The Fallacy Of Human Logic!

-God’s Priority!

In my last post I mentioned how both Ezra and Nehemiah came out of Israel’s 70-year exile with a different purpose! Ezra came first; and, he purposed to rebuild the Temple according to God’s leading! Nehemiah followed him about 13 years later & God commissioned him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem! Now, at first glance that seems backwards & counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Human logic would tell us to rebuild the walls 1st for their own protection, right? But, God led the exiles to rebuild the Temple first. Clearly, God prioritized the rebuilding of Israel spiritually!

-God Offered Greater Protection!

He had always told Israel that if they were faithful to Him that He would go before them & fight their battles for them! And, He wanted Israel to have faith that God Himself offered greater protection, for them, than any wall or military ever could!  But, that took faith; and, Ezra was the one to bring Israel back to the centrality of God & His Word & the law! In fact, according to Ezra’s account, he actually leads the people to build an altar so they could sacrifice to God BEFORE they had even built the Temple! And, only then, after the place of worship was finished, does God work in Nehemiah’s heart & lead him to leave the Persian fortress city of Susa; and, return to Jerusalem to organize the rebuilding of the wall!

-Right Relationship With God!

Now, there’s a spiritual parallel here for us, isn’t there? Do you see it? They had the projects in the right order because worship & a right relationship with God is of greater importance than anything else we could accomplish in life! But, we tend to get these turned around in our lives don’t we! Leaning on our human logic, we often prioritize the building of our “walls” first. We take care of all the outside stuff first— our work & our play & our entertainment & our sleep! And, then, if we have time we’ll do the “spiritual” stuff— reading our Bibles, prayer, ministry!

-We All Have Time!

By the way, we all have the time! We all have 24 hours in a day! And, we determine what we get done based on what we give priority to! The parallels and the application are painfully obvious, aren’t they? We focus on the “walls” & only rebuild our “temple” if we have time, don’t we? That’s how our human logic works! Listen, God has created the same amount of time in all of our lives to rebuild our “temples.” To take proper care of our spiritual lives! Our problem isn’t about the time! We’ve set up the wrong priorities in our lives! We haven’t given God first place! That’s why God leads Ezra to set the spiritual tone first!

-Better Than Human Logic!

God’s ways are always superior to our human logic!  It’s been 70 years since Babylon took Israel into captivity! That’s like 2 or 3 generations later! There were a few old timers returning home; but, the vast majority of these Israelite refugees were born in a province of Babylon. So, they had never see the original Temple. They had never set foot in Jerusalem. They weren’t part of Israel’s disobedience & idol worship that led to God’s judgment & exile! So, even as God judged Israel’s unbelief, when they came out of Egypt at the Exodus; and, He would not permit them to enter the promised land until that generation had died off; God also waited until most of the exiled generation had died off in Babylon before He arranged for a new generation to return! And, like Moses previously, God raised up Ezra to lead them spiritually!

Only God Can Do That!

-The Lord Put It In His Mind!

The Old Testament book of Ezra opens with these words:  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing.” Ezra, under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, shares 2 significant details— First, that Jeremiah’s 70-year prophecy, of the length of Israel’s exile, was now completed in Cyrus’ first year of reign in Persia; and, second, that it was God who “…put it into the mind…” of Cyrus to issue a proclamation!

-God Is Sovereign!

This points, clearly, to God’s ultimate Sovereignty over all human affairs! Cyrus wasn’t in control! Nor was Persia in control! God put it in Cyrus’ mind:  “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever is among His people, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem’”  Ezra 1:2-4. That’s what God put in Cyrus’ mind! The book of Proverbs says:  “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the LORD’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses” (21:1).  And, it’s not just kings that God leads!

-Everyone God Motivated!

Ezra continues, “So the family leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone God had motivated—prepared to go up and rebuild the Lord’s house in Jerusalem” (1:5).  Look closely at that! Who was preparing to leave for Jerusalem to rebuild the temple? What does it say? “…EVERYONE that God had motivated…” So, GOD was in King Cyrus’ proclamation & GOD motivated those He wanted to go! There’s an important principle here; and, that is that humanity simply cannot fulfill God’s agenda! We’re broken! We’re depraved & incapacitated by our sin to accomplish God’s will without God’s help!

-Only God Can Do That!

I see that as the backdrop to the Bible stories of Ezra & Nehemiah. Here are 2 great, godly men; who, like Moses, just cannot deliver God’s people without God’s help! Even the best of men cannot liberate people from the cause of their bondage! Only God can do that! And, that is so counter-intuitive to our human psyche! And, it’s a real stumbling block for many! The natural man wants to feel important; like, he has something to contribute! But, God’s word even asks the question, “WHAT do you have that you’ve not received?” 1 Cor. 4:7.  Whatever we may have to give has actually been given to us by God!

-Men & Women Of Greatness!

So, even men & women of greatness— as WE count greatness— like Ezra & Nehemiah were not capable of delivering the Jewish people from their exile! God had to step in! And, He gave these 2 men, each, a different purpose as they came out of the exile! Ezra was 1st; and, he purposed to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem! Nehemiah followed him about 13 years later; and, he was commissioned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem! Now, humanly speaking, that seems backwards at first glance! Human logic would tell us to rebuild the walls 1st for our own protection, right? But, God led the exiles to rebuild the temple first! Clearly, God intended to “rebuild” Israel spiritually, first! That was the priority because God had always told Israel that if they were faithful to Him that He would fight their battles for them; and, God, Himself, offered them greater protection than any wall or military ever could! Israel would come back to the centrality of God and His word!

The Return Of The Exiles

-The Life Of A Refugee!

We see the pictures on the nightly news or our online news sources; and, though pictures may be worth a thousand words, they can never adequately portray what it’s like to be exiled from your native land & to flee as a refugee to a foreign nation! The stories are horrific! The greatest fear, as a parent, is to be separated from your children in such a setting; although, in some cases, where the conditions are brutal enough, parents willingly hand off their children to someone else with the hope that they might survive & have a better life! Most of us, living in this country, simply have no point of reference or experience to draw on when it comes to living like an exile or a refugee!

-Israel’s Refugees From Babylon!

And, while some of the world’s current refugee crisis has similarities to the time of Israel’s exile— as recorded at the end of 2 Chronicles— there are many differences! The majority of exiles today are leaving war-torn nations by their own will, seeking refuge in a safe, neighboring country. Israel’s exile occurred against their own will when, the foreign nations of Assyria; and, then Babylon, swept in like a flood & plundered their homeland; and, then exiled them off to serve as slaves! For Israel, their exile was the more bitter because they had no one to blame but themselves.

-Israel Broke Covenant!

God had covenanted with them to bless them in the land—that He gave them—if they would obey Him & keep His commandments! But, He had also promised a curse if they broke covenant with Him; and, that’s exactly what they did! They abandoned Yahweh & chased after other gods; until, finally, Yahweh abandoned them! The 137th Psalm was written as a lament by those who endured the exile, the slavery & the human trafficking in that day:  “By the rivers of Babylon,” they cried, “there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing:  ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ they mocked.  “How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil?” That’s how the book of 2 Chronicles ends!

-Exiled To Babylon!

It reads that King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, “…deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled” 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.  So, Israel was exiled to Babylon for 70 years; and, God’s prophecy, through Jeremiah, was fulfilled. It was during those 70 years that the Medo-Persian empire overpowered Babylon!

-The Lord Put It In His Mind!

From there, the book of Ezra picks up the story of the exiles:  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing” Ezra 1:1. That verse includes 2 significant details! First, that Jeremiah’s prophecy, of a 70-year exile, was completed in the first year of King Cyrus’ reign in Persia! And, second, that it was God who “…put it into the mind…” of Cyrus to issue a proclamation! I would encourage you to make a note in your Bible, right there, that says, “Here is an example of God’s Sovereignty over the world.”  Cyrus wasn’t in control! Persia wasn’t in control either! God was directing traffic here! He put it in Cyrus’ mind to issue the proclamation we’ll look at next week!

Don’t Dismiss God’s Warnings!

God’s Not Trying To Kill Your Fun!

God’s warnings are never designed to kill your fun! But, rather, to offer you greater blessings & more fun! Pure fun without the shame and guilt that the “pleasures of sin for a season” may offer us! Don’t forget this truth:  “It is because God is love that He punishes us to bring us to brokenness so He can redeem us.” He warns us because He has compassion on us! Because He loves us! And, how does God respond to His people when they confess their sin & return to Him? He restores them, doesn’t He? That’s what He did with Adam & Eve; with, Abraham & the patriarchs; and, with Israel on multiple occasions!  He would bring revival to their souls & their lives were blessed!

-God’s Patience Can Be Exhausted!

But, when individuals & nations continue in their rebellion, there comes a time— and, only God knows that time; so, don’t sin presumptuously, calculating how far you can go in your sin before God has had enough— there comes a time when God’s patience is exhausted; that, in order to accomplish His purpose, in your life, that He punishes! This is place where Israel’s sin had brought them in 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, “But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (v.16).  Those are haunting words— there was no remedy! All that was left was God’s wrath! Only punishment!

-God’s Strange Work!

It was the only thing left that God could do to turn Israel around! There’s an incredibly revealing verse of Scripture in Isaiah that’s often overlooked; but, I think the message is powerful! Isaiah— one of the very messengers that 2 Chronicles 36 referred to— says, “For the LORD will rise up as He did at Mount Perazim. He will rise in wrath, as at the Valley of Gibeon, to do His work, His strange work, and to perform His task, His disturbing task” Isaiah 28:21. Inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, Isaiah says that God’s judgment is His strange work! His disturbing task! God, Himself, finds His judgment & punishment of sinners to be disturbing because it’s not His will that any would perish!

-Why Continue In Your Sin?

When you sin against God & His Word & you ignore His warnings, He will punish you because He is Holy & Just! But, know, that it disturbs Him to punish you for the great love & compassion that He has for you! So, why would you continue to turn against Him & go your own way? Why do you spurn His love for you & choose all the cheap substitutes that sin offers you? None of those things will satisfy! None will bring you joy & fulfillment!

-Forgiveness For The Prodigal!

Why endure punishment when God willingly offers all prodigal sons forgiveness! When prodigal Israel repents of her sin & returns to the Lord, to accomplish God’s purposes, He redeems them! Let me tell you what it means that God redeems them! There are at least 3 words, in the original languages of Scripture, that are translated “redeem.” in the Bible! One means “to buy or purchase”; and, it’s used in the context of a slave who is bought to be owned as property! At the time that God redeemed Israel, they were enslaved to Egypt. Here’s the point— we are all enslaved to somebody! We are either enslaved to sin, which is a cruel & destructive task master! Or, we are enslaved to a God who loves us with great compassion & willingly meets every need we have according to His will! But, once you’ve been redeemed by God, He will begin a work in you that’s redemptive! He reforms you to make you willing to obey Him & love Him!