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Posts Tagged ‘Ezra’


Ezra 10:1-15: The People’s Response

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Jerusalem

Ezra and Nehemiah, priest and administrator, return from exile to rebuild Jerusalem after its fall and the nations’ exile.  In joy tinged with sadness they dig into the ruins of their past to re-discover their covenant with Yahweh and to and re-pledge their fidelity to him.  Yet in this bittersweet moment as they return from deportation, they continue to ignore God – even the leaders among them who are to serve as models.  We read the long list of their names further along in the chapter and we pause to reflect that we too, are among the guilty.

We remember that although the Old Testament response to their recognition of unfaithful ties with non-Jewish spouses and children was severance and abandonment, our New Testament response is one of openness and an invitation to reconciliation.  Today we might look at Ezra’s response to the original act of betrayal: for he was in mourning over the betrayal by the exiles.  A leader among them, Shecaniah, during his appeal to Ezra says: Yet even now there remains a hope for Israel . . . have courage and take action!  The action they take is to name the culpable . . . and to expel the innocent women and children from their presence.  This story has always troubled me, as does any total severance I encounter in my life.  There is something about it which does not match the Gospel story.

We know that there are times when even Jesus recommends that his missionaries shake dust from the feet to move out of hostile territory and on to new places.  We also know that only God can soften hearts, and can give the gifts of faith, hope and love of enemy.  Only God can unbend stiff necks and open closed eyes, ears and hearts.  Only God can send us the graced moments that make our relationships come alive for an eternity.  Yet, we also believe that we must always make ourselves available for the miracles God wishes to give us.  We must be open to the outrageous possibility that God can grant our hearts’ desires when we ask in Jesus’ name.  We must be willing to remain as constant as God has remained with us.  And we – the victims of abuse – must be willing to petition intercession and salvation for our abusers while maintaining a prudent, watchful and open stance with our enemies.  This must be our response . . . for it is the Christian response.

Many times in the Gospel we see Jesus defer to the Father and we hear the words and bind them to our minds and to our hearts: Do not be afraid.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Jesus’ response is to rely on the creator and it must be our response.  Just as Jesus trusts in God’s wisdom and plan, so must we.

It is easy to assign culpability to the blameless, faceless and nameless women and children in today’s reading who find themselves as destitute as these Jewish people themselves had several times been in their history – slaves in Egypt, exiles in Babylon.  Yet they show no compassion.  Christ has not yet walked among them to show them The Way.

I like to think that when confronted with difficult decisions like the ones we read about and think about today, that we will choose the Jesus Way, the Jesus Approach to the dilemma.  Our response, if we follow Jesus, must be as honest, prudent and open as his.  What is this response . . . ?  With prudence and with trust in God, let us welcome the guilty . . . for we are among them.  Let us forgive . . . for we are forgiven.  


A re-post from May 24, 2009.

Image from: http://blog.thefoundationstone.org/2009/12/23/fasting-as-a-prayer/

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Ezra 10:16-44: The Guilty

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tower of David Ruins: Jerusalem

At the time that the Jews were returning from their exile, Ezra condemns certain priests who intermarried with the Gentiles strayed from Yahweh.  Their solution?  To sever relationships with wives and children and make a guilt offering.  This is a course of action appropriate for their time but it is not the action that New Testament people will take.  If we are People of the Restoration, People of Resurrection and healing, we will build bridges where there is dissent and conflict.  We will look for compassionate yet just ways to maintain contact and to heal breaches in relationships.

Let us welcome the guilty . . . for we are among them.

Let us forgive . . . for we are forgiven

From the MAGNIFICAT morning intercessions.

You made all human beings in your image: fill us with reverence for one another.  Hear your children’s plea!

You restored us in your image through the work of the cross: teach us to work to restore the dignity of all those degraded by the works of evil.  Hear your children’s plea!

You raise us to newness of life in Jesus Christ: fill us always with Easter joy.  Hear your children’s plea!


Written on April 16, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.moderatotours.com/easter_abroad.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.16 (2008). Print.

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Daniel 9:13-19: Prayer in the Desert

Third Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019

Just a few weeks ago we took a look at this chapter of Daniel but on that day we were reflecting on God’s messenger Gabriel and thinking about the times that God has sent us messages in rapid flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.  The message that we ponder today is Daniel’s famous penitential prayer on behalf of the community.  In this Eastertide we have been examining the state of exile and captivity, and we have given thanks for God’s abiding presence despite our despair and loss.  We have reflected on how to suffer well . . . and how to trust God when there is nothing and no one else to trust.  Through our Lenten journey we pondered how to best search our souls and how to best ask forgiveness.  Today we might come together as an ethernet community to pray these words together.  They are words that we see again in Ezra (9:6-15) and Nehemiah (1:5-11 and 9:6-37) when the priest and the administrator rebuild the Jerusalem temple after Cyrus allows the Jewish people to return from exile.  This chapter tells us of the sad day when the Jewish people are told that their exile will last much longer than they had anticipated . . . not 70 weeks or 70 years, as they had thought and as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah.  No, they receive word that their captivity will really end in 70 x 70 years, 490 years . . . which is precisely the amount of time until the arrival of Jesus . . . the Liberator and the Redeemer of all . . . for all . . . for all time

The HARPER COLLINS COMMENTARY tells us that this prayer is not seen so much as a petition from the people who obey God; but rather, it is seen as an appropriate act of piety from a people who have erred, from a people who have disobeyed.  And so we might pray it together today . . . in an admission of our own willful act of waywardness and disobedience, and in gratitude for blessings and graces received.   (Mays)

We recognize that we spend much of our lives in the desert; we acknowledge that we are often held captive; and we also acknowledge that during these dry and lonely times we are not actually alone . . . we are accompanied by God.  And just as the angel Gabriel comes to Daniel to bring him the news that God abides, so too, does he comes to us to remind us that God is with us, that God is good, and that we are loved by this eternal God.

Today we read Daniel’s prayer and we pray as the Jewish community prayed with Ezra and Nehemiah when they returned to their ruined city.  We pray as we ponder the ruined places in our lives . . . and we give thanks.

God of Heaven, God of Earth, Spirit Dwelling Among Us,

Guide us . . . and grant us the faith to follow,

Be glad in us . . . and grant us the hope to rejoice in you,

Love us . . . and grant us the grace to grow in you.

We wish to turn . . . we wish to return to you.

For you are the beginning, the end, the all.

We are your servants.

May we serve you well.

Amen. 


A re-post from April 20, 2012.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.

For more reflections and a wonderful poem about footprints in the sand, click on the image above or go to: http://celesteanima.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/poem-footprints-in-the-sand/

For more on Gabriel’s visit with Daniel, go to the Gabriel Comes to David post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/02/07/gabriel-comes-to-david/

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Ezra 6Rebuilding

Friday, September 14, 2018

Written on January 8 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The house is to be rebuilt . . .  

We are so often exhausted by life’s demands that we cannot experience joy when we hear good news . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

In today’s Noontime, King Darius reiterates the original command given by King Cyrus . . . the house is to be rebuilt.  Nehemiah, the administrator, and Ezra, the priest, set about restoring the city and temple in Jerusalem.  They travel through dangerous territory and carry with them a letter of safe-passage from their former enemy.  They arrive in Jerusalem to find a pile of rubble so dense that horses cannot find a pathway – they must pick their way on foot through toppled stone.  They return from exile most likely drained of energy . . . but there is hope and even joy because . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

I am struck by the concordance of the instructions in the decree we read today with the original description of the temple that Solomon built which we read in 1 Kings 7.  God does not forget his promise to the Jewish nation that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

Nor does God forget all that he has promised us, his daughters and his sons.  Just like the destroyed temple, we too will be rebuilt and in fact are being rebuilt each day.  We are the temple in which the Spirit dwells, and as the cares of the world tear at its pillars and nibble at is foundation, Jesus becomes the master planner who constantly offers to help us reconstruct.  His constant attention and love remind us that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

I am thinking of Psalms 126 and 127.  Those who go out weeping return singing . . . we labor in vain unless the Lord is the master builder of our house.

Whatever our flaws, whatever our sorrows, all will be converted to joy for we are promised that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

Whatever our obstacles, whatever our fears, they become our stepping stones to serenity once we remember that . . . the house is to be rebuilt. 


A re-post from August 14, 2011.

Image from: http://www.amazon.com/Rebuilding-House-Laurie-Graham/dp/0140123385/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1313344601&sr=8-2 

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Nehemiah 8: Promulgation 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Today’s reflection is a Favorite written during Christmastide on December 30, 2010.

Ezra, the priest, brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand . . .

I am wondering how our lives might be different if when we gather in our places of worship, like Ezra, Nehemiah and the Jewish people, we might make resolutions to enact what we say we believe.

Ezra opened the scroll so that all the people might see it . . .

I am wondering how our lives might be different if when we make decisions we base them on what it is we see Jesus doing in the Gospels.

Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of the Lord, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read . . .

I am wondering how our lives might be different if when we act in the Spirit of the law as well as the letter.

Then all the people went to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy . . .

I am wondering how our lives might be different if we celebrate the Spirit by acting in the Spirit humbly yet with passion . . . being unafraid of what society might say or think about us.

. . . for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.

I am wondering how our lives might be different if we promulgate the story of how God has saved us . . . and how much God loves us.

I am wondering . . .

The great celebration described in today’s Noontime is the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles or Booths and more information may be found at http://www.christcenteredmall.com/teachings/feasts/tabernacles.htm

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Nehemiah 5: Self-Interest

Monday, October 16, 2017

How does Nehemiah confront oppression in the process of rebuilding Jerusalem? When we examine this chapter of his story, we find that Nehemiah operates with transparency, honesty, and generosity.

When Nehemiah receives God’s call, he answers it in a very big way; he does not do things in half measures.  We see that he regards his work in re-building as his vocation and he does not take monetary re-payment for the work of the rebuilding.  Nor does he take credit for this amazing feat.  In contrast to his predecessors, he takes no reimbursement for his work in the rebuilding Jerusalem’s city walls and Temple.  He makes both the physical and financial outlay knowing that God will sustain him.  In this way, Nehemiah shows us how to understand our true relationship with our creator.

Nehemiah is an excellent administrator who prays constantly, and who is constantly guided by God.  He is neither self-serving nor glory seeking.  He understands that God does all, and is all. He speaks with God as his good friend and says: Keep in mind, O my God, in my favor all that I did for this people. 

Together with the priest, Ezra, Nehemiah creates a physical structure that enables the faithful to return to Yahweh.  He invites the Jewish people, magistrates and peoples from all nations to his table – something unusual for an observing Jew of his era – yet he listens for God’s voice and does whatever is asked of him to realize the work laid out by his God.  He rises over a foreign king, distant and local enemies, long-entrenched customs, gossip, and even the in-fighting raging around him in order to achieve this incredible goal of taking the rubble that surrounds him in order to participate in the making of God’s kingdom for both God and God’s people.

We, today, can be new Nehemiahs.  We can create around us structures that are collegial, safe, and predictable.  We can form relationships that are open, honest, and supportive.  We can refrain from nay-saying, gossip and destructive thinking.  We can seek solutions, listen more than we talk, think of self last, and remember that God does all and is all.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 23, 2007.

Tomorrow, praying with Nehemiah.

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Cyrus the Great

Ezra 1:1-6: Stirring Up the Spirit

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Unless we spend time with the story of Ezra, we miss the many miracles that call a broken people back home.

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict. (NRSV)

Unless we reflect on these ancient verses, we fail to hear the message that with God all things are possible.

In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire. (GNT)

Unless we attend to the story of King Cyrus of Persia and Ezra the priest, we ignore the healing love of the Spirit.

In the first year of Koresh king of Persia, in order for the word of Adonai prophesied by Yirmeyahu to be fulfilled, Adonai stirred up the spirit of Koresh king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his whole kingdom, which he also put in writing. (CJB)

Unless we listen for the voice within that promises to stir up the Spirit in us, refuse the gift of everlasting life.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom. (MSG)

aftertheexile_herocoreTo better understand the events surrounding the Jewish people’s return to Jerusalem, click on the image to the left or visit; http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/after-the-exile-gods-people-return-to-judea

For more information about King Cyrus and Ezra, visit http://biblehub.com/topical/e/ezra-nehemiah.htm and http://biblehub.com/topical/c/cyrus.htm

When we use the scripture link to explore varying translations of these verses, we begin to see the stirring of the Spirit in our own lives as we ask: When has God put opportunities for change in our path? When have impossible circumstances turned in our favor? When have we helped others to see the movement of the Spirit in their lives?

 

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Joy and the Law


joyMonday, November 17, 2014

Nehemiah 8

Joy and the Law

We continue through the Old Testament looking for stories of joy that might surprise us. If today’s story calls you to search further, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is taken from the Book of Nehemiah.

The priest Ezra and the organizer Nehemiah bring the faithful back to Jerusalem to rebuild the, city, the temple and their relationship with Yahweh. The faithful find it in themselves to ask forgiveness, to ponder their recklessness and abandon. Yahweh receives the faithful with loving forgiveness. For Yahweh has been waiting with open arms all along their journey home.

We might find it difficult to understand what The Law really is, and last winter we spent a number of weeks reflecting with Psalm 119. In this series, we found a variety of ways in which we are called to perceive the concepts in the Mosaic Law and in the end we determined that this psalm – the longest Chapter in scripture – is actually an exchange of love letters between God the Creator and us, God’s creatures. This is what the stories in Nehemiah call us to today.

Nehemiah 8:9-10: And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 12:43: They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

What is this law that brings the faithful back to God?

images-joy-redAleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, He . . . the first five letters in the Hebrew alphabet and the opening stanzas of this prayer of the Law. These letters bring us the understanding that we are made in God’s image of mercy, forgiveness and love. This is God’s promise.

Waw, Azyin, Heth, Teth, Yodh . . . the second five letters bring home to us the idea of trusting God beyond all others and all else. We also come to understand that joy is always somewhere hidden in sorrow. This is our portion.

Kaph, Lamed, Mem Nun, Samekh . . . kindness, transformation, dedication, insight, promise. These are the gifts we receive when we contemplate God’s law. These are the gifts that often only come through strife and contention. God promises that despite our portion of suffering, there will always be great joy. This is our call.

Ayin, Pe, Sadhe, Qoph, Resh . . . discernment, serenity, freedom, discipleship, eternal life. Once we begin to live in God’s Way rather than our own, we understand how and why we are Children of God. We understand that we are most free when we give ourselves over to God. We understand that we must die to self before we experience eternal life. This is our rescue.

psalm-119-32Shin and Taw . . . the Law of Love arrives when the creator comes to walk among us as a man of flesh and bone. We are marked with the sign of Tau, claimed as God’s own. When we journey through and with God’s Law we begin to experience transformation. This is our redemption and our own resurrection from the life of the dead.

If we struggle to find how God’s Law brings more freedom and not less, we might spend time with this story. If we balk at the lesson that we must die in order to rise, we might spend time with this Psalm. Ezra and the Levites teach the people. Nehemiah organizes the work. Together these leaders and these people enact God’s Law. Together these leaders and these people find rejoicing in what had once been a great sorrow.

To investigate God’s Law in these stanzas, enter Psalm 119 in the blog search bar.

To learn more about Ezra and Nehemiah, spend time with the stories in these two books. Enter their names in the blog search bar and explore. Click on the images for other reflections. Or use the scripture link to compare different Bible versions of these verses. 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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joySaturday, November 15, 2014

Ezra 6

Joy and Dedication

We move further into scripture looking for stories of joy that continue to surprise us. To explore other stories, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is taken from the Book of Ezra.

We dedicate buildings and highways, poems, novels and songs. We create solemn ceremonies and speak reverent words to remember the dead, the lost, and even the forgotten. In all of our endeavor to avoid past mistakes and to keep in mind past and present loved ones and sacred places, we will want to remember to also dedicate ourselves to service in God. For it is in this giving that we find eternal joy.

The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread seven days; for the Lord had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:16 & 22)

God says: I know that you appreciate all that your forbears have sacrificed for you, and that you also dedicate days and memorials to your many causes. But as you read these words in this moment of the time I have given to you, begin to dedicate yourself to the goodness I have planted within you. Take a step toward seeing a glimmer of goodness you find so difficult to encounter in your enemies. Step forward in a life of full and authentic dedication to creation. Commit to dedicating a few moments of each day to speaking and listening to me. In doing all of this you will find joy in the most surprising of times and places. This I promise to you.

joy candlesVisit Ezra 6 today and spend some moments among the verses. Listen for God’s voice to speak to you.

To learn more about Ezra and Nehemiah, spend time with the stories in these two books. Enter their names in the blog search bar and explore. Click on the images for other reflections. Or use the scripture link to compare different Bible versions of these verses. 

For a better understanding of these Books, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/e/ezra-nehemiah.htm 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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