July 19

Ezra 1-3, Psalm 45

So many of us who claim to belong to Christ suffer from the paralysis of analysis.  When worldly logic and God's calling are at odds, in conflict, which side wins?  When we feel God calling us to go somewhere or do something do we hold back because of our earthly comforts and our fear of losing them?  Which really brings us back to the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3), which is elaborated on further in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and by Jesus in referring to the greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37), "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."  Over and over again we read in Scripture and see in the world around us that when the opposing sides are in conflict, worldly comforts win.  Consider how amazing it would have been to literally be one of Jesus' disciples, hearing Him daily, seeing the miracles, interacting with Him on a personal level.  When the Rich Young Ruler approached Jesus, and Jesus offered Him the opportunity to be one of his disciples, Jesus said if he relinquished his earthly wealth and possessions he could follow Him.  We read his decision in Matthew 19:22, "But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."

We see an amazing proclamation by the leader of the world at the time, Cyrus, in Ezra 1:1-4, that the Jewish people could go back from captivity to their homeland in Judah, and rebuild their Temple.  This is the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy in Isaiah 44:28, where we read, "Who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, And shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," And to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid." '  This prophecy by Isaiah was written approximately 150 years before Cyrus was even born, and 180 years before it was fulfilled by the issuing of his decree.  There were an estimated 2 million Jews living in Babylon at that time.  When we add the numbers in Ezra 2, approximately 50 thousand chose to leave the comforts of Babylon and return to build and worship again at their temple.  That means that only 2.5% of all the Jewish people in Babylonian captivity were willing to depart with their comforts in Babylon and answer God's calling.  Though we read in the previous books (Jeremiah, Ezekiel) of the weeping in being led into captivity and away from their God, 70 years later they preferred their comfortable lifestyle in Babylon than the hardships of returning back to Judah.

Israel became a nation again after over 1800 years in 1948.  Before the second world war, and before the Holocaust, how many Jewish people do you think would have left their comforts, their businesses, their worldly possessions in Europe to return to their homeland.  As opposed to the Rich Young Ruler, Peter took up the call and said to Jesus in Matthew 19:27, "...See, we have left all and followed You.  Therefore what shall we have?"  Jesus responds, in Matthew 19:28-30, "...you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life."  So many of us settle for the trinkets that this world offers and give up the riches that God offers us.  We forget that if we are in Christ, our citizenship is in heaven, we are merely ambassadors on earth (Philippians 3:20).  We often hold back in following God's call for our lives for fear of discomfort and fear of the reactions of others.  But Jesus says in Matthew 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  Imagine the effect we would have and the revival that would take place if we all loved God more than all the comforts this world offers us and answered His call.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster