Ezra 8:21-9:15 ~ 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 ~ Psalm 31:1-8 ~ Proverbs 21:1-2
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Old Testament - Today in Ezra chapter 8 we read about Ezra & crew's return from the exile in Babylon to Jerusalem. And below are some very artistic :) scenes from this journey (well, except keep in mind that the Temple had already been rebuilt by the time Ezra & crew arrive - this image would have been better for the early chapters in Ezra...) -
Below is an image for Ezra chapter 9 verses 1 through 3: "But then the Jewish leaders came to me and said, "Many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the other peoples living in the land. They have taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons... To make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offenders." When I heard this, I tore my clothing, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down utterly shocked." And then a wonderful prayer of repentance from Ezra on behalf of the Israelites comes forth in the remainder of chapter 9 today. When is the last time you prayed a prayer of repentance? Should we pray prayers of repentance regularly?
New Testament - Wow... there is a lot going on in Paul's words in First Corinthians chapter 5 today. The first half of verse 6 stands out: "How terrible that you should boast about your spirituality, and yet you let this sort of thing go on." This is such a trap I think for many of us - boasting about our spirituality. It is a very dangerous trap too. Why do you suppose Paul would say this is a terrible thing to boast about your spirituality? I think it is because when you boast about your spirituality, you have lost humility and you have in a sense put yourself in the place of God. You've elevated yourself too high. And Jesus says we are to be humble. Here comes a tangent - :) - I was listening to talk radio recently and I heard some guy talking about Kabala - the Jewish mysticism religion that is very popular these days - particularly with some Hollywood celebrities. Well, I won't say that this guy was boasting about his spirituality... but maybe he was. :) The great thing I thought was then a guy studying to be a rabbi called in and basically went off on this guy. The caller said that this guy was far too confident and boastful in his discussions of who God is and how God works. And the caller said that he had studied the Torah for all of his life and he still considered himself only a student. I wish I could remember his exact words - but he said something along the lines that "one will always be a student of the Torah. Never it's master." Something like that. I loved it! It was so humble and true. And I think you and I would do well to realize that we will always be students of the Bible - never its master. And we need to realize how terrible it truly is for us to boast about our spirituality in any way - either publicly or in our own minds. As this image says below, "Boast only in the cross." Amen...
The second half of verse 6 is powerful for us to consider as well - "Don't you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected?" This is so true. Sin is an infection that will infect others. Or, another way to look at this - when we sin we are affecting / infecting others. Nobody sins in a vacuum. It affects the whole community. It affects everyone you know in some way. Paul goes on later in this chapter to say in verse 12 - "It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways." Paul really has what will appear to our modern ears to be some strong / harsh words for Christians who sin in the ways listed in verse 11 - "What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler." I think there is truth in his words - but we need to walk a fine line. There are people who are Christian who do struggle with sin - sin that indeed will infect / affect others. And I think we are absolutely called to speak the truth in love into those Christians lives to point out their sin and encourage them to repentance. But... I think there does come a point where we may have to realize that someone simply will not or does not want to repent of their sin. And then it may be time to prayerfully follow Paul's words about avoiding and removing that type of person from your church. I don't know - let me know what you think? How / when do we draw the line of speaking the truth in love to a Christian stuck in sin? And when do we avoid and/or remove them from our churches? Is this too harsh? Are Paul's word's too harsh? Even if they are harsh, are they true?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in First Corinthians titled "Church Discipline: Taking Sin Seriously" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 31 verse 1 is such a powerful start to this powerful Psalm of David's - "O LORD, I have come to you for protection; don't let me be put to shame. Rescue me, for you always do what is right." In your life today, do you need protection from something? If so, will you run to God for your protection? Do you believe that God can rescue you? Do you believe that God can save you from shame? Do you believe that God always does what is right? Did you catch that verse 5 from this Psalm were Jesus' last words on the cross.... "Into your hands I commit my spirit." (NIV) Here it is from Luke 23:46 - "Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last."
Proverbs - Proverbs 21 verse 2 is so true - "People may think they are doing what is right, but the LORD examines the heart." Interesting Proverb to meditate upon. Do you suppose it is possible that we may think we are doing what is right, but that it's not really right? Why would this happen? Do you believe that God examines your heart? I am so thankful that he does examine our hearts! I am afraid that at times we may deceive ourselves. We may start down a path or course that we think is right - or that our friends or the world tells us is right - but it's not. The "governor" (in both senses of the word) that can keep us from continuing down this foolish path is God. God constantly examines our heart. And he can instantly see if our motives are not pure. Then, the trick becomes for us to actually listen to God. This can be the challenge. I heard a sermon recently at church about how God came to the prophet Elijah in a whisper. And that God comes to us today oftentimes in a whisper - in that still small voice. All this to say - I hope you are thankful that God examines your heart. And - I hope you find time to really be still before God and let him tell you if the motives of your heart are not pure. Let him tell you if you are doing something that you think is right, but that is not. Who better is there to truly examine your heart than God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?
Worship God: As today's Proverb talks about the heart, I thinking you'll appreciate Michael W. Smith performing "Open The Eyes Of My Heart" live:
Has God opened the eyes of your heart? Click here to have your eyes opened!
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture this week: "But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with any who claim to be fellow believers but are sexually immoral or greedy, idolaters or slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. With such persons do not even eat." 1 Corinthians 5:11 TNIV
Prayer Point: Pray for those in your church who claim to be believers, but who are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. Pray for their repentance and restoration to the fellowship. Pray for church discipline, if necessary. Pray you won't ever be lead astray by those living in sin.
Comments from You & Questions of the Day: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!