January 24, 2024
Thursday morning Bible Study on the Old Testament book of Ezra 7:1-10
Blessings for you this morning in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just a note for us all about the name change for LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service) This Church-wide board is how Alice and her family were welcomed to Tucson, and it is how we became connected to her need for support as she worked to make a place for her family for housing, education, employment, and much more. We were truly blessed to have the resources from our Red House sale to invest in the Behling-Kress House (White House) at the north side of our parking lot. And then came Alice and her family to become a part of our Christian Fellowship. LIRS will now take on a new name but will continue their fine work. They are now to be known as Global Refuge. We are in an unprecedented time of population movement on this planet. People are moving because of crime, famine, economic relief, safety, war, environmental change and global warming. Just like our families, immigration became a necessity for many of the same reasons. Global Refuge will help us as a Church address the complexities and realities of this mass movement of millions of people, in addition to moving families from danger to the support of congregations around the United States. If the Holy Standards of God for Jerusalem still stand for us today, caring for the resident alien in our midst is one of God's great measuring rods for our relationship with Him, just as it was, and is, for Israel. How do you think we are doing? Just a question to ponder as we deal with a growing sense of nationalism and isolationism in our country. Our entire Lutheran History is filled with isolationism. Every group had to have its own congregation. Swedes, the Norse, Danes, Finns, Germans, all lived in homogeneous communities and churches. It took too many years to discover the rich blessings of mixing these heritages, and to allow for that mixing diversity that makes up our congregations today.
I guess as we talk about Global Refuge, we can certainly connect it to the exiles in Persia moving back to a land which others had taken over for more than forty years. The Judahites came to restore Jerusalem, the land, and the Holy Temple and seat of the One True God. Their journey included being driven from their homes and worship, living for 40 plus years in exile in Persia, and finally receiving the support necessary for those who desired to return to head back and to begin the process of restoring their homes and worshiping communities, including the central Temple.
Ezra comes late to this party of restoration, some 100 to 150 years later. However, he comes as a priest and a specialist in the Law of Moses, the Torah. If you have not heard this before, it is during the exile in Persia that the Pharisees came into existence during the separation of the people from the guidance of Torah for living in harmony with the ten laws of God. So, in today's text Ezra is not named a Pharisee, but it is his effective role for the exile community returned to Jerusalem. The first section of today ties Ezra through genetic heritage all the way back to Aaron. He is also directly connected to Hilkiah, who was a priest of Jeremiah's time and the time of the last great king of Judah, Josiah, and as the Ezra text indicates to a long line of priests. The text tells us that Ezra was an expert scholar and teacher of the Torah. This is the definition of those who will later be named Pharisees. As priest and Torah scholar Ezra is going to be faced with having to step up to move others out, and to restore God's Truth, to those who already have these positions in the new Jerusalem and Temple.
What we discover through Ezra, is that he comes to teach both human laws and the Law of God. In the Torah it is the Decalogue (ten commandments) which come from God via Mt Sinai and Moses, 10 laws written by the hand of God. The remainder of the Torah is human created in support of a way to live in obedience to God's Laws. This is really important because we already know God's requirement for His relationship with the Hebrews from the time of the wilderness journey from Egypt and the entry of the Hebrews, and all who identify as Hebrews, into the promised land.
God's rule simply says, I will be your God, and you will be my people, if you are obedient to my Law. (10 commandments) Prophets and Ezra came at God's behest to remind the people of this, and to call for reform. This requirement of God is called the Old Testament Covenant. (Old Testament means the Old Covenant or contract between God and His people.) Now you need to take the next step. If there is an Old contract, does that mean that the New Testament is a contract also? The answer is YES! And here is the surprise. It's the same contract. I will be your God and you will be my children if you are obedient to my Law. Of course, we know how miserably the Hebrews failed at doing this, and, by the way, we are really no better at it than they were. But in the New Contract there is an addendum, and His name is Jesus. By His blood sacrifice, through which He paid the ultimate price for all sin, and now, through Him, we are right with God. Christ's merit makes this possible for every one of us to live in His gift of faith and be assured of forgiveness of sin, life with God now and forever, and Salvation. Hence, Paul in Romans, assures us that we are justified by God's Grace, through God's gift of faith. One of the great values of studying the OT is that it helps us to see how little we can do to really be righteous before God without Christ.
So far, we have been in Ezra 1-6 which concerns the restoration of the Temple, and now we move into 7-10 which tells us about the restoration of the community of people. Chapter 7-10 happens at least 50 years after chapters 1-6. This rebuilding in 7-10 is far more than constructing homes. More importantly it tells us about bringing the new community to restoration before God, and in relationship with one another. All this echoes the Great Commandment which Christ gives to us in the Gospels.
May God keep you in His Loving Care and bless each of your days with joy and peace.
In Christ, Pastor Kim