JOSEPH, Earthly Father of Jesus

Along with great pride, most new fathers feel some amount of anxiety over the new responsibilities they face.  But, no father has ever felt what Joseph must have been feeling; he was given the task of parenting the Son of God!  Where’s the manual for that?  Who could you ask for advice?

See Luke 1:26-37.

 

I.  Joseph’s Distress…  Matthew 1:18

Even before Jesus was born, Joseph had faced much… and his good character was revealed through it all.

When Mary returned from her time away with her cousin, Elizabeth, she was obviously pregnant.  And Joseph knew the baby was not his.

Mary claimed an angel visit… and that the Baby she was carrying was actually the Son of God!… conceived by the Holy Spirit; do you think this eased his mind?  The news must have hit him like a punch in the stomach!  What would people think?  What was he supposed to tell his family and friends?  Could Mary be telling the truth?

 

II.  Joseph’s Decision…  Matthew 1:19

Joseph could have reacted in a number of ways; he could have publicly shamed Mary, he could have had her stoned as an adultress, he could have simply disappeared in the night.  Instead, when he learned that Mary was pregnant with a child he knew could not be his, he mercifully planned to divorce her quietly and spare her any public disgrace.

LifeAPP:

In the midst of his personal crisis, his first 2 thoughts were:

1)  What does God want me to do?

2)  How can I best show mercy and kindness to Mary?

Think back to a crisis in your own life.  How did you respond?  If a writer were to summarize your actions in 1 or 2 sentences (like Matthew did Joseph’s), how would it read?

*  Adversity reveals much about our spiritual character.

 

III.  Joseph’s First Dream

-  The Message…  Matthew 1:20-33

An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him he should marry her – because the Baby in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit and would be the Savior of the world!

-  The Marriage…  Matthew 1:24,25

Joseph took Mary to be his wife… and her Child as his own.

LifeAPP:

Joseph must have felt his world had turned upside-down when Mary told him of her pregnancy, but he kept an open mind and an open heart.  And, as a result, God allowed Joseph the privilege of caring for the Christ child.

When you receive what appears to be bad news, keep an open mind and heart.  God may have a plan to bring blessing out of what appears to be tragedy.

 

See Luke 2:1-20.

When Mary gave birth to Jesus, Joseph watched… no doubt amazed… as people came from near and far to worship the Baby as the divine King.

See Luke 2:21-24,39-41.

See Matthew 2:1-12.

 

IV.  Joseph’s Second Dream…  Matthew 2:13-18

An angel appeared to Joseph again and warned him to take his young family to Egypt to avoid being killed by King Herod.

 

V.  Joseph’s Third Dream…  Matthew 2:19-21

 

VI.  Joseph’s Fourth Dream…  Matthew 2:22,23

Joseph returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where he continued to raise Jesus, the Savior of the world.

 

LifeAPP:

4 dreams… Imagine what would have happened if Joseph had ignored the clear revelation of God from any of these 4 dreams.  Suppose he’d awakened from one of those dreams and just tried to explain it away: How can I be sure it was a dream from God?  Maybe it was just the pickles and milk I had before sleep.  It seems urgent, but what would be the harm in waiting to see what happens?

Can you imagine the blessings he would have missed?  Or thee dangers he would have faced?

For us, obedience doesn’t always seem so urgent.  We’re not faced with world-changing events or life-and-death choices very often.  But the principle is still true: God wants to guide us and bless us.  And we can’t know the full extent of His blessings unless we follow His lead.

*  We have to obey God to experience His blessings.

 

Joseph was apparently a carpenter by trade (Matt. 13:55), and he must have passed these skills on to Jesus as well… because Jesus was also referred to as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).

When Jesus was 12 years old, Joseph & Mary were reminded again of Jesus’ true identity when they found Him in the temple, astounding the teachers with His questions.  Jesus reminded Joseph & Mary that the temple was His true Father’s house, so it should be no surprise He would be there.

This is the last occasion Joseph is mentioned as being present; he evidently died early in life, before Jesus began His public ministry.

 

You can read Joseph’s story in Matthew 1,2; Luke 2.

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary was an Israelites Jewish girl/woman of Nazareth in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus.

Specific References

Luke’s Gospel mentions Mary most often of the Gospels, identifying her by name 12 times… all of these in the infancy narrative.

Matthew’s Gospel only mentions Mary by name 5 times, 4 of these in the infancy narrative.

Mark’s Gospel names her only once.

John’s Gospel refers to her twice, but never mentions her by name.

In the book of Acts, Luke’s second writing, Mary and the “brothers of Jesus” are mentioned in the company of the 11 who are gathered in the upper room after the ascension (Acts 1:14).

 

Family & Early Life

The New Testament tells little of Mary’s early history.

According to Luke, Mary was a cousin of Elizabeth, wife of the priest Zechariah.

Mary lived in “her own house” (Luke 1:56) in Nazareth of Galilee, probably with her parents.

 

Luke 1:26-38…  Birth Announced to Mary

During her betrothal – the first stage of a Jewish marriage, similar to an engagement – the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah by conceiving Him through the Holy Spirit.

LifeAPP:

Mary’s response to the surprising will of God is a great example for us.  When we are confronted by situations that might seem crazy or unfair, do we balk and complain?  Or do we trust God… knowing He is good, and that He knows best?

*  How you respond to unexpected events is a good measure of your faith.

 

Luke 1:39-56…  Mary Visits Elizabeth

 

Matthew 1:18-25…  Joseph’s – and Mary’s – Decision

After a number of months (probably 3-4), when Joseph – in a dream by “an angel of the Lord” – was told of Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit, he was surprised.  DUH!  But, the angel told him to be unafraid and take Mary as his wife, which Joseph did.

 

Luke 2:1-20…  Birth of Jesus

According to Luke’s Gospel, a decree of the Roman Emperor Augustus required that Joseph return to his family’s hometown of Bethlehem… in order to be registered for a tax.  While he was there – with Mary – she gave birth to Jesus; but, because there was no place for them in the inn, she used a manger as a cradle.

 

Luke 2:22-38…  Jesus Presented to God

After Mary continued in the “blood of her purifying” for another 33 days – for a total of 40 days, she brought her burnt offering and sin offering to the temple, so the priest could make atonement for their sins.  There, they also presented Jesus.  After the prophecies of Simeon and the prophetess Anna concluded, Joseph and Mary and Jesus “returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.”

 

Matthew 2:1-12…  Visit by Wisemen

Sometime later (maybe as much as 2yrs), the “wisemen” showed up at the “house” where Jesus and His family were staying.

 

Matthew 2:13-15…  Escape to Egypt from Herod

Matthew 2:19-21…  Return to Israel after Herod’s Death

Matthew 2:22,23; Luke 2:39,40…  Settling in Nazareth

 

Mary in the Life of Jesus

Luke 2:41-52…  Jesus’ Childhood

Mary is mentioned in the only event recorded in Scripture from Jesus’ childhood.  At the age of 12, Jesus, having become separated from His parents on their return journey from the Passover celebration in Jerusalem, was found among the teachers in the temple.

John 2:1-12…  The Wedding in Cana

This is the only text in the Gospels in which it is recorded that Mary speaks to (and about) the adult Jesus.

John 4:14-30…  Jesus Rejected at Nazareth (Mary is not mentioned)

Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21…  Mary and Jesus’ Half-Brothers Send for Jesus

 

Mary at the Death of Jesus

John 19:25-27; Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40

Mary is depicted as being present among the women at the crucifixion.  She was near enough that Jesus spoke to her from the cross… and about her to John the apostle.

 

After the Ascension of Jesus

In Acts 1:26, Mary is the only one – other than the 11 apostles – mentioned by name in the upper room.

 

Mary’s death is not recorded in Scripture.  Catholic tradition and doctrine her being taken bodily into Heaven before death.  This, among other things in Catholic tradition, tend to venerate the “Virgin Mary” too highly, almost equating her with Jesus Himself!

 

You can read Mary’s story of faith sprinkled throughout the Gospels, and in the first part of the book of Acts.

ELIZABETH, Mother of John the Baptizer

As an outside observer (since I’ve never given birth), it seems few joys in life can compare to that which is felt by a mother who gives birth to a child. I would think this is especially true if that mother has struggled for years to get pregnant. That is Elizabeth’s story!

Elizabeth was the wife of a priest named Zechariah. Both of them served God blamelessly. Elizabeth was also a relative of Mary – a cousin/second cousin – who would later give birth to Jesus.

I. Her Relationship with God… Luke 1:5,6

II. Her Relationship with Her Husband… Luke 1:13,57-61

When we first read of Elizabeth and her husband, they are both very old… and had been unable to ever have children.

In that time and place, a woman’s value was largely measured by her ability to bear children. An aging couple without children faced personal hardship and public shame. If Zechariah had not loved Elizabeth, their childlessness could have been grounds for divorce… and remarriage. But, through many long years, the 2 had clung to each other… and to God.

Life had pretty much settled into a routine… until her husband, Zechariah, came home from his temple shift, unable to speak! But, he was able to gesture or write to her what had happened… and that they would have a son! They were to name him John (and he would become known as John the Baptizer).

LifeAPP:

In our own lives, we need to remember God is in control of every situation. Beyond any fevered planning and rushed effort on our own, God’s timing and plans are perfect.

When did you last pause long enough to recognize God’s timing in the events of your life?

* God’s timing is always worth waiting for!

III. Her Relationship with Mary… Luke 1:36-45

When Elizabeth was 5-6months pregnant, that same angel appeared to Mary and announced she would give birth to Jesus… and that Elizabeth was already pregnant with a son.

Mary went to visit Elizabeth and, when Elizabeth saw her, her child leaped within her womb! Elizabeth responded by referring to Mary as “the mother of my Lord“.

LifeAPP:

Elizabeth was pregnant with a long-awaited son; she could have envied Mary, whose son would be greater than her own. Instead, she was filled with joy that the mother of her Lord would come visit her!

Have you ever envied someone God has seemingly singled out for a special blessing? A cure for jealousy is to rejoice with them, realizing God uses His people in the way best suited for His purpose.

The next time you feel a twinge of envy toward someone, remember how Elizabeth rejoiced. Make it your aim to enjoy that person’s blessing.

* Rejoice in good news, wherever you find it!

Elizabeth did give birth to a son, and they did name him John… just as the angel told them to. All her relatives and neighbors shared in her joy.

You can read Elizabeth’s story in Luke 1.

ZECHARIAH, Father of John the Baptizer

There are 12 Zechariahs mentioned in the Bible; it was a common name.

The Zechariah in question for this blog, is the father of John the Baptizer… and a priest of the sons of Aaron… and a prophet in Luke 1:67-79… and the husband of Elizabeth (who was a cousin to Mary, the mother of Jesus).

 

I.  Zechariah’s Spouse… Luke 1:5-7

According to Luke’s Gospel, during the reign of King Herod there was “a certain priest named Zechariah, of the course of Abia”, whose wife was Elizabeth, and was of the priestly family of Aaron.  Both parents were righteous before God… “blameless” in observing the commandments and ordinances of God.  When the events related in Luke began, their marriage was still childless, because Elizabeth was barren and they were both very old.

 

II.  Zechariah’s Service…  Luke 1:8-10

The duties at the temple in Jerusalem alternated between each of the family lines that had descended from those appointed by King David.

 

III.  Zechariah’s Shock

-  The Reason… Luke 1:11,12

During the week when it was the duty of Zechariah’s family line to serve at the Temple, the lot for performing the incense offering fell on Zechariah.  As he performed this honored task, an angel of the Lord appeared to him!

-  The Revelation… Luke 1:13-17

The angel announced that Zechariah’s wife would give birth to a son, whom he was to name John, and that this son would be the forerunner/announcer/way-paver for the Lord.

-  The Reluctance… Luke 1:18

Reminding the angel of their advanced age, Zechariah asked with disbelief for a sign, showing him the angel spoke the truth.

LifeAPP:  How do YOU respond when God gives you a wonderful promise?  Do you wait until you have proof?

 

-  The Rebuke…  Luke 1:19,20

In reply, the angel identified himself as Gabriel, sent especially by God to make this announcement, and added that, because of Zechariah’s doubt, he would be struck dumb and “not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed“.

-  The Restraint…  Luke 1:21-25

When Zechariah went out to the waiting worshipers in the temple’s outer courts, he was unable to speak the customary blessing.

And, after returning to his house in Hebron, his wife, Elizabeth, conceived!

(In the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, her cousin, Mary, was visited by the same angel, Gabriel, and was told she would conceive by the Holy Spirit… and she did!  Mary then traveled to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, having been told by the angel about her pregnancy.  She remained with Elizabeth until Elizabeth delivered her son, ans then Mary returned to Nazareth… now showing her own pregnancy.)

 

I.  Zechariah the Father

-  Writing… Luke 1:57-63

Elizabeth gave birth, and on the 8th day, when their son was to be circumcised according to the Law, her cousins and neighbors assumed the baby would be named after his father.  But Elizabeth insisted his name would be John… and, when the crowd questioned Zechariah, he wrote on a tablet (still unable to speak), “His name is John.”  That’s when his ability to speak came back.

LifeAPP:

Because of his own lack of faith, Zechariah missed out on the opportunity to tell others the good news for himself.  What opportunities have you missed out on because of your own lack of faith?

 

-  Worshiping… Luke 1:64-66

With his first words, Zechariah blessed God with a prophecy now known as the Benedictus.

 

II.  Zechariah the Foreteller… Luke 1:67-80

Everything happened just as the angel said it would!  His child would grow up and “wax strong in spirit“, but would live in the deserts of Judea until he would begin his ministry, being known as “John the Baptist” (Luke 1:80; 3:2,3; Matt. 3:1).

 

LifeAPP:

The story of Zechariah reminds us of God’s unpredictable and unusual ways.  He often turns conventional wisdom upside-down to accomplish His purpose.  He chooses unlikely people.  He trumps man-made customs and traditions.  He defies logic.  He overcomes insurmountable odds.

Rejoice in the fact that our God is all-powerful!  He can do anything!!  And, He is also good!!!  Such a combination should bring us great comfort!!!!

Whatever dilemma we find ourselves in, we can be sure God is in control and at work for His own glory and for our own good.

 

You can read Zechariah’s story in Luke 1.

GABRIEL, an Archangel

Gabriel (“God Is My Strength”) is an angel who typically serves as a messenger sent from God to certain people.

In the Bible, Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old & New Testament.

In the Old Testament, he appeared to the prophet, Daniel, delivering explanation of Daniel’s visions; Daniel 8:15-26;9:21-27.

In the New Testament – in the Gospel of Luke – Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, and to the virgin Mary, foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively; Luke 1:11-38.  It is assumed that Gabriel is also the angel that appeared to Joseph in Matthew 1:18-25, though he is not named.

 

In Islam

According to the Quran, God sent the Quran to the prophet Muhammad through His angel, Gabriel.  Gabriel is named many times in the Quran.

In Muslim tradition, Gabriel is considered one of the primary archangels.  Muslims believe Gabriel was 1 of the 3 angels who earlier informed Abraham of the birth of Isaac.

Of course, the Bible makes no mention of any of this.

 

In Mormonism

In Mormon theology, Gabriel is believed to have lived a mortal life as the prophet, Noah.  The 2 are regarded as being the same individual; Noah being his mortal name and Gabriel being his heavenly name.

Of course, the Bible makes no mention of any of this.

 

So… let’s look at what the Bible says about Gabriel:

 

I.  To Daniel

-  His First Visit

*  His Identity… Dan. 8:15-19

*  His Information

1)  About the 2-Horned Ram… Dan. 8:20

He says it represents the Medo-Persian Empire.

2)  About the 1-Horned Goat… Dan. 8:21,22

He says it represents Greece, which would break into 4 parts after Alexander the Great.

3)  About the 3rd Creature… Dan. 8:23-27

This probably refers to Antiochus Epiphanes 4, who would defile the temple in 167BC… as a foreshadow of an event during the Great Tribulation.

-  His Second Visit

*  His Mission… Dan. 9:20-23

*  His Message

God will accomplish His purpose during a specified number of years.

1)  The Number… Dan. 9:24

70×7=490 years, beginning from the time off rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem.

2)  The Nature

a.  First Period… Dan. 9:25

49 years, during which Jerusalem would be rebuilt.

b.  Second Period… Dan. 9:26

434 years, at which time the Messiah would be crucified.

c.  Third Period… Dan. 9:27

7 years, referring to the Great Tribulation.

 

II.  To Zechariah, announcing the birth of John the Baptizer…  Luke 1:11-25

 

III.  To Mary, announcing the conception and birth of Jesus the Christ…  Luke 1:26-38

 

(IV.  To Joseph, announcing the conception and birth of Jesus the Christ… Matt. 1:18-25)

This may not have been Gabriel, but it seems he was the one in the message-bearing business at this time!

 

You can read Gabriel’s story… as it is written so far… in Daniel 8,9; Luke 1; and possibly/probably Matthew 1.

JOEL, Old Testament “Minor” Prophet

All we now of the final Old Testament prophet, Joel, we know from reading his short book.

He prophesied in Jerusalem at a time just after the 2nd temple had been rebuilt (Joel 2:17), but, beyond that, no one is certain when he was active.  But, since he is not mentioned by Ezra, Nehemiah or Malachi (who were all contemporaries of each other), and was active after the temple had been rebuilt, it is safe to say he was after them… making him the final OT prophet.

Joel’s immediate concern was a plague of locusts.  For an agricultural society, this meant devastation, famine, and eventual death.  But, for Joel, it was also an opportunity to try to get the people to turn back to God in faith…

 

I.  Current Conditions

-  The Devastation… Joel 1:1-12,15-18

-  The Proclamation… Joel 1:13,14

-  The Supplication… Joel 1:19,20

 

II.  Coming Conditions

Joel describes 3 future “days”:

-  The Day of Pentecost… Joel 2:28-32

See Acts 2:14-18; Rev. 6:12-14.

-  The Day of the Lord (the Great Tribulation)… Joel 2:1-21; 3:1-16  (key verses are v.12,13)

-  The Day of Christ (the Millennial Reign)… Joel 2:22-27; 3:17-21

 

It would be almost 400 years between Joel’s prophecy and the start of the New Testament… almost 400 years of relative spiritual silence.  Joel’s words would be the final words given to mankind.  But, these words – if that is all mankind had – would be enough to be aware of the coming Messiah.

LifeAPP:

One rarely knows when “last words” might be heard… or what those “last words” might be.  But, as long as those “last words” are words of instruction, the responsibility to obedience lies on those to whom those “last words” are given.

 

You can read Joel’s story – our final Bible person of the Old Testament – by reading the book of Joel, named after him.

SANBALLAT, TOBIAH & GESHEM, 3 of Those Who Opposed Nehemiah

Word had reached Nehemiah in Persia about the situation in Jerusalem; the walls had not been rebuilt… and no one seemed to care.

Nehemiah confessed his peoples’ sins to God. He then asked for – and received – permission from King Artaxerxes to go to Jerusalem to repair the walls.

After Nehemiah got to Jerusalem, he inspected the walls… the put together a plan to rebuild. But, not everyone was on board with the work…

See Nehemiah 2:19,20; 4:1-6,7-9,11-23; 6:1-4,5-9.

Nehemiah faced a huge logistical problem in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. But, that wasn’t his biggest problem. There were those who were determined to keep Nehemiah from rebuilding the demolished walls; chief among them were Sanballat & Tobiah (2 local leaders) & Geshem (an Arab with clout).

Their opposition may have been provoked by racial bigotry, greed, selfishness, or jealousy. But, whatever their motives, they were determined to stop Nehemiah.

These 3 mocked Nehemiah and his plan. They questioned Nehemiah’s authority and motives. They threatened Nehemiah. And they tried to lure Nehemiah into a compromising situation.

LifeAPP:

Before you write off these 3 as all-time bad guys, is there any of their attitude in you? How do you respond when a new somebody is assigned to your “turf” or your responsibilities? Do you welcome new people with their new ideas and enthusiasm, or do you resent them and see them as a threat? Do you try to make their job easier or harder?

If pleasing God is our overriding desire, we don’t have to worry about who gets the credit for a job well done. We can be pleased to be a part of God’s work – even if someone else plays a bigger role.

LifeAPP:

When we set out to follow God’s instructions for life – doing His will – we can expect to run into some of the same reactions Nehemiah did. The names and faces will be different, but God’s opponents always share the same objective: to keep us from doing what God wants us to do.

We need to remember how Nehemiah encountered his opposition: he prayed, he planned, and he persisted in the work God had given him. Even the threat of death did not keep from carrying out what he knew God wanted him to do.

How often do we give up before opposition that is much weaker than what Nehemiah faced? Rely on God’s resources as you plan your defense against the enemy’s opposition.

* We set ourselves up for defeat when we try to face problems without prayer.

You can read the story of Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem in Nehemiah 2,4,6.

NEHEMIAH, Persian Cupbearer & Jewish Reformer

Nehemiah (“Comforted of the Lord”) is the central figure of the book of Nehemiah, which describes his work rebuilding Jerusalem and reforming the Jewish community. He was probably of the tribe of Judah, and his career probably took place in the second half of the 5th century BC.

The book of Nehemiah is a excellent book on leadership!

I. The Report

- Learning about the Wall of Jerusalem… Neh. 1:1-3

- Lamenting over the Wall of Jerusalem… Neh. 1:4-11

II. The Request

- The Petition to the King… Neh. 2:1-5

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia (445/444BC), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild them.

- The Permission from the King… Neh. 2:6-10

Appearing in the queen’s presence (2:6) may indicate his being a eunuch, and, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) he is described as a eunuch. If so, the later attempt by his enemy, Shemaiah, to trick him into entering the temple is intended to trick him into breaking the Law, rather than simply hiding from the assassins.

Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls.

III. The Review

- Nehemiah’s Examination… Neh. 2:11-16

Nehemiah had probably never set foot in his homeland when he took it upon himself to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. The city had been destroyed about 100yrs before his time.

But, Nehemiah was ideally suited to the task – driven, determined, and unafraid to confront any obstacle. He was a man who prayed… and then plotted a deliberate strategy.

- Nehemiah’s Exhortation… Neh. 2:17-20

IV. The Repairs (Neh. 3:1-32)

V. The Troubles (Neh. 4:1–6:14)

Nehemiah defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides – Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs, and Philistines. Friends and foes… from inside and from outside.

He faced ridicule, conspiracy, discouragement, intimidation, internal strife, ruse, slander, and treachery.

VI. The Triumph… Neh. 6:15-19

When Nehemiah learned the city walls were still lying in ruins, leaving the city vulnerable to attack, he sprang into action. He surveyed the problem, prayed about it, and came up with a plan to rebuild Jerusalem’s defenses.

And they rebuilt the walls in 52 days!

But, Nehemiah knew it wasn’t about him! He knew the swiftness of the rebuilding would serve as a warning to Jerusalem’s enemies only if they made sure God got the credit!

LifeAPP:

Nehemiah gave credit where credit was due.

How was Nehemiah able to do what evidently no one else could? Some cite his leadership and organizational skills. Others point to his ability to motivate. But, the answer is probably found in Nehemiah’s prayer life:

* When Nehemiah felt discouraged and depressed, he prayed (1:4-11)

* When Nehemiah was under attack, he prayed (4:4,5,9)

* When Nehemiah felt powerless and weak, he prayed (6:9)

* When Nehemiah was happy, he prayed (12)

Even in the midst of his busy schedule, he carried on an ongoing conversation with God (2:4)

LifeAPP:

What about you? Is prayer a regular part of your life? Do you rely on God during tough times? Do you regularly thank Him and praise Him during the good times?

* The secret to a life filled with power is a life filled with prayer.

Nehemiah then took measures to repopulate the city and reform the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra with re-teaching the Law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

After 12years as governor, during which time he ruled with justice and righteousness, Nehemiah returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa, he retuned to Jerusalem… only to find that the people had slipped back into their old, evil ways. Non-Jews were allowed to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath, and were permitted to keep rooms in the temple. Greatly angered, Nehemiah purified the temple and the priests and the Levites and enforced the observance of the law of Moses.

You can read Nehemiah’s story in the book of Nehemiah.

MALACHI, Old Testament “Minor” Prophet

Malachi (“Messenger”) was a Jewish prophet. Malachi wrote the book/prophecy named Malachi, the last book in the Bible’s prophet section, and the final book of the Old Testament. But, he probably was not the last Old Testament prophet; Joel probably served in that capacity.

I. God’s Compassion for Israel… Mal. 1:1-5

II. God’s Complaint against Israel

- Cheating… Mal. 1:6-14

- Unfaithfulness… Mal. 2:1-9

- Spiritually-Mixed Marriages… Mal. 2:10-12

- Divorce… Mal. 2:13-16

- Justifying Evil… Mal. 2:17

(Parenthetical Point: the Coming of John the Baptist – 3:1-6)

- Robbery… Mal. 3:7-12

- Arrogance… Mal. 3:13-15

III. God’s Condemnation of the People… Mal. 3:16-18; 4:1-6

Malachi lived during the restoration of Jerusalem… after God’s people had returned from their Babylonian Exile.

The second temple was up and running, but things were not as they should have been. Everywhere Malachi turned, he saw nothing but corruption and apathy. The people felt they were being slighted by God… but they were the ones doing the slighting!

Malachi wasn’t about poetry; he was direct… blunt. He listed God’s grievances one by one, almost like a prosecuting attorney… refuting any defense the people might try to raise.

Malachi ended with a curse if the people refused to change, but he also promised a “sun of righteousness” that would come. And He would come… about 400 years later. His name would be… Jesus!

LifeAPP:

Have you put your trust in this “sun of righteousness”?

You can read Malachi’s prophecy in the book of Malachi, named for him.

EZRA, Priest & Scribe after the Exile

Ezra was both a priest and a scribe.  As a priest, he was trained in the rituals of the laws regarding atonement for sin and coming to God on behalf of the people.  As a scribe, he preserved and passed on the Scriptures and explained them to the people.  Many of the priests also became scribes, since there was no temple – nor any rituals – in Babylon.

There were 3 returns of exiles to Babylon:

-  538BC… led by Zerubbabel, as per King Cyrus of Persia

-  458BC… led by Ezra, as per King Artaxerxes of Persia

-  445BC… led by Nehemiah, as per King Artaxerxes of Persia

 

I.  Ezra’s Focus  (Ezra 7)  See v.6-10.

Ezra is not really introduced until ch.7 of his own book!  He was a priest of Aaron’s line, and was well-versed in God’s Law.  It was this knowledge of God’s Law that qualified him for what God needed him to do.

In Ezra, we see:

- a man with a good reputation,

- a skilled teacher and student of God’s Word, and

- a man who put what he learned into practice.

80years after the first wave of exiles went back to Jerusalem, under King Cyrus, a second wave was sent, under King Artaxerxes, led by Ezra.  The king promised Ezra could take any Jews who wanted to go, and any finances they needed to finish the work there would be provided.

 

II.  Ezra’s Faith  (Ezra 8)

See v.15.  Ezra gathered the volunteers… and noticed there were no Levites!  So, he recruited some… knowing they had a teaching task ahead of them.

See v.21,23.  Before they took one step of their 4-month journey, Ezra called for a time of prayer and fasting.

See v.31.  It was a dangerous journey, but, 4 months later, they arrived in Jerusalem.  Imagine what that first look must have looked like to them.  The temple had been completed, but the rest of the city was still pretty much a wreck.

Ezra had faith that God would see them through the completion of the job God had given him.  And, he also had faith in the people around him to do what God had given them to do.

Upon their arrival, Ezra did 3 things:

-  He delivered the gold & silver to the temple  (v.33,34)

-  He made sacrifices to God on behalf of the people… those with him and those he found when he got there (v.35)

-  He handed the letters of task & authority to the officials on site  (v.36)

 

III.  Ezra’s Finding  (Ezra 9)

See v.1-5.  Ezra heard the report, then he responded… with severe mourning.  Then he prayed…

 

IV.  Ezra’s Effect  (Ezra 10)

-  The Repentance  (v.1,2)

-  The Resolve to quit  (v.3-5,9-12)

-  The Record of those who followed through

 

V.  Ezra’s Explanation of God’s Word  (Neh. 8)

See v.1,6,8,9.  Eventually the temple would be restored, the rituals would be restarted, and the walls would be rebuilt (under Nehemiah).  But, that didn’t mean all was well.  Nehemiah called for a public reading of God’s Word… hoping for revival.  Ezra was the one appointed the task of reading the law…  for 6 hours every day for 7 days!

This would result in a revival that would spread to the whole nation… the final Jewish awakening until that which will come in the latter days!

Ezra’s final mention is at the dedication of the wall in Neh. 12:36.

 

LifeAPPs:

*  Your greatest accomplishment is a growing relationship with God!

-  God’s Word is God’s Word!

Do you believe God’s Word is God’s Word?  God’s Word to you?  God’s Word for you?  Is there a part of Scripture you choose to ignore because you don’t understand it?  Or because it doesn’t agree with the way you want to live?

-  Studying and obeying God’s Word is a must for spiritual growth!

How much of a priority is the Bible in your life?  And Prayer?  And Worship?  What changes could you make to guard your time alone with God?

-  Trust God with all areas of your life!

Are there any areas of your life you are not trusting to God?  Financial?  Physical?  Mental?  Emotional?  Spiritual?

 

You can read Ezra’s story in Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 8-12.