June 4, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 10

The end of the book of Ezra chronicles how the people confessed their sin before God. The people of Israel had disobeyed what God had commanded and married foreign women. Even though they directly disobeyed God, they confessed the sin and repented and received forgiveness from the Lord, and it’s a pattern we can apply to our own lives today.

First we need to understand forgiveness, and the ultimate expression of this forgiveness is represented in God’s relationship with humanity. Forgiveness is only possible because God is a God of grace – forgiveness in rooted in His nature. God stated this plainly about Himself to Moses:

The LORD passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)

Second we need to call sin what it truly is, anything that is against God. Sin merits punishment because it offends the very nature of God. Sin is a violation against our purpose and design as humans: to bring glory to God. Our sin is in direct opposition to the goodness of God, and because He delights in Himself, God necessarily and eternally hates sin. This is a problem for the Israelites because they have sinned; they are in direct opposition to God. This continues to us because we know from Scripture that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

The pattern we can learn from today is exactly what Ezra leads the people to do:

Recognize the sin

Confess the sin

Repent from the sin

Receive the forgiveness of God

Ezra leads the people first by recognizing the sin before the people and most importantly, before God. Then he confesses the sin to God and makes a plan to repent from the wrongdoing. Finally we see they receive forgiveness from God, and so can you today!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

God freely offers forgiveness to us today through His son, Jesus.

How has God’s forgiveness impacted your life?  Are there sinful things in your life you need to confess to God? Do you find it difficult to accept and believe that God has forgiven you?

By: Alex Boswell

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June 3, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 9

This passage, without context, can pose a serious problem for the people of God. Was God promoting racism and bigotry for the Israelites? Sure seems like it… but that is not what was happening at all. This was about being unequally yoked. This was about making the strongest bond of life — family — weak through willingly accepting idolatry in to the home.

The “Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites” were all known for idol worship and hatred for the God of Israel. When Ezra was told, “the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages…”,  he knew exactly what this was and what it wasn’t. It definitely wasn’t Hitler’s ideology of an Arian race. At the end of the day, it was about the fact that the Lord was being robbed of worship. Thus, Ezra led the nation in repentance.

Fast-forward to the apostle Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church:

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

Paul was reminding them that their highest, strongest relationships must be in and among the body of Christ. He wasn’t telling them to avoid relationships with non-Christians, or you’d have to tear out Romans 10 from your Bibles. In many ways, Ezra 9 is made clear through passages like 2 Corinthians 6.

One last thought on this. If you think God was against Gentiles (racially/ethnically non-Jews), you should read & study Jesus’ genealogy again. Or, check out this great article.

What did God teach you today? What questions do you have? How can we serve you in prayer?

By: Todd Thomas

June 2, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 8

Today’s passage chronicles several major things, the first being the names of those who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem from Babylon. This second wave was coming some 57 years after the Temple of The Lord had been completed in Jerusalem. After many years exiled in a pagan land the people were in desperate need of an expert in God’s Law to teach them how to live according to God’s standards. God had called Ezra for this specific purpose and given Him the provision to get back to Jerusalem and even recruit more priests to serve The Lord when they arrived.

This journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would not be an easy one (taking 4 months), especially with the large number of people traveling (many women and children), and the vast amount of silver (22 tons) and gold (3.75 tons) they were bringing as offerings to The Lord. Needless to say, they would have been prime targets for thieves, bandits, and vagabonds up to no good. Knowing the unpredictable traveling situations they might wind up in, Ezra calls the people to fast and pray to God for safety on their journey. Something that I thought was interesting about this passage was in verse 22:

22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”

It’s interesting to me that Ezra could have asked the king for protection on the journey. Certainly the king would have given it to him; he had given the Jews everything else they needed for the trip. So, why not just ask for some soldiers and horsemen to go with them? Ezra clearly tells us why he didn’t do that in the passage. Ezra desired that God receive all the glory for Israel’s safe return to Jerusalem, not the Persian King. Not only that, Ezra desired that Artaxerxes see God’s provision for His people and know the reality of who The Lord truly is. So, Ezra called the people to humble themselves through fasting and prayer and allowed God to provide exactly what they needed to get them to their homeland. The journey still wasn’t an easy one, but because of God they made it.

Many times in our lives we settle for worldly protection, provision, and wisdom because we’re too proud to seek God for His. So many times we “go ask the king” instead of truly seeking The Lord. I don’t know what situation you’re facing today, maybe it feels like a four month journey is ahead of you and you don’t know how you’re going to make it through. Be encouraged today that God is the same today as He was in the day of Ezra, and if you seek Him you will find Him.

Jeremiah 29:13 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

The example of seeking God in this passage is one of fasting and prayer. When is the last time you fasted (giving up literal food so that you could seek God and be filled more fully with Jesus Christ the Bread of Life) and prayed fervently for God to move in your life? There is no better time than today to begin. I want to challenge everyone who is able and willing today to fast and pray. Maybe you fast one meal. Maybe you fast from something other than food (TV, social media, etc.). The purpose of fasting is not just giving up something, but rather that you fill that desire you have for something other than God, with more of God! Devote the time you would be spending eating, watching TV, scrolling through Facebook, etc. to seeking The Lord in prayer simply asking for more of Him.

By: Matt Mofield

June 1, 2016

Today you should read: Ezra 7

We’re seven chapters into Ezra and we finally get to see the priest that the book was named after. We see King Artaxerxes give Ezra the charge to take men from Israel to go back to Jerusalem with money, offerings, gold/silver and make offerings up to God on Israel’s behalf. Not only that but he gave him the charge to set up magistrates and judges to get ready for the people of God to go back to their home after being in exile. What a joyful thing to hear from the king. And what a responsibility to have if you’re Ezra. A responsibility he was ready for not only because he was looked upon as a man of God but a man of God’s Word.

Notice v. 10 in this chapter:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

I reread this verse several times as I read this chapter. I’d be a few passages in and I’d go back to it, each time God reminding me that Ezra was ready for such a task because he knew how important it was because of the study of His law. Ezra set his heart to study the book that showed the importance of the offerings and the sacrifices. He memorized and dwelled upon the laws so he could obey them and teach them, knowing that they pointed back to a perfect God for an imperfect people.

I think sometimes we’re not up to the tasks God gives us because our heart is not set on God’s Word like Ezra was. We don’t see the importance of His ministry because we don’t spend enough time studying God’s Word concerning His ministry. I know that I’m at my best as a missionary and shepherd when I’m regularly studying God’s Word because it shows me the importance of these roles. The same goes for all of you.

Do you study God’s Word beyond this 10 minute devotional?

Maybe it’s time to do that very thing so that you will be ready for the ministry before you.

By: Erik Koliser