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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ezra Part 2

Ezra -- Part 2

      God has raised up a Godly priest (Ezra) and a Godly ruler (Nehemiah) to rebuild His city and His temple in Jerusalem. Ezra was born in Babylon, but he was not “of” Babylon just as Jesus said we are “in the world” but are not to be “of the world.” Ezra loved God and His Word. His Godly lineage goes back to Aaron, the first high priest, and was visited down upon Ezra. (see Ezra 7:1-5)

      The Bible says, “this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well-versed in the Law of Moses.......” Ezra 7:6  Babylon is a low place—the place of slavery and bondage. God would work through this Godly priest to set those who desired free from bondage in Babylon. Babylon is the place of wickedness and the harlot bride in scripture. God's people have been in captivity in Babylon for 70 years because of their rebellion against God and His ways. God continually called His people out of Babylon. He called Abraham out of Babylon to go on a journey to a new land of promise.  In Revelation 18:4, God is still calling His people—both Jew and Gentile-- out of Babylon. Ezra and a faithful remnant will leave the low place to go higher with God to His Land. This Godly priest who was well-schooled in God's Word will lead a remnant of God's people to confession and repentance, teach them the Word of God and lead them to God's Holy City of Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. Confession of sin, repentance and returning to God must take place first before rebuilding can be accomplished. Individual confession and repentance is the beginning of the return to God and His Land. God's people must acknowledge their sin against God and turn back to Him, His Word and His ways. Then the rebuilding can begin!
       God will use this Godly priest who was a scholar of the Word of God to teach, train and equip His people for the job He has for them to do—to rebuild His city and His temple. This begins with the individual returning, relearning and rebuilding. Once this faithful remnant is individually taught, trained and equipped, corporately they will accomplish God's will. God always has leaders and a faithful remnant He has raised up who will do the task He has called them to do. Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the ruler will be used of God to accomplish His will. After Ezra the priest has brought the faithful remnant to confession, repentance and a return to God and His Word, God will use Nehemiah, the ruler, to rebuild the wall of protection around His holy city of Jerusalem and its gates. God is a God of order! Confession, repentance and teaching of the Word must come first, then the restoration of the wall of protection and gates into the City. The leaders of these re-builders will also be the watchmen on the wall who will look for any enemy trying to come against them and God's holy city.
       Since God uses the “natural” to paint a picture of the “supernatural,” God will raise up leaders and a faithful remnant who walk in obedience to Jesus and His Word to build His Church. This remnant will have strong faith in God and be well-schooled in the Word of God. The Word of God is our wall of protection that keeps us safe from the wiles of the devil. In Ezra and Nehemiah, God raised up a faithful remnant of believers who are of one accord and who are well-schooled in the Word to protect and be watchmen over His House and people. The Israelite watchmen were watching for earthly enemies, but those who love and follow Christ are to watch for the spiritual enemy of His people. Jesus always brings the “earthly” to the “spiritual” because no one can become spiritually born except through Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus took on a body of flesh temporarily, but His eternal body was and always will be spiritual.
       Jesus came to earth the first time as the High Priest (Ezra) to set the captives free, to teach the Word, to clear up misunderstandings of the Truth and to establish the foundation of His Father's House in the hearts of His twelve apostles. Jesus was “in” the world, but was not “of” the world, just as Ezra was born “in” Babylon but was not “of” Babylon because he believed in God, His Word and His heavenly kingdom. Ezra had a heart for God, His people, His temple and His City. Ezra and Nehemiah not only knew the Word but walked it out in their lives. They were an example to the others even though they were in Babylon in captivity. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were faithful to God's people and God's purpose. God can do miraculous things through submitted, courageous, faithful servants. One Godly leader can make a difference!
       After His death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the power of the Holy Spirit to lead His followers into all Truth. He had to die in His flesh in order to give spiritual life to those who love and follow Him. The penalty of death for disobedience to God had to be paid once-for-all so we could be “born again” spiritually. When Jesus breathed His last “natural” breath on the cross, He breathed His spiritual life into all who believe in Him. Jesus is working through His faithful followers now on earth as both their High Priest and King to bring others into the knowledge of Him through the teaching of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. He also is working through these faithful ones to defeat the enemy of peoples' souls. Jesus will come the second time as Ruler (Nehemiah) to destroy all evil and establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and after His millennial reign to its original condition in Genesis 1. Jesus must be established in our individual hearts first by knowing the Truth and doing it. Then corporately His Body will be a wall of protection for others and a place of refuge for all who enter its gates.
       Ezra the priest was bold and courageous to approach a mighty king for permission to leave Babylon with those who wanted to go to Jerusalem to rebuild God's city and temple. God had prepared the king's heart to give favor to Ezra and Nehemiah. Jesus said that those who love and serve Him can also come boldly before the throne of our Mighty King Jesus without fear, and He will give us favor and answer their prayers.
      It was God who raised up this Godly priest Ezra, the Godly ruler Nehemiah and moved in the heart of a pagan king (gentile) to allow His people who were willing to leave bondage in Babylon and be set free to return to God, His city and His house. God alone is to get the glory!
       God not only moved in the heart of the Babylonian king Cyrus, but also Darius and the Persian king Artaxerxes over a span of hundreds of years in order to complete the restoration and rebuilding of His Temple and City. God also moved the pagan kings to give His people gold and silver to use in the rebuilding. The Jews also gave free will offerings of silver, gold, livestock (for sacrifices) and materials they had gained in Babylon for the restoration of God's House and City. In other words, both Jews and Gentiles were used of God to save, restore and renew His people, His temple and His city. Throughout scripture both Jews and Gentiles believed in the True God and were used to build His kingdom. Jews and Gentiles crossed the Mediterranean Sea with Moses. Jews and Gentiles also crossed the Jordan River with Joshua to enter into God's earthly land given to Abraham and his descendants. God parted the way for both the Jews and Gentiles because God is no respecter of persons. In the Older Testament, the Jews were the majority with a faithful remnant of Gentiles. In the New Testament, this is reversed. We now have a majority of Gentiles who believe in Jesus and a remnant of Jews. Prayerfully, this will change and more and more Jews as well as Gentiles will come to Jesus for salvation and eternal life and become united in God's purpose. The Apostle Paul taught that all—both Jew and Gentile-- are to be one in Christ. Keep in mind that the Apostle Paul was at one time a Pharisee of Pharisees, zealous and fervent for the Law until he met the Light of Jesus which changed him forever. Jesus turned Paul's zealousness for the Law into one who was zealous for Christ and His law of love. Paul said in Ephesians 2:14-15: For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace....” Just as the Israelites and their Godly leaders were chosen by God's grace, we are all to now be under the rule of God's grace and Truth in His Son Jesus. In order for this to happen, we must understand that the whole Word of God from beginning to end is about Jesus Christ and His redemption of the whole world – both Jew and Gentile. Since God's ways don't change, God wants the Jews and Gentiles to come together again under the grace and truth of Jesus Christ to become His Body and do His Kingdom work on earth. If we are divided in our understanding of Truth, we will be a divided Body not a unified one and the power of His Body will be weakened.
       The question we need to answer is, “Do we love our ancestral, earthly heritage more than we love our eternal, spiritual heritage through Jesus Christ? Are we ready to exalt the only Divine One by walking in the Word and ways of Jesus which exalts Him or continue to focus on earthly things and exalt earthly nations and kings?” One choice is temporary and the other is eternal. “Choose this day whom you will serve.” In the midst of Babylon, Ezra and Nehemiah chose to serve the Lord and lead others into rebuilding God's temple and city that was in ruins. Jesus wants to build His temple in the hearts of all people through His law of love. Our fleshly nature is a heap of ruins that God wants to rebuild into a holy place that will accomplish His will and purpose. God's city is the eternal New Jerusalem that is pure, glorified and full of His light and glory to which the earthly city of Jerusalem pointed. The precious stones on the wall around the New Jerusalem will reflect the light and glory of the Godhead. These precious stones represent believers who have been chiseled and polished until they reflect the light of Jesus and are full of the Holy Spirit.  Even in the ruins of our fleshly nature, we will seek glory and beauty even though it might be vainglory instead of Godly character.  God wants us to seek His face so the light and glory of the Godhead will radiate from us in our actions, words and deeds.


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