Today’s Bible Reading: Ezra 7-8:20; 1 Corinthians 4:1-21; Psalm 30:1-12; Proverbs 20:28-30
Chapter 7 of Ezra takes place about 60 years after chapter 6. In between the events of the book of Esther take place. We’ll read Esther in just a couple of weeks.
Ezra was a scribe (Ezra 7:6) who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon about 20 years after Cyrus’ edict allows the Jews to go back. A scribe was more than just someone who took notes. Scribes were historians. Not only did they record history, but they taught it as well. In fact, it was Ezra’s goal to study God’s word, obey God’s word, and teach God’s word (Ezra 7:10). This should be our goal today. There is nothing in this life that we can take with us other than our relationship with Christ (Mark 8:36-37). Bible study and teaching should be the main activity of our lives.
Notice that before we can teach God’s word to others we must not only study it but also be obedient to it. If we try to teach what God says while living in disobedience we will have zero credibility.
Ezra had travelled to Jerusalem at the request of King Artaxerces (Ezra 7:21) who gave Ezra tons (literally) of supplies. Artaxerces motives were purely political (Ezra 7:23) but this is just another example of God using man’s sinfulness to glorify Himself and to bless His people. Artaxerces even insists that Ezra teach God’s word to anyone who does not know it (Ezra 7:25). Wouldn’t it be great if the President of the United States recognized the truthfulness of the Bible and the necessity for teaching it to all our citizens? What a different country this would be.
When we are blessed by God the appropriate response is to praise Him (Ezra 7:27-28). God’s blessings should encourage us as they did for Ezra. And when we are encouraged we will be more inclined to serve Him which brings more blessings, which results in more praise… and the cycle continues.
Some of the Corinthians admired Paul while some looked down upon him. Today Paul admonishes the Corinthians to simply look at him and the other apostles as servants of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). Paul and the others were not special, but they were not useless either. God wants us to have the right perspective. We should not think too highly or too lowly of ourselves. We are not worthless. But we are not gods either.
We are not able to truly judge ourselves (1 Corinthians 4:3b-4). Even though one’s conscience is clear that does not mean anything. People who don’t believe in God have a clear conscience but they will someday be corrected either by being born-again (hopefully) or when they come face-to-face with Jesus after death. It is Jesus who examines us. He knows the deepest part of us that we don’t even know (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Paul’s attitude is great. He is not letting the praise of some go to his head nor is he letting the lack of praise from others get him down. His focus is on serving Jesus knowing that He will give whatever praise is due. This is a great lesson. I struggle with this constantly by letting other’s criticism stall or even stop progress I am trying to make in my life including in the area of serving God. Today’s passages are a great reminder to me to instead focus solely on what God says about me.
Living life for Jesus is not easy (1 Corinthians 4:10-13). The world looks down upon such people, as some of the Corinthians did. Yet Paul urges them to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:16). There was no New Testament back then and Paul’s letters had not yet been widely copied so Paul’s behavior had to speak volumes. Leading by example is the best way to lead (1 Corinthians 4:20).
There are many blessings that one experiences as a result of belonging to God. One of those blessings is that God will fight for us and will refuse to let us be defeated (Psalm 30:1). “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible. It is not even a biblical teaching. Yet many ascribe to this way of life. They think that if they try in their own effort then God will give them the final push across the finish line. Not so. It is God who does the work in our lives. Without Him we are nothing.
Both young and old have reason to rejoice. Young people have strength, but lack wisdom. Older people have wisdom but lack strength, as I am sadly finding out 😦 (Proverbs 20:29). None of us have everything. But we all have something we can use for God.
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