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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kim Taylor

Pastor's Ponderings: Old Testament bible study on Ezra 6:1-16 (January 11, 2024)

January 11, 2024

Thursday morning Bible Study on the OT Book of Ezra 6:1-16

Blessings and Peace to you this Thursday morning.  I hope that you will be safe moving around town today, as the weather is going to change with high winds and the potential for some rain.  If you are also doing the study of Mark on Mondays and Wednesdays, then you already know about the free movie at American on Saturday afternoon at 2PM.  I hope that we will get a number of you out to come and see this very well-received movie.  NO COST, FREE SNACKS.  It’s a great way to spend a few hours on Saturday afternoon.  Today please pray for the homeless in our community as they deal with this weather forecast.

A bible open to the Old Testament book of Ezra
Old Testament book of Ezra

Today, we continue in chapter 6:1-16 in the book of Ezra, and here is an amazing thing, though the Judahites were having issues with the Samaritan end of their heritage as they were trying to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and they were battling the thinking that since housing was getting finished they could relax about getting the Temple completely rebuilt, which by the way, even with the story of this chapter, never really gets fully completed, the Judahites find that God has been working in the midst of this situation for quite a while, beginning with King Cyrus all the way to King Artaxerxes.  We know full well how hard it can be for Christian communities to get along, sometimes even within denominations.  The Church on earth is, after all, led by people who are both saints and sinners, seeking and finding God's help in every single day, yet, who are also often ignoring God's Grace and Fullness as they live in their "castles" of faith, thinking that every other denomination, in some way, makes them smaller and less important in the work of the Kingdom of God.  But sometimes, when we think that things have kind of gotten off track, we discover, as did the Judahites, that God has been there all of the time, moving and shaping the political, environmental, and economical issues of the day.  So, to their surprise the Judahites discover that the costs of rebuilding the Temple will be borne by the current King of Persia at the order of that distant Kind Cyrus, now long dead.  When a search of Persian records is done, the orders of King Cyrus are found, and Artaxerxes moves to act in accordance with those orders.  Even the contraband from the earlier conquering of Judah and Jerusalem, and the King's palace, are to be returned, and as we see, there must be caches of these kinds of riches throughout Persia, kept away from the King's Palace for the reason that if they are kept centrally, they become vulnerable to those who would overthrow the current Persian King.  Artaxerxes even goes so far at the orders of Cyrus, to provide quality animals for use as sacrifices to the God of the earth on the altar of the rebuilding Jerusalem.  We must note here that evidently the Persian King is more than a little worried about ticking off the Judahite God!

All of this is not the same situation as Christian Nationalism in our country for the Judahites remained completely under the control of the government of Artaxerxes, though they were most certainly being offered the benevolent help of the Persian nation.  The reality is that Jewish Nationalism created and has continued to create many very difficult situations for Israel.  Jesus knows this and says that we should render to government that which belongs to the government and render to God what belongs to God.  Christianity in the Middle East today remains under that control of governments and nations, some of which are tolerant of it, and others which seek to destroy it.  Obviously, Christianity is not in that circumstance in Israel, but Jordan is one of the few nations which, under Muslim rule, tolerates Christianity, even while Muslim law fully applies to the Christian Communities too. 

Remember that we are not able to use Ezra as a chronologically correct text.  In chapter four an order which will come after what we have just read, will require the work on the Temple in Jerusalem to stop.  This happens because the people in charge beyond the river inform the Persian King that these people who are now rebuilding the Temple are dangerous, to his kingship.

Of all of the things that we might learn from this passage, the most important is to know that God's Hand is always involved in the endeavors of His Faithful people.  In all of the ups and downs of congregations our God is never absent, even though we may act like He is.

God bless you and keep you until we are together again in worship, in the community, or here in our Bible Studies of Mark and Ezra.

With love in Christ for your faith, Pastor Kim


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