brilliant authorship.
We know that Micah 5:2 tells us the prophecy of where Jesus, the incarnate Christ will be born, just now when. Bethlehem has a history of sorts, for that is where Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob is buried. It is also the city of David. I find it interesting that while the prophet foretold the location of the Messiah’s birth, many were not looking for the Messiah. Now we can make the connection, but even while Jesus walked the earth, the Jews also had His birth in Nazareth of Galilee.
But why Bethlehem? It is an obscure place, some 5 miles distance from the mighty renowned Jerusalem. In Micah it even tells us the Ephrathah was so small a clan of people; they were not even counted or included in the Promised Land division. It is like the Lord, for in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 we find that our Father uses people and places that the world overlooks. Significant in His plans but lost in ours.
If it weren’t for Bethlehem, we don’t get Calvary. What I mean by this is that if Jesus doesn’t come as the incarnate Christ Child in Bethlehem, we don’t have a Cross crucified Savior.
In John 1:1-4; we read about how that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This brings to mind that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God, co-equal with the Father. By this we must understand that Jesus is both divine and human. In other words He is both flesh and deity. Jesus had to come in the flesh to accomplish the work of the Cross. While He never lost His deity or His power, He did submit himself to the Father’s plan.
In the Old Testament, the sacrifices of bulls and lambs could never deal with sin of fallen mankind; it could only “cover it up.” The Law and sacrificial system was a shadow of what Jesus would do for us at Calvary. Man cannot save himself. We had to have a Savior. The plan of God from the Beginning always included the Son of God descending to earth to accomplish redemption’s plan of salvation. We celebrate Bethlehem for that is where our salvation begins. In an obscure village, with two unknown parents; graced with the challenge of raising the Son of God – raising the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world.
There must always be a starting point for restoration and reconciliation – the Old Testament sacrifices were inadequate. That which needed to be accomplished required God’s intervention and initiative – The father Sent Jesus! There must be a Calvary for all of us, but likewise there must be a Bethlehem. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as the ONLY begotten Son, sent by the Father!”
Because of Bethlehem, we have a Calvary and because of Calvary we were delivered from our sins and restored to a joyful relationship with God. But it was God who started this all so long ago – Romans 5:8, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, the godly for the ungodly.” Surely God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten [one of a kind, unique] Son; that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life! Praise God for His infinite wisdom and love for us.
Merry Christmas my Beloved family in Christ!
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Tagged as christmas. bethlehem, reconcilations and restoration