God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 19 - Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137: Israel Endures Harassment to Rebuild the Temple in Honor of God

Today’s Reading: Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Israel's enemies wanted to stop the Temple's construction. Instead, they condemned themselves.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Israel's enemies heard they were rebuilding the Temple. They harassed the builders 15 years. They wrote accusation letters to Artaxerxes about Judah's rebellious past and warned that the Temple was a ruse to rebel again. Construction was stopped.
Tattenai, the governor, asked Darius to find the order for construction. The decree from Cyrus was found. It warned that if anyone tried to stop Israel, they would be executed. Darius enacted the order fully.
The Temple in Honor of God was rededicated with a large feast. Everyone observed the Passover—exiles and locals alike. They enjoyed a sea of joy.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 137

While the exiles mourn the loss of Zion their captors demand happy songs. How could they sing happy songs at a time like this? They will always remember Jerusalem. They cry for God to repay the Babylonians for what they have done!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Israel had to endure harassment 15 years.

When their first plan of sabotage was foiled, Israel's enemies settled in on the sure-fire way of working against Israel while not being punished—discouragement. This went on for 15 years. This type of psychological warfare may not stop the victim from trying, but it severely weakens their resolve to do something difficult. It is easy, cheap, and less risky than physical warfare. God's Chosen People must endure discouragement from people who do not care to set things right.
One of the hardest obstacles for Christians to overcome is discouragement. We struggle with our own doubts while having to listen to harassment by people who don't understand our faith, our trust, and our willingness to obey God. While some Christians are too quick to claim they are being persecuted, we must admit there are some who do not want to see Christians succeed. Some may have had negative experiences with Christians before. Others may have no reason other than wanting to see Christianity look bad. No matter what type of discouragement comes our way, we, too, should have faith that God will set things right and continue in our obedience.

Half-truths can only win if no one is willing to seek for the whole truth.

Israel's enemies sent a letter to the Persian king Artaxerxes detailing Judah's rebellions. They were historically accurate but telling only half the truth. They either did not know or knowingly omitted Cyrus' decree. The interesting part is that it took Israel at least two years to remind king Darius of Cyrus' decree. They almost allowed the harassment and half-truths to keep the Temple in Honor of God from being rebuilt.
Those who tell half-truths hope no one is willing to do research to question their assertions. We hear half-truths often. It may be difficult to go against them, but we must be willing to demand the whole truth to set things right.
At the same time, half-truths come in handy when they make ourselves look good; however, we cannot succumb to the low road. Beware half-truths and half-truth-tellers. They do not set things right.

God "plunged them into a sea of joy" (6:22, The Message).

At last, God has rebuilt the Temple to His Honor. Israel is now safe in its borders again (though not self-governing). The Levites and priests became ritually clean and everyone observed the Passover together, although the time for God to accept anyone into the Temple is still ahead. Non-Chosen People observing the Passover is nothing new, but a great thing to see—especially after 70 years of no one observing the Passover.

Psalm 137 is an emotional response to a great loss.

Psalm 137 may be the most difficult psalm to read because they cry:
God, remember those Edomites,
   and remember the ruin of Jerusalem,
That day they yelled out,
   “Wreck it, smash it to bits!”
And you, Babylonians—ravagers!
   A reward to whoever gets back at you
   for all you’ve done to us;
Yes, a reward to the one who grabs your babies
   and smashes their heads on the rocks! (vv. 7-9, The Message)
As I wrote earlier, we are not used to such emotional responses. Some take these sections to discredit the entire Bible. What I hope we get from this psalm is a sense that these people were real and were not dispassionate robots doing God's Will. God does not censure emotional responses. Neither should we.

How can we encourage you today?

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