INTERESTING FACTS : George Mason, DELEGATE AT THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION; "FATHER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS"
"I give and bequeath my soul to Almighty God that gave it me, hoping that through the meritorious death and passion of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ to receive absolution and remission for all my sins."
DAILY READING : EZRA 8 - 10
TEXT : Ezr 9:1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. Ezr 9:2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. Ezr 9:3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied. Ezr 9:4 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; a nd I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice. Ezr 9:5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God, Ezr 9:6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
THEME : SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION
The Temple is built, that is - finished, after much adversity and opposition from the Samaritans. The work was stopped for a while, until the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people with their preaching and prophesying. One such portion of Scripture is noteworthy, as Zechariah is instructed by an angel of God. Pay particular attention to Zechariah 4:6. It is full of wisdom and encouragement.
Zec 4:1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, Zec 4:2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top o f it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: Zec 4:3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. Zec 4:4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Zec 4:5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Zec 4:6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Zec 4:7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Zec 4:8 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Zec 4:9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. Zec 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for t hey shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth. [Highlighting and underlining - mine]
Zerubbabel, to whom this prophecy is directed, was the man who led the first group of Jews from Babylon back to Judea.
" In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, he led the first band of Jews, numbering 42,360 (Ezr_2:64), exclusive of a large number of servants, who returned from captivity at the close of the seventy years. In the second year after the Return, he erected an altar and laid the foundation of the temple on the ruins of that which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezr_3:8-13; Ezra 4 - 6). All through the work he occupied a prominent place, inasmuch as he was a descendant of the royal line of David." [Easton's Bible Dictionary]
We see in Zechariah's prophecy, that the people of Judah are counseled to know the work of rebuilding the Temple is the work of God, not Man. Further, although He uses them to do His will, it is He, that is, the LORD, who will make sure it is completed. It is not Man's might, and it is not Man's power. It is by the Spirit of the LORD.
This is an important lesson for all those who work for the LORD in His kingdom to learn. In particular, although we have responsibilities and duties to carry out before the LORD, we must never forget it is He who grants success. All that God wills must come to pass. However, sometimes we forget this salient truth. Further, when we do forget it, we are prone to discouragement or depression. The people of Judah became discouraged in the work of the LORD from the nagging and irksome interference of the Samaritans.
Ezr 4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Ben jamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; Ezr 4:2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. Ezr 4:3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Ezr 4:4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,
When working for the LORD, or, simply living for God in our daily lives, we often forget His power and presence. We are often troubled and discouraged by the "Samaritans" of this world who try to discourage us in various ways. Yet, if we listen to them and forget God's Word, we will be tempted to quit "building" or stop trying to build. Discouragement and its counterpart =2�� depression, is the average experience of all of God's people. Sometimes, God permits our lapse of memory so we can be renewed in the power of His might.
Eph 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; Eph 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, [Highlighting and underlining - mine]
When the Temple was completed an amazing event occurs. The celebration of the finishing of the Temple was an occasion of great joy. The people honored God for its completion with gratitude and gladness of heart. Also, Ezra leads a time of fasting and prayer to ask God to guide the rest of the captives who were about to leave and return to Judea safely into the land, not willing to ask for help from Artaxerxes because he had bragged about how strong and good God was to His people. Thus, God grants them safe passage. In all, God did tremendous and marvelous wonders for His people, for which the leaders were, no doubt, exceedingly glad. Then, the people sin once again.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "GOD'S EARS ARE OPEN TO THE CRY OF HIS CHILDREN WHEN THEY ARE IN TROUBLE!"
After all God did for those who escaped captivity and helped rebuild the Temple [and parts of the city of Jerusalem] they start to inter-marry with the people of the land. Oddly enough, and what added more grief to Ezra, was the fact the rulers of the people were the worst offenders. Ezra is so shocked, amazed, and ashamed that he tears his clothes and plucked out the hair from his head and beard. The Bible records Ezra was utterly astonished.
Ezr 9:3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied. [שׁמם shâmêm; shaw-mame' - A primitive root; to stun (or intransitively grow numb), that is, devastate or (figuratively) stupefy (both usually in a passive sense): - make amazed, be astonied, (be an) astonish (-ment), (be, bring into, unto, lay, lie, make) desolate (-ion, places), be destitute, destroy (self), (lay, lie, make) waste, wonder. Strong's Dictionary]
"This information threw Ezra into deep grief and moral consternation. The tearing of the upper and under garments was a sign of heartfelt and grievous affliction (Jos_8:6); see remarks on Lev_10:6. The plucking out of (a portion of) the hair was the expression of violent wrath or moral indignation, comp. Neh_13:25, and is not to be identified with the cutting off of the hair in mourning Job_1:20). "And sat down stunned;" מְשֹׁומֵם, desolate, rigid, stunned, without motion. While he was sitting thus, there were gathered unto him all who feared the word of God concerning the transgression of those that had been carried away." [Keil and Delitzsch]
"Many corruptions lurk out of the view of the most careful rulers. Some of the people disobeyed the express command of God, which forbade all marriages with the heathen, Deuteronomy 7. Disbelief of God's all-sufficiency, is at the bottom of the sorry shifts we make to help ourselves. They exposed themselves and their children to the peril of idolatry, that had ruined their church and nation. Carnal professors may make light of such connexions, and try to explain away the exhortations to be separate; but those who are best acquainted with the word of God, will treat the subject in another manner. They must forebode the worst from such unions. The evils excused, and even pleaded for; by many professors, astonish and cause regret in the true believer. All who profess to be God's people, ought to strengthen those that appear and act against vice and profaneness." [Matthew Henry]
Ezra is in deep alarm at these developments as he begins to pray. Yet, it was not he that sinned, but others. Why then would he take this news so hard?
We know from the text the people went back to idolatry [or at least were headed in that direction] when they inter-married with the surrounding nations. This was the reason they went into captivity in the first place. Ezra of course, knew this. Further, perhaps Ezra like Elijah - who after a great display of courage, faith, and energy on Mount Carmel against the false prophets of Israel, became depressed at the mere mention that Jezebel was out to kill him, was weary from all the duties, responsibilities, and work laid on his shoulders. Perhaps, the combination of the two - exhaustion and disobedience of the people cause him to be overcome with grief. This is a plausible explanation for Ezra's astonishment, and for the plucking of his hair from the head and beard as he sat down - "astonished."
Many of God's greatest men in the Bible suffered from spiritual depression. That is, the source of their depression was found in their self-sacrifice an d unselfish concern for God and His people. We see Moses depressed to the point of wanting to die. Elijah felt the same. David had moments of melancholia. In fact, we even see Jesus sighing and weeping at times during His days on earth. Look through the Bible and you will see that serving God, and living for God has its times of discouragement and depression.
Psalm 88 is only 18 verse long, and best explains the truth that God's people [servants] are sometimes bewildered, crushed, fearful, and in emotional pain.
Psa 88:1 A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: Psa 88:2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; Psa 88:3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. Psa 88:4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strengt h: Psa 88:5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. Psa 88:6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Psa 88:7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. Psa 88:8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. Psa 88:9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee. Psa 88:10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. Psa 88:11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Psa 88:12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? Psa 88:13 But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. Psa 88:14 LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? Psa 88:15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Psa 88:16 Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. Psa 88:17 They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. Psa 88:18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.
However, God does not leave His servants in that [deplorable] condition. God is close to the brokenhearted and near to them that are depressed.
Psa 34:17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. Psa 34:18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psa 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. Psa 34:20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Psa 34:21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. Psa 34:22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.
Let us remember this lesson. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, BUT the LORD delivers him out of the ALL! You can cast all of your cares on Him, because He cares for you!
1Pe 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.