The Story behind the Story

Ezra 7:1–8:36; 1 John 4:1–6; Psalm 107:1–22
The Bible is full of unexpected moments. Some events seem almost coincidental, where people are in the right place at the right time. This is exactly the case with Ezra.

In ancient times, it was unusual for a king to honor a foreigner with a decree. It was even stranger for a king to offer his own wealth to help such a foreigner. Yet that’s what happened to Ezra: King Artaxerxes of Persia sent Ezra, and any Israelite willing to go with him, to his own land (and the people living there) with the blessing of silver and gold (Ezra 7:11–28).

The Bible doesn’t give the reason for Artaxerxes’ spontaneous generosity. He may have been motivated by politics, trying to gain the allegiance of the Israelites, govern the population in Babylonia, or inhabit a new land to control the native people there. Yet the most convincing reason for his actions seems to be that his heart was moved.

While the text doesn’t explicitly say, it appears that Yahweh motivated Artaxerxes to do not only the right thing, but the selfless thing. For at least this brief moment, Artaxerxes was compassionate and empathetic. He understood that God’s people needed to practice their religion freely and worship Him in their own land.

Ezra’s involvement in these events wasn’t a matter of chance. God intended for him to be there, in that moment, to do that work. His providential work was part of every step.

How have you been intentionally placed to do God’s work? What influence can you use for His kingdom?


Learning from Bad Examples

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.

1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV

I find it very encouraging that God included real life, flesh and blood, sinful people in His Word. David committed adultery, Abraham lied about his wife the list goes on and on. Why are they in the Bible? So we will learn from their wrongdoings.

One lesson is that sin always has consequences. Take David. He was a great leader and a good man in many ways. But over the years he became complacent, and instead of carrying out his responsibilities, he fell into immorality (2 Samuel 11–12).

And consider the tragic consequences of his sin. Not only did the child born of that illicit union die, but David committed other sins lying, murder in a vain attempt to cover up his adultery. Furthermore, his influence for good was lost, and his latter years as king were marked by rebellion and tragedy.

God has much to teach us from the examples of His people who failed. But most of all His Word points us to Christ, who alone can forgive us and set our feet on the right path.

Stay blessed always in Christ Jesus.

Discover God’s Grace

We conducted ourselves in the world . . .by the grace of God.

2 Corinthians 1:12

Is God’s grace really sufficient in times of trouble? Can it sustain us in the midst of life’s storms? Yes but to be honest, sometimes it’s hard for us to

rely on God’s grace instead of ourselves. We think we have to have control of our lives, and we believe the responsibility for shaping our future is in our hands.

When troubles come, therefore, we resist them instead of depending on God to see us through. Alexander Maclaren, the distinguished British preacher of another generation, once wrote, “What disturbs us in this world is not trouble, but our opposition to trouble”

Put God to the test when troubles come. He won’t let you down. In the midst of a painful illness, Paul begged God to intervene and take it away. But God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It was sufficient for Paul, and it will be for you.


Fear Not!

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.
1 John 4:18

The world of Jesus’ day was filled with fear. The Romans feared rebellion, and their subjects feared
Rome’s power. The Sadducees feared the Pharisees, and both were suspicious of the publicans. The hearts of people everywhere were filled with fear and distrust.
Life was precarious, and above all, people feared death.

The world lives with fear even today. What is your fear? Do you fear the future? Do you fear life’s burdens that sometimes seem almost overwhelming? Do you fear death? Most of us fear everything except God yet it is God whom we should fear most of all!

Jesus can put an end to fear for all who trust in Him.
“Do not fear, little flock” is a phrase typical of His teaching and preaching (Luke 12:32). He is the answer to any fear you have. After all, God’s power is greater than the powers of evil, and “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future . . .nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39 niv).

Be blessed.

Crying Out

When [blind Bartimaeus] heard that it was Jesus
of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Mark 10:47

Blind Bartimaeus probably never expected to be able to see—and then Jesus Christ came to town.
When He did, Bartimaeus cried out, and he cried out for the right thing: he cried for mercy. He needed other things, but what he like you and I needed most of all was God’s mercy.

Bartimaeus also cried out to the right Person. He cried to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only One in all the
world who could help him. And Jesus is there for us:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other
name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 niv).

Third, Bartimaeus cried out at the right time. Suppose Bartimaeus had said, “I’m going to find out
what other people think about Him, or perhaps I’ll
wait until He comes to Jericho again.” But Jesus never
returned to Jericho.

The Bible says, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now

is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2 niv).

What do you need to cry out to Jesus about?

Salt and Light

“You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world.”

Matthew 5:13–14

Many people doubt that there are any answers to life’s basic questions. What is the purpose of life? What happens after I die? Is there any hope for the world today?

However, the human mind—like nature itself abhors a vacuum. If our minds and hearts are not filled with God’s truth, something else will take its place: cynicism, occultism, false religions and philosophies,
drugs—the list is endless.

Already a terrifying spiritual and moral tide of evil has loosed our society from its spiritual moorings. Ideas that could easily destroy our freedoms are rushing into the vacuum that results when societies turn from the
moral truths found in Scripture. Moral and spiritual
chaos is the inevitable result.

May we who know God’s truth stay committed to the principles outlined in His Word. Above all, may we be salt and light in this world, proclaiming God’s righteousness and love to a confused and dying world.

Glory to Jesus.

Confidence and Peace in Christ.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.

Isaiah 26:3

Peace carries with it the idea of unity, completeness, rest, ease, and security. Many times when I meet Jewish friends I greet them with “Shalom,” the Hebrew word for “peace.” And often when I greet my Arab friends I use a similar term that they use for “peace,” “Salam.”

Notice the key phrase in that verse: “whose mind is stayed on You.” When troubles hit, our minds naturally focus on them. When suffering comes, all we can think about is the pain. It takes a deliberate act of the will to turn away from the problem and focus our minds on God.

When our minds are stayed on God, we won’t be worried about the future, because we know it is in His hands. We won’t tremble over what might happen, because our lives are built upon the solid rock of Christ.

When you and I yield to worry, we deny our Guide the right to lead us forward in confidence and peace. Don’t cause Him to grieve over you by indulging in worry, but trust everything into His all-loving care.