Thursday, November 21, 2013

RETURN TO THE LAND: Ezra 1:1-8

DAY 21: RETURN TO THE LAND     

Link: Ezra 1:1-8               


Symbol: Brick Wall

The exile and return of the children of Israel to their land was prophesied in Jeremiah. Read Jeremiah 25:1-11 and Jeremiah 29:10-14. God is getting His people in the right place at the right time, for the coming of the Messiah. When has God put us in just the right place at just the right time?

BBC BACKGROUND: EZRA 1


Ezra 1 - Cyrus' Edict


This chapter opens in 538 B.C., 47 years after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36). The Persians had overthrown the great Babylonians, and Cyrus became king of Persia in 559. Isaiah 44:28-45:6 prophesied that Cyrus would help the Jews return to Jerusalem. He allowed them to bring back articles belonging to the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had taken away. 


Persian records show that many Jews had accumulated much wealth while in captivity. Consequently, many remained, preferring the comfortable life in Babylon. 


REFLECTION (written before I returned to the home of my ancestors, July 2012)


Next week, Lord willing, I will be walking the 120 acres of the land of my ancestors in Cross Fork, Pennsylvania. My grandmother left that town in 1906 after her parents both died within two weeks of one another, leaving her an orphan at 11 years of age.  I am the first to return to the land of my forefathers in over 100 years! I have wanted to go there for much of my life. It is a dream come true to finally be doing it (Of course, it took the wedding of a dear friend in Pittsburgh to prompt us to go).  


My grandmother never returned to that land, and sadly, because of the bitterness of becoming an orphan at such a young age and dishonest dealings from church families in Cross Fork that caused her to lose her inheritance, she was always bitter toward God. She never returned to Cross Fork or to God, and she did not like that I had made a decision to make Jesus my home. I will walk that land with both joy and weeping next week. 



Ancestral Land, Cross Fork, Pennsylvania, July 2012
This gives me just a little bit of a glimpse of what it must have been like for the exiles to return to their homeland and settle in the towns and villages of their ancestors after 70 years. They were returning home. What joy but also what sorrow to remember the past and what once was. 

Jesus is our home. He is where we need to return every day. Many of us are held in captivity in our souls, and we need to return to Him where we can settle and find peace and rest there. 


APPLICATION 

Return to your true home today. Walk His land. Find rest and peace. 


PRAYER 


Psalm 126 is a "Song of Ascent" recalling the joy of returning exile. The agricultural reference in 126:5-6 indicates that the returning exiles would face bad seasons (Haggai 1:9-11), but God would give them rain and harvests (Haggai 2:15-19) and keep His covenant promise.  Let it be your prayer today:



When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, 
We were like those who dream. 
Then our mouth was filled with laughter 
And our tongue with joyful shouting; 
Then they said among the nations, 
“The Lord has done great things for them.” 
The Lord has done great things for us; 
We are glad. 

Restore our captivity, O Lord, 

As the streams in the South. (the Negev desert south of Judah that overflowed in rainy season)
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. 
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, 
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:1-6)

I love how The Message words verses 5 and 6:



So those who planted their crops in despair 
will shout hurrahs at the harvest, 
So those who went off with heavy hearts 
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing." (Psalm 126:5-6)

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