Saturday, December 31, 2011


The book of Ezra opens with an expanded account of the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia, found at the end of 2 Chronicles.  He announces his charge to Judah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  The fact that this proclamation is a fulfillment of a prophecy by Jeremiah is noted again.  Leaders of Judah, Benjamin, Levi, and "everyone whose spirit God had stirred" go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  The people are given material help from the people around them, and Cyrus returns vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon during the initial captivity.  An account of those who return is given more completely in chapter two. 

Soon after arrival, the altar is built and sacrifices are made.  The Feast of Booths is kept.  In the beginning of the second year, the rebuilding begins.  Upon the laying of the new foundations, there is a profound mixture of both mourning and celebration.  Shouts of joy go out for this hugely important first step in the building of a new temple, but shouts of mourning from those who knew of the first temple are also heard loudly.

In chapter four,  those who are building encounter opposition from locals.  This opposition culminates a letter from a new ruler commanding the building to cease, but, in chapter five the prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesy and encourage the people to renew the act of building.  Zerubbabel and Jeshua lead a renewed thrust of building in a display of their faith in God.  They await the final word from King Darius while they continue to build.  (Read about Darius in the book of Daniel regarding the story of Daniel and the lion's den).  King Darius not only allows the building to continue, but he commands the builders to be given material support from the local government.  The temple is finished, and they dedicate it with sacrifices and much celebration.  Soon they observe the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar as is proscribed in the law.

King Artaxerxes sends Ezra the priest to Jerusalem.  He empowers him legally with a royal proclamation that provides for and protects Ezra and those whom he travels with as they travel and upon their arrival.  The proclamation also empowers Ezra to be a teacher of the law of Moses and to establish governance among the people based on that law.  After the proclamation of Artaxerxes is recounted, there is a section of Ezra that is written in the first person by Ezra himself.  He gives a list of those who went up with him.  He gathers a group of Levites, and they fast and pray for protection for their journey.  He then divides the offerings for Jerusalem among those traveling to Jerusalem with him, and they depart for Jerusalem.  They arrive safely by God's mercy and present their offerings and deliver the king's words to his local officials.

Immediately, Ezra is faced with a scandal of God's people intermarrying with non-Jews.  Ezra is horrified and mourns and cries out to God for His mercy.  This was a fundamental act of disobedience on the part of the returning exiles.  The people join Ezra in his weeping.  They pledge to separate themselves again from the non-Jewish residents they've married.  A command is sent out for all exiles to gather in Jerusalem in three days or be banished from God's congregation.  The issue of repenting from the wrongful intermarriage is made clear to all, and the vast majority repent.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2 Chronicles

Chapter 1
Solomon offers sacrifices and worships God in Gibeon.  God asks Solomon what he would like from God, and Solomon requests wisdom to lead well.  God rewards Solomon's request by granting it AND riches, wealth, and honor.  Solomon's wealth begins to be recorded.

Chapter 2
Solomon begins building the temple.  He acquires skilled labor and materials from Huram, king of Tyre.

Chapter 3
The temple is built in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah(see story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22) and on the site where David built an altar to end God's judgment on Israel.  Specific measurements and details of the temple are given. 

Chapter 4
The altar, the bronze sea, and details regarding the furnishings are recorded.

Chapter 5
The temple is finished, and the ark is brought into the temple.  Many, many sacrifices are made.  As the priests and musicians praised God, His presence fills the temple.

Chapter 6
Solomon speaks to the people, and then he prays to God regarding the temple.

Chapter 7
After Solomon's prayer, fire comes down and consumes sacrifices.  The glory of God becomes so powerful in the temple that the priests cannot enter.  The people offer even more sacrifices, and the musicians praise God.  The middle court is consecrated.  The people hold a large feast.  God tells Solomon his prayer for the temple was heard.  He challenges Him to be faithful to cry out to God and warns of the consequences of unfaithfulness.

Chapter 8
Details of Solomon's reign are recorded.  Building projects, military campaigns, and various specific decisions are mentioned.

Chapter 9
Story of the visit of the Queen of Sheba is told.  Solomon's works and the growth of his fame and greatness is recounted.  His wealth, kingdom, and influence in the region continued to grow.  He reigned 40 years in Jerusalem.  Upon his death, his son Rehoboam becomes king.

Chapter 10
Rehoboam is quickly confronted by the people.  They request a lighter burden of taxation of their labor and goods.  Rehoboam consults his counselors and chooses to follow the counsel of speaking harshly to the people.  He loses all the tribes except Judah and Benjamin.  This is a fulfillment of a prophecy of judgment from God.  Jeroboam becomes ruler of the remainder of Israel.

Chapter 11
Initailly, Rehoboam plans to fight to retake the kingdom.  God forbids it, and Rehoboam yields.  He builds, and this is recorded.  The Levites relocate themselves to Jerusalem because Jeroboam creates a false priesthood and forbids Levites to be priests.  Rehoboam marries, has concubines, and has many sons.  He places them in leadership throughout Judah and Benjamin.  He elevates Abijah (one of his sons)  to a place of importance.

Chapter 12
Rehoboam and people forsake the Lord.  They are attacked by Shishak, king of Egypt.  Shishak pillages the temple and enslaves them for a time.  The people repent and humble themselves.  Abijah takes the throne upon Rehoboam's death.

Chapter 13
Abijah declares war against Jeroboam and the tribes that follow him.  He points out how Jeroboam had led them to follow other gods and has instituted his own priesthood.  He declares they will not win if they fight against God.  They still fight Abijah, and Judah and Benjamin are delivered by God and are victorious.  800,000 troops of Israel against 400,000 troops of Judah, but God delivers Judah, and they kill 500,000 of Israel and defeat them.

Chapter 14
Asa becomes king of Judah after Abijah.  Asa is granted ten years of peace in which he builds up cities and a strong army.  Asa reforms the wrong practices of the people and points them to be faithful to God.  When he is faced by a large army from Ethiopia, he crys out to God, and he is granted a great victory.

Chapter 15
Asa is encouraged to continue to seek God fully.  He and the people do so, and there are even many from Israel who defect and join Judah.  Because of this, Asa is granted many more years of peace.

Chapter 16
However, in the 36th year of Asa's reign, he is threatened by Baasha, king of Israel, and he chooses to rely on a treaty with the king of Aram bought with wealth.  This treaty accomplishes a victory against Baasha, but God pronounces a judgment because Asa chose to rely on the help of a foreign king instead of God.  Asa jails the prophet who pronounces this judgment and even remains unrepentant after he has a severe disease.  He dies after 41 years as king.

Chapter 17
Asa's son, Jehoshaphat, reigns.  He sought God fully, and he was rewarded by God for this.  He sent leaders out to the people to teach them the book of the law of the Lord.  Jehoshaphat grows in power, prestige, and respect in the region.

Chapter 18
Jehoshaphat allies himself with Ahab and agrees to fight with Ahab against Ramoth-gilead.  Jehoshaphat wants to seek the word of the Lord.  Ahab agrees but uses his false prophets who tell him what he wants to hear.  Finally, Jehoshaphat prods him to go to a real prophet.  Micaiah, the prophet, initially tells Ahab the same as the others, but Ahab senses he is lying.  Micaiah prophesies defeat.  He also describes a heavenly scene that explains that God knew of and ordained the lying spirit given voice by the false prophets, Micaiah is struck by a false prophet, and he prophesies against the man who strikes him and the death of Ahab.  The battle ensues.  They are defeated.  Ahab is killed, and the prophecies are shown true.

Chapter 19
Jehoshaphat is rebuked by a prophet named Jehu.  Jehu was the son of the prophet Hanani whom Asa, Jehoshaphat's father, imprisoned for his rebuke.  Jehoshaphat did not respond in the way Asa did.  He appointed judges, warned them to judge with integrity, and established a clear chain of governmental authority.

Chapter 20
Judah is invaded by a large multitude, and Jehoshaphat cries out to God in front of the people.  God promises a victory that will not even require them to fight.  The enemies of Judah kill each other, and Judah takes the spoil and praises God.  Jehoshaphat later again allies himself with the wicked Ahaziah, king of Israel.  He suffers loss because God is displeased.

Chapter 21
Jehoram, Jehoshaphat's firstborn, reigns.  He does wickedly including killing his brothers.  Edom revolted and gained independance during his eight year reign, and he led Judah astray in worhiping other gods.  Elijah sends him a letter containing God's judgment against him.  He was invaded, pillaged, lost his sons, and family, and died of a horrible disease.

Chapter 22
Jehoahaz/Ahaziah (referred to as both) is Jehoram's youngest and only remaining son and is made king.  He did evil.  His family was tied to Ahab's family.  He is killed in the midst of God's judgment that purges the house of Ahab.  His mother rules after his death by killing all royal offspring except for a child named Joash who is saved secretly.

Chapter 23
Joash is hidden in the temple for six years.  Jehoiada, a priest, organizes the Levites to guard Joash and overthrow the evil queen Athaliah and establish Joash as king.  They succeed, and kill the queen.  Jehoiada leads the people in reform back to seeking God.

Chapter 24
Upon becoming king and growing older, Joash begins to push for restoration of the temple.  After chastising  a lukewarm beginning, Joash leads a robust restoration process of the temple.  After Jehoiada's death, Joash and the other leaders turned away from their pursuit of God.  Jehoiada's son rebukes the king's unfaithfulness, but he is killed by Joash.  Aram attacks and wins, and Joash is sick and is killed by his own men.  Amaziah, Joash's son, becomes king.

Chapter 25
Amaziah kills his father's assassins.  He builds an army and hires soldiers from Israel to help fight.  A prophet warns Amaziah not to depend on Israel because God is against them and will be against Amaziah if he depends on them.  Amaziah heeds the prophet and sends the soldiers from Israel home.  He defeats the Edomites, but angry soldiers from Israel who were sent back raid towns in Judah and kill and plunder.  Amaziah adopts worship of god worshipped by Edomites and is rebuked.  Amaziah challenges Israel to battle while in unrepentant sin worshipping other gods.  He is defeated and captured.  He turnes from God and is killed by his own people.

Chapter 26
Uzziah, Amaziah's son, reigns.  As long as he seeks God, God helps him have victory.  Uzziah gets full of himself and offers incense in the temple.  The priests are the only ones who are to do this.  When confronted by the priests, Uzziah gets angry, but he immediately breaks out with leprosy.  They rush him out of the temple, but he remains leprous the rest of his life.  His son, Jotham, manages the kingdom the remaining years of Uzziah. 

Chapter 27
Jotham becomes king when his father dies.  He builds many things and has victory over the Ammonites.  Verse six says, "So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God."  His son, Ahaz, reigns upon his death.

Chapter 28
Ahaz does much evil and brings God's wrath on Judah.  They are defeated and slain by Aram and Israel.  Israel takes captives to make slaves of some of people of Judah.  God sends a prophet who warns that God's wrath will be even more directed at them than it already is if they make these people of Judah slaves.  Israel cares for and releases them.  Ahaz continues to rebel and lead Judah into more unfaithfulness.  He trys to bribe Assyria into aiding him, but he is instead attacked and pillaged by the Edomites, Philistines, and Assyria.  He never repents.  His son, Hezekiah, becomes king upon his death. 

Chapter 29
Hezekiah immediately begins to lead the people in repentance and reforms.  The Levites and priests cleanse the temple.  Hezekiah leads the people in sacrifice and worshipping God in the temple with musicians. 

Chapter 30
Hezekiah leads the people in reinstituting the passover.  He even sends word thoughout Israel inviting them back to worship the passover together with Judah.  Most of Israel scoffs at the king's messengers, but some humble themselves and come to Jerusalem.  A huge gathering attends the passover, and even though many do not purify themselves according to the law, Hezekiah prays for them, and God heals them.  The people celebrated for two weeks, and God heard their prayer.

Chapter 31
The people tear down many sites of worship of other gods.  Hezekiah reinstitutes regular sacrifices and commands the people to give the portion due to the priests.  They give more than is needed, and the priests make store room for excess.

Chapter 32
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invades.  Hezekiah encourages the people in the Lord.  Sennacherib talks trash and demeans God.  His people try to intimidate the people of Judah by questioning their faith in God.  Hezekiah cries out, and God delivers Judah by sending an angel to bring destruction on Sennacherib's men.  Hezekiah is sick and cries out.  He is healed, but wrath is pronounced because of his pride.  He humbles himself and the judgment is postponed.  Upon his death, Manasseh, his son, reigns.

Chapter 33
Manasseh undid the reforms Hezekiah brought about.  He engaged in many terrible evil practices.  He lead Judah into evil.  God judged him, and he became a captive.  While in captivity, he repented.  God had mercy on him and brought him back to Jerusalem.  He reinstated many reforms and reversed many prior evils.  His son, Amon, reigned next and was unrepentantly evil in God's sight.  He was killed by his own people.  Josiah, his son, is made king. 

Chapter 34
Josiah seeks God from a young age and leads Judah into reform and renewed passion for God.  He cleanses the land of many wrong practices.  He repairs the temple.  He discovers the book of the law.  He seeks God regarding what he discovers is in the book.  God affirms that judgment is coming, but Josiah will be spared because of his tender heart toward God.  Josiah promises to serve God with faithfulness.

Chapter 35
Josiah leads the people to reinstate the passover.  Josiah is killed in battle.  He is greatly mourned, and many, including Jeremiah, utter a lament for him.

Chapter 36
A series of kings follow over the next couple of decades.  They are Jehoahaz, Eliakim(Jehoiakim), Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.  During Zedekiah's reign, God's pronouncement of captivity at the hand of the Babylonians comes to pass.  Jerusalem is pillaged, destroyed, and captured.  Finally, once the Persian/Mede empire conquers Babylon, Cyrus, the ruler of the Persians sends Judah back to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

Love, Comfort, and Economics through the eyes of my small children

The following is a dialogue between my daughter and I as I was trying to comfort Elijah.  I had to leave for work early in the morning, and both the kiddos had awakened early as I was getting ready. 

Me...."Elijah, I've got to go to work now." (as he clings to me in the early morning hours. I was trying to get him to lie down next to Ella in our bed and go back to sleep.) 

Ella..."He's gonna miss us when he's gone, Elijah."

Me..."Yep, I'm gonna miss all you guys a bunch."

Ella..."He's gonna miss us because he loves us."

Me..."Yes, I love you very much."

Ella..."And he and mommy won't ever stop loving us."

Me..."Yep, that's right." (I'm well into cracking up internally at this point because Ella is putting together pieces of previous assurances that I've given her in the past.)

Ella..."He's got to go to work so the people will give him money."

Me..."Yes. That's right."

Ella...."We can use the money to get our stuff."

Also, recently at the doctor's office, Ella had needed to get a couple of shots.  As 5 year olds have been known to do, she was extremely unhappy about the prospect, and she let everyone know it by crying and pleading.  In the process, she scared her little brother.  He asked why they were "cutting" Ella.

Once Ella had calmed down, Myndall explained to Ella that she had scared Elijah, and he thought they were cutting her.  She immediately jumped down off the table and went to him. (the following is a paraphrase.)

Elijah..."You ok Ella??"

Ella..."It's ok, Elijah."

Elijah while rubbing her head/huggin her..."They cut you?"

Ella..."No, they didn't cut me, Elijah.  They were just giving me a shot, and I was scared.  That's all."

Ella rubs his head and hugs him back.

Just wanted to capture these moments with a written snapshot.