Thursday Bible Study of the OT book of Ezra 4:7-23
Blessings and Grace are my prayers for you today.
This is such a busy time of the year. This year we have opted to reduce our cookie baking, by purchasing some of our favorites at the store. I will still be creating the now famous L. Olsen oatmeal/butter cookies in multiple batches. (a better name might be butter/oatmeal cookies. They are definitely the product of a Scandinavian kitchen). They are always the first choice at our house over chocolate, sugar, Cookie Monster hand painted, fruitcake, Mexican tea crescent, and so many more cookies that our kitchen has produced over the years. Of course, if you are familiar with my Christmas baking, sour cream fruit filled coffee cakes will be getting started pretty soon. I implore you to be careful in your driving too. Our streets are extra busy right now, so being safe and law abiding is even more important.
Here at church, we will be having our free movie afternoon on Dec. 16 at 2PM. We will be providing treats, and the animated movie we are showing is great for adults and children alike. It follows the themes of the Birth Narrative in the Bible. Because this study is going out on the internet, I cannot, by licensing restrictions, share the name, but if you want to know what it is, we have posters about it on the information boards at church. This movie is my new favorite now. Please pray for safe travel for everyone who is headed to see family and friends this holiday season. Also, please pray for our Jewish sisters and brothers as they celebrate their holy day of Hanukkah.
Prayers too for the victims of the warfare in the middle east. There are no winners in war! Through our national church we support the medical ministry of Augusta Victoria Hospital in the West Bank. This hospital serves Christians, Jews, and Palestinians.
This is an interesting segue into our bible study lesson from Ezra today. Remember that in the last session we spoke of the animosity that developed between the Judahites and the Samaritans, which was mostly based on differences of worship practices of both communities and their mutual inflexibility. The letter which is sent to King Artaxerxes back in Persia is from leaders of the Samaritans who are sharing a long-known truth about the Judahites. They are stiff necked and difficult as subjects, and, indeed, are more than likely to rebel once the city of Jerusalem is fully rebuilt. The King’s reply is to stop the rebuilding immediately. However, under Nehemiah, the rebuilding gets resumed and completed, except perhaps for the Temple, which under Solomon was covered in gold. Once again, here are the Samaritans trying to throw a wrench into this whole thing.
Interesting fact: Portions of this letter were written in Aramaic. It had become the official language used for all formal and governmental communications. The other book of the OT that contains sections of Aramaic is Daniel. For the Judahites it would have been relatively easy for them to move from their own language to both understand and communicate using it. There were many similarities between the two languages. The time order of this part of Ezra is kind of wild. The content here seems to move through the period of a number of kings in Persia. We need to know that the aggression of the Samaritans spread over many years and a number of kings. There is a name here that we may not understand, The People Beyond the River. For any Persian both Samaritans and Judahites were part of that geographical designation. Anyone west of the Euphrates River was designated by that name. So, the people who write this letter are obviously Persian representatives present in Israel. Note: Nehemiah was one of these officials who we know by name. He was responsible for getting King Artaxerxes to give his permission to continue the rebuilding. But, prior to that permission we can visit the Biblical saying that the sins of the parents will be visited on their children for generations. The Jews were indeed rebellious and fought hard to keep their land and power in the face of much larger enemies over long historical periods. In this case, there is a difficult time for the newest generation of Judahites which God allows to happen, but the LORD will move to get everything going again.
Just a note about personal things. I will not be doing my Monday study of the Gospel of Mark. Monday is Melody's and my 52nd wedding anniversary. I am taking the day off.
In Christ's Love, Pastor Kim