Ezra 1:1-2:70, 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5, Psalms 27:7-14, Proverbs 20:22-23
Today is August 5th welcome to the Daily Audio Bible I am Brian it is…it is a joy, like every day, to be here with you as we just come in out of the…out of whatever’s going on and center ourselves, quiet ourselves, just come around the Global Campfire and just allow a moment of serenity as God’s word speaks into our lives for the day. So, it is a joy and an honor to take that next step forward with you. And here…here we go at the Old Testament, at threshold of reading the Old Testament today and we find ourselves opening a new book, the book of Ezra. And, so we finished second Chronicles yesterday which leads us to the threshold of Ezra.
Introduction to the book of Ezra:
And what we’ll find is that Ezra generally, at least historically, picks up where second Chronicles leaves off. The children of Israel have finally gone into exile, completely, northern and southern kingdoms with the southern kingdom falling to Babylon and the people being carried off into a foreign land for their rebelliousness against God. And this book of Ezra that we are about to encounter, it’s gonna cover a period of about 80 years. So, we’re slowing things down. We’ve been moving through Kings and Chronicles and reading of all the different kings and all of the different things that they did both in the northern and southern kingdom. But, kind of more rapidly so that we can move centuries in one…in one reading. So, we’re focusing now on a period of about eight years. There are three kings involved, none of them are Israelite kings - Cyrus the Great, Darius and then Artaxerxes. And what we’ll find is that these foreign kings all give favor, and even cover for a remnant of Israelites who are being allowed to go back to their ancestral homeland. And it’s Cyrus the Great that begins the process. He has a desire actually to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem for the worship of God. And he’s got…I mean…in his mind he rules the world, all the known world. And, so, he wants…he wants all the God’s that may be upset to be appeased and he wants the God of Israel to have a temple. So, about 42,000 Israelites that have been exiled in Babylon and they have been weeping and they have been crying and longing for the day that they could be restored, they finally get to make the trip back and their leader is somebody we’ll meet. His name is Zerubbabel and their going back to rebuild Jerusalem. And we’ll watch that…they don't…it’s not just a joyous parade that they go back from captivity and then they just clear the foundation and just rebuild everything. They’re gonna face all kinds of trouble, all kinds of opposition, intimidation from those who are in the region, political maneuvering but we’ll also watch them not lose sight of what they’re trying to do, that they’re gonna stick to the specific task. And that gives us so much for our own lives as we stick to the thing God has given us to do, no matter what the voices are saying, no matter what the maneuvering is, no matter what the intimidation is. And, so, in many ways we can see the book of Ezra as a…as a living historical metaphor for…for our own lives. So, let’s dive in. We’re reading from the Christian standard Bible this week. Ezra chapters 1 and 2.
Alright. So, yesterday in the book of first Corinthians Paul was calling for unity. And remember we talked about this because some of the people were saying, “I am of Paul” and others were saying, “I’m of Apollo's” and others were saying, “I’m of Peter” and then others were saying, “I am of Christ.” And this was causing rivalry and division about “who are we supposed to listen to?” Like, “who’s supposed to tell us…who’s supposed to teach us? Who’s authorized to teach us? And who should we be following? And we see in today’s reading Paul’s trying to lift their viewpoint, like “that…that's…that’s not the right question.” And he does it by saying, “all of what we believe to those who don’t believe it, it’s nonsense. It’s foolishness. It’s foolishness to say strength is found in weakness or spiritual wisdom is found in what the world would consider foolishness.” And Paul uses the Scriptures here is his defense by quoting from the book of Isaiah, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and I will set aside the intelligence of the intelligent. And, so, we ask, ‘who is the one who is wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the debater of this age?’ God made the world’s wisdom foolish.” So, he’s saying, “you’re like trying to pick your camp, you’re trying to pick your favorite preacher, your favorite teacher and follow this person but if you’re gonna go about it from a human perspective, it’s all foolishness.” Paul says, I’m quoting here, “for the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” And, so, we get clues here that there are Jews and Gentiles in this faith community in Corinth. And Christ crucified for a Jewish person is a stumbling block because the Scriptures say who…“cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree”, right? Like, just right out of the gate. And Paul will address this later, but for…for the Hebrew people, like this…this is something to just dismiss - Paul outright. And then Gentiles, the Greeks, they’re seeking wisdom. They want to understand and yet trying to understand what Paul’s preaching, that…that the son of God came to earth in human form and allowed Himself to die in order to reconcile the world to Himself, this is like a wisdom or an understanding that seems like foolishness to them. But Paul says, “those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” This is Paul pulling people from this faction “us and them” kind of argument to look at the bigger story, that if you’re gonna look at this faith through human understanding and human wisdom it's…it’s gonna seem foolish, but like most of the rest of the world things are backward. And when we can see, when we have eyes to see and ears to hear we can see what’s really going on. And that is a bigger story, a way bigger story than saying, “I’m of Paul. I’m of Apollo’s. I’m of Peter. I’m of Christ.” And, so, then he rounds out, “brothers and sisters, consider your calling. Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many noble from birth.” And we can deduce from there that in this church some were, like some were powerful, some were of noble birth, some were wise from a human perspective, but not all. And, so, this is a mixed community and an urban center and a melting pot city in the Roman Empire. And, so, lots of people think lots of things and that’s why they’re trying to figure out what it is they’re supposed to do. And what Paul says is God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. In other words, if you think you’re one of those, then you…then you better pay attention because God is doing a new thing in the world or just to quote Paul, “God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world, what is viewed as nothing to bring to nothing what is viewed as something so that no one may boast in His presence. It is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us, our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption in order that, as it is written, ‘let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’” This is Paul responding to “I’m of Cephas. I am of Christ. I am of Apollo’s. I’m of Peter.” He’s saying, “you can’t get an identity that way, you can’t get prideful that way. You are lucky to be here at all.” This is not the last time we will come across this theme, but it is a good time to remember what he is saying because it still applies. It’s not an irrelevant notion that has of fallen out of context because the world has changed so much. This is just as important now as it was then.
Holy Spirit, we invite You into all of the ways we try to be right and we allow fear to come in because we’re afraid to be wrong or that we need an identity by who we’re selecting to…to lead us or what denomination we’re a part of or however it is that we are finding a way to distinguish ourselves from another believer so that we have a separate identity. May we understand that it’s foolishness if we try to go down that road. It’s only going to seem like foolishness. But if we have eyes to see, we can see the wisdom and the strength of Your hand in it all, making us aware that those are somewhat irrelevant arguments. We are fortunate, so, so fortunate that You are even aware of us, that You even care who we are. And, so, may we be humbled by that as we try to release our unbelievable desire to be right and force everyone who doesn’t see it our way to be wrong. Come Jesus we need You and we ask in Your name. Amen.
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