Summary of Struggle to Survive.

Nehemiah.
Malachi.
Ezra.
Esther.
Chronicles.

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Nehemiah

NEHEMIAH.

The book summarises the struggle, which the Jewish people had with God. From Genesis to Revelation it tells of a lovely World spoilt by man and in the end a new World made by God. Behind every action by God is love. He uses human agencies to achieve His plans and works through the lives of individuals. No man could ever have invented the God revealed in the Bible. Those who ignore the Bible and invent their own ideas of God end up far away from the one who reveals Himself. Jesus knew when to speak and when to remain silent. The beginning of faith is to say: “I am in need.” “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” When a man gives out in service, it comes back in blessing. A man is encouraged to challenge God in prayer, reminding Him of what He has done in the past. If a man cannot forgive others, it shows that he does not understand the forgiveness of God. God needs enthusiastic followers. Nothing pleases God more than obedience to His will. The name Nehemiah means “the consoling breath of God.” God wants an opportunity to go to work on a man’s defects and rectify them. There are aspects of a man’s life in need of tuning. A broken spirit can be the sign of a fear of authority. The Israelites had a fear of authority and a rebellious spirit towards Pharaoh. This led them to distrust God. Deut ch 1 v 26. The Children of Israel had a bad image of God. They did not expect that God wanted the best for them.

God had a plan for Nehemiah to do.
God made Nehemiah aware of the job needing done.
God encouraged Nehemiah to pray that someone would do the work.
God revealed His will to Nehemiah.
Nehemiah recognised the plan and was willing to do whatever was required of him.
Nehemiah had faith to ask and believe that the plan would work out.

Nehemiah formed the people into a team. Everyone had to learn a new skill. God works when believers are willing to co-operate together. For a Church to grow there has to be respect and loving concern among its members. A bad relationship must be tackled with simple human openness. Nehemiah was able to hold his private life open to public view and was sure of his facts. What a man does in his private life will ultimately manifest itself in his public life. There was important work to do. He would not be discouraged. Worship involves repentance, learning, thankfulness and petitions. Repentance is honest confession with no excuses. While God provides spiritual food, He also wants stomachs filled, bodies clothed and illness healed. God often begins a new step by revealing His plan to a trusted servant. “It is not lawful for you” is not today’s language. “Times have changed” is. Little is much, if God is in it.

Nehemiah was chosen to give inspired leadership in order to start a work for God. He had a heart for God. When a man starts to build he needs a burden to do the work. He has to start with a confession of his sins. Why is he doing this work? Because God wants it done. His grace will be sufficient. Nehemiah identified the problem before he started. Once a start is made a believer should expect opposition. If God is in it, carry on. Satan is almost bound to attack in one way or another to prevent the work being done. If the first attack fails, he will be back. He uses wiles, deceit, cunning – any method he can to stop the work of serving the Lord. Some give up and do not pull their weight. It always looks a feeble structure, so that man does not get the glory. There will be criticism of it. The greater the progress the greater the opposition will be. Those most exposed will take the brunt of the attack. The leader is the prime target. There is a need to clear out the rubble from time to time and consider the progress. What is really vital to the task? Material possessions clog up a man’s life. They demand time and energy – a large house or garden or two cars. There is a need for training. Prayer and work are inseparable. One without the other is useless. Success proves God’s presence. That unnerves the enemies, who realise that they are already defeated.

1. Nehemiah was concerned for God’s business – the Kingdom of God. It consumed him. He was more concerned for God’s business than he was for his own life. He could have stayed where he was in Persia and been quite comfortable. He had a good job with a good salary. First he asked questions to find out the precise facts. What was the extent of the problem? What is the real situation facing the individual now – not as before but right now. How concerned is a man about the people God has brought to live on this Earth today – drugs – sex – false gods? There was neglect and decline and disgrace in Jerusalem. The Church in the West is in a state of decline and neglect. The truth is seeing things as they really are. Nehemiah reminds God of His promises – then he prays for success.
2. Nehemiah was emotionally moved by the situation. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Do believers care?
3. Nehemiah prayed first before acting.
4. Nehemiah planned what to do. He had a vision of where he was going. Without a vision the people perish. He was working it out with his business partner – the Lord. His detailed plans were all worked out in advance. It is a case of 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.
5. Nobody else was doing anything but that did not deter Nehemiah. Prayer leads to action – usually on the part of the person who prays. Nehemiah grasped his opportunity, when it came.
6. When he arrived, he investigated the position carefully to find out all the facts. He did his market research and established the full extent of the problem and the resources at his disposal. He listened to the people to assess their concern. What were their needs at the time? What were God’s priorities?
7. Nehemiah shared his vision with others and took them on board. It was too big a task for one man alone. Nehemiah had a vision and a strategy and it involved:
1. Hard work. Forget personal interests. Get on with serving the interests of God’s Kingdom.
2. Persistence. Do not give up on eternity.
3. Obedience to the call of God means being available for warfare.
4. Fasting. The trumpet blast was to call on all the people to come to prayer.
5. There was to be no wandering off the job to the dark places, where others could not observe.
6. Leadership involves sacrifice at all levels.
To trust the Lord does not mean that a man does not need to assess the situation.

CHAPTER 1. Chronologically this is the last book of the Old Testament. Nehemiah was one whom the King could utterly trust. It does not say a lot for the Persians. There was bad news and he wept. Nehemiah was ashamed at the condition of Jerusalem. It was not his fault but he felt the shame. The Temple was destroyed by the time of Nehemiah. No one had paid attention to Jeremiah for 70 years. The rubble had lain there for 70 years. Nehemiah took his time and planned each step of the way. The timing was perfect. In v 11 Nehemiah asked God to put it in the king’s heart to grant his request.
CHAPTER 2. A period of 4 months passed before chapter 2. Nehemiah fired an arrow prayer before speaking to the King. Actually it was the King who took the initiative to speak to Nehemiah. Then the Holy Spirit gave him the words to speak. In Ezra ch 4 lies were told about the Jewish people. v 8. The grace of God was in the situation. It is God’s good hand, which makes a man prosper. However Nehemiah also made meticulous preparation for the journey to Jerusalem. There was opposition from Satan. Effective service for the Lord always brings definite opposition. Like Jesus Nehemiah was the servant of God. Paul was a servant of the Gospel and of the Church. Nehemiah kept in touch with God during the dark days in Babylon and was alert to be His servant in these days. The king even went as far as sending troops to protect Nehemiah.
The Israelis were mocked by the political leaders. Sanballat and Tobiah were men of influence and power. They focused their energy on God’s man. Men tried to stop Jesus fulfilling the Word of God. This is a picture of the need to rebuild the Church in the land. In some countries it is in a disgraceful situation with few disciples. Satan attempted to discourage Nehemiah. The P L O is attempting to discourage Israel by dismantling it piece by piece. Yet the King respected Nehemiah. If the witness is good, it ought to earn respect. It is a mark of leadership that the leader is well thought of by unbelievers. There is a time for keeping quiet, researching the work to be done and assessing the resources available. The task of the leader is to inspire the others to do the work and to bring the best out of the others. Nehemiah had a determination to do the work just as Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem. Nehemiah looked sad and asked the King for a favour. These were both dangerous things to do. The King did not want anyone looking sad in his presence. Servants were ordered to behave in a happy way and certainly not to ask a favour of the King. In Esther anyone who spoke other than when requested, would lose his life. The key for Nehemiah was faith. He had prayed before asking the King. The broken walls of Jerusalem – that was the physical reality to teach the spiritual truth about the broken spiritual life of the nation.
CHAPTER 3. There is plenty work for everyone. Each has a job to do. No one in the Church should be unemployed. That is a waste of resources. The one-man ministry does not use the gifts and talents of the members of the Church.

CHAPTER 4. Attacks come from all sides but God’s work must go on. The people had a mind to work. They took up armour literally. The Jewish people relied on their God to help and protect them. This is a picture of the spiritual reality of using the weapons of spiritual warfare in the achieving of the purpose of God, i. e. the building of the wall. Hold onto the vision given by God and do not be distracted by what might otherwise seem good and worthwhile. As a man walks towards God Satan will try to distract him from God’s purpose. But Satan has no power to stop the man, if he resists Satan. Sanballat was incensed. He burned with anger. This was a Satanic reaction to the work, which God planned to do. It was the Jebusite spirit putting Nehemiah down. Muslims are incensed about Israel’s presence in the Middle East. They conspired together against Israel.

v 2. “Who do you think you are?” Whatever a man does for the Lord, expect Satanic opposition, often from the religious people in the Church. Nehemiah had a crisis in respect of the state of Jerusalem. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. There are 3 spiritual exercises. 1. Bible study – to find the character of God and His revealed will. 2. Prayer. 3. Fasting – linked to prayer. Isaiah ch 58 v 6. The real fasting is sacrifice for others. In today’s instant World there has been a neglect of these exercises, because they do not bring instant results. Man forces his culture on God. Integrity is a life-long process. What about blessing God for a change instead of seeking His blessing? Those who persevere to the end shall be saved. The danger is that when nothing happens people today are inclined to give up. The Devil attempts to keep the believers so busy that they do not have time for God.
v 6. Prayer and action came together. Action without prayer amounts to human initiatives without the anointing of God. Some came to Jesus claiming to have done miraculous things in His name, but Jesus said that He did not know them. They did not do these things under His instructions. It was their own idea. Therefore there was no faith on their part. A man ought not to do anything without being sure that the Lord has instructed it. It may well be good in itself and worthwhile but it may not be of God. Prayer without actions on the other hand is sanctimonious religiosity. Prayer by a man for someone to be fed will often result in God asking that man to put his hand in his own pocket.

As the work progressed there was increased spiritual opposition. As in Israel today others join in the opposition to the work of God in re-establishing the nation. The conditions in the first century of state opposition to Christianity are similar to those today. First the Government ignores the claims of believers and then becomes hostile to these claims. The more the policies of the Government do not work, the more the Government will not accept kindly criticism that their policies have been wrong and are not working. Satanic opposition increased. As it did Nehemiah prayed again.

Sanballat stirred up criticism from within the Jews. People start off by using the words: “By the way”, which should mean an irrelevant remark but it turns out to be a criticism of the way things are being done in the Church. Usually they come from those who are not involved or are doing nothing. The response should be to ask: “What it is that you are doing for the Lord?” That ought to silence them, if they are doing nothing. It is the Jebusite spirit at work, seeking to discourage the work, which is being done. Jesus often asked a reverse question and indicated that, if they would answer His question, He would answer theirs. It is a polite way of telling the person to mind their own business, since the work of the Lord is not their business. Love is not rude but it is definite. Nehemiah put the guards on duty day and night. Keep on the alert at all times. Submissive believers in the past were taught that they do not do things for God. God does it all. This was false teaching. Faith without works is dead. Christianity without opposition may well not be Christianity at all. If Satan does not oppose the work, it may well not be a work of God at all.

Everyone has a part to play. Records are important. Everything matters. Whenever there is a work for God opposition can be expected including criticism, sarcasm and discouragement. The enemy will be at work and the Amorite spirit of criticism will be active. Nehemiah took on the opposition to God. While there was action there was also constant prayer so that the angels were released to work. A believer needs to have people next to him and he should be next to people. Heb ch 10 v 25. “Do not neglect to meet together.” The attack may come in the form of fears. Nehemiah was with the people.

CHAPTER 5. The greatest damage to the Church is from within – criticism and gossip amongst believers and leadership not putting the words into action. Nehemiah fed the people, rather than took his rightful dues. The Church has to convince the World of the love of God. The Church is the only army, which shoots its own members. There was internal dissension. The rich made money out of the poor. There were loan sharks. The rich were getting richer while the poor were getting poorer. This is happening all over the World today. Families were being sold into slavery – as was the case with the Pharaoh in Egypt after Joseph’s day.
v 6. Nehemiah showed righteous anger. It was not right and he challenged the bankers. They had nothing to say in their defence. Nehemiah got them to take an oath to return the money and stop the practice. He was a servant leader – like Jesus. The bankers today are still doing the same thing. Where is there a Nehemiah to speak out against the bankers? Nehemiah was building up the walls of salvation, the walls of prayer and the walls of social justice. He was a righteous man. The people of Israel had to get their act together, if they were to be fit for the purpose of defeating the enemy. The Church has to sort out its troubles so that every believer is brought into effective battle.

CHAPTER 6. The glory of God was revealed in the achieving of the purpose of God. i. e. the building of the wall. God does everything for His own glory. There was an invitation to dialogue on certain matters. There was a personal attack on Nehemiah. Four times he was invited to discuss the matter. “Come and discuss Genesis in light of scientific evidence.” There is a concerted effort to undermine the Word of God. Believers are invited to join the World. Israel is invited to be like other nations and join the Peace Process. There is always a danger of distraction. There are a lot of good matters, which could be worthwhile. The question is this: “Is this the will of God for me?” The next approach was to tell a lie. It was alleged that Nehemiah wanted to be king. Nothing could be further from the truth. People are often willing to believe the worst in others. Blackmail operates on fear. Rumours were spread. There is no need to spend energy to defend pride. Nehemiah kept watch.
v 6 says: “It is reported.” That really means: “I am saying.” Shemiah was a trusted friend. The enemy will use one closest to a man to distract him. Nehemiah was not outmanoeuvred by anyone.
v 16. God helped them and the others saw that. Nehemiah was the right man in the right place, with the right attitude and the right skills to accomplish the purpose of God.

CHAPTER 7. Nehemiah appointed trustworthy men into positions of leadership. Nehemiah organised the people into worshipping groups. He was building a Church and encouraging others to play their part. The broken walls speak of a broken society and an unprotected Church. It is easy to identify the problem but more difficult to put it right.

CHAPTER 8. After the work was done, it was back to the reading of the law. There is a time for work, but a man should never forget the Word. A man needs to feed regularly on the Word, or else he will be brainwashed by the thoughts of the World. Christianity demands an intelligent application of the mind. There is no place for mindless superstition, which is the mark of paganism. The Book of the Law of Moses was read to the people. Ezra had returned 13 years before Nehemiah. What had he done for 13 years – waiting for this day? It was the people who requested the law to be read. It seems that they knew that they needed to hear it. There was an instinct in their hearts. The people stood to hear the Word read. There was reverence on the part of the people. There is a place for experiences but only after exposition of the Word. The joy came after the Word. It had been years since the Feast of Tabernacles had been celebrated. Ezra informed the mind, stirred the emotions and challenged the will of the people to do the Word of God. The Feast of Tabernacles was for all time and not just for the past. It is for the present day also. This was revival in the fullest sense. Within a week of the Word being read the city had changed.

CHAPTER 9. Mixed marriages were at the root of the problem. Believers are not to be yoked with unbelievers. Satan is persistent. Nehemiah stood firm. There must be no compromise with the enemy. Part of the praise of God is to look back at what God has done. When the Word was proclaimed in power, it brought forth a response from the people. Nehemiah comes across as a man of vision and determination. There must be no compromise with the demands of God’s law in the lives of individuals or in the nation. How the World longs for such a leader today, both in Israel and in the other nations of the World. Strong leaders are not afraid to speak out. The World is looking for statesmen and gets only politicians. The Church is looking for leadership and gets only ministers. Real revival makes sure that the details of worship are in order. Where there is no worship society and the Church disintegrate. This is the longest prayer in the Bible.

CHAPTER 10. There is a need for keeping the vision and covenant relationship with God uppermost in the thoughts and actions of believers. The Sabbath was being broken. Within eight months of Nehemiah being away troubles came into the life of the nation. What were the noblemen doing in the absence of Nehemiah? Perhaps they were distorting their claims for their expenses. Sin seeps back into the life of a believer very quickly unless there is a careful watch kept. Materialism was at the root of the problem. Nehemiah rebuked the people. It goes back to Solomon. In Britain those who speak against multiculturalism are described as bigots. The enemy is at work within the Church. There is a huge struggle going on. It is a fight to the death. There are constant disappointments.

CHAPTER 11. Everyone was set in the right position in the Church. One from each village was represented. The gatekeepers had a dangerous job. Unbelievers might step in to spoil the work of God. Nehemiah knew them all by name. Everything to do with the Church matters and is serious.

CHAPTER 12. Joyful giving and mission are the marks of God’s people. God’s heart throbs for World mission. His work can only succeed, if there is financial support. The Jewish people gave a tithe as their basic minimum. v 47. The divisions amongst the tribes dissolved when there was real worship. Unity was the fruit.

CHAPTER 13. The life of Israel was a constant war on sin. It kept creeping back in again. Sundays were used for work. Intermarriage was common and led to sin, despite the warning of what happened to Solomon. God keeps sending people to call His people to holiness. The prophets were used for this purpose. It can happen to any man. v 7. Tobiah was given a room in the Temple. There is no place in the house of God for non-believers such as Masons. God wants His people to be a holy people. Tithes were not being paid to the Church. The Church was being neglected

At times it is good to have a medical check up. When buying a house it is necessary to have a survey carried out. Nehemiah is used as a spiritual check up. “What state are the spiritual walls of your life in?” As a man goes through life damage can occur and put the spiritual life in a dangerous condition. A check up may save a lot of problems before there is a breakdown. Amos took a plumb line to the walls to test them. If the cavity is filled with rubbish the walls will eventually fall apart. What lies hidden within the walls of a man’s life, which could destroy his salvation? What is the state of the heart of a man? It is out of the heart that evil words proceed from the mouth. Saul was throwing spears at David, trying to hurt him. Usually it is insults, but in David’s case it was spears. A man can look daggers at people – if looks could kill! 1 Sam ch 15. Saul had a low self-esteem. He hid among the baggage. He had a fear of men, rather than of God. He did not do to the Amalekites exactly what God asked him to do. The weaknesses let the sin in. 1 Sam ch 28 v 18. That was the cause of Saul’s downfall. Is there something, which the Lord has asked a believer to do where he is in disobedience? A man should ask the Holy Spirit to help him identify the broken areas in his life to seek healing from God for them. There are times when a man needs scaffolding and practical support from others. Let my people grow. This Temple was never destroyed but built over by Herod the Great.

Malachi

MALACHI

His name is “my messenger.” He was one who was close to God – so close that the Holy Spirit could use him to speak as a messenger on behalf of the Lord. He was also a man who mixed with and observed the people. He heard what they were saying. He used his experience to conduct a two-way conversation between God and the people. He knew what God was saying and what the people were saying. Listen to the conversation.

Malachi was the last prophet to be sent by God to the Jewish people 400 years before Jesus. He addressed apostasy. The people of his day were well taught and had a fine tradition. They were decent folk. They knew all about God, but had become bored with the whole business of living for God. Such a thing could happen to any believer. It is the situation today for many believers. In the last days there will be many apostates. People in Britain know it all. They knew it all in Malachi’s days – the Exodus, the prophets, the moral law, the ceremonial law, grace, sin and the consequences. They knew about the dangers of going on as they were. God was giving them one last chance. He reasons gently with them, adopting a new approach – sarcasm.

Malachi looks at the big spiritual and moral issues of his day.

1. The priests – the spiritual leaders were responsible for the state of the nation. They said that it was acceptable to bring a lame animal to God when they came to worship Him. If the leaders were expressing doubt about everything, what hope was there for the people? Choose your leaders carefully. If what the preacher says is wrong, tell him. If what he says is right, obey it. Test it against Scriptures at all times. It is too important to be nice and not upset anyone. The spiritual leaders had despised the Word of God. They took it lightly and paid too little attention to what God had to say. They were sniffing at God. Today it is much the same. Some leaders join nice people to the Church and marry divorcees. They do not denounce immorality. They give the impression that God is satisfied with them. “Come to Church when you can. God understands that you are busy.” That is not acceptable to God. God is to be first in the lives of His people and not fitted in when it suits them. Some people say: “Let the children grow up and make their own mind up when they are of age.” Scripture tells a man to teach his children. God wants godly offspring. Pharaoh tried to kill off the babies in Egypt. Herod tried it in Jesus’ day. Satan was behind them both. He is involved today in those who say such things. Satan’s hand is behind abortion. More children have been killed in hospitals in Britain through abortion than during the Holocaust in Europe. Half a million children do not know their father, because he has walked out on them. How does society teach the children about the fatherhood of God? They have no pattern on which to build, when they become fathers. Are Churches teaching men to be fathers?

2. The attitude of the people. “How have we tired you?” God wants the very best from His children. Do they fit God in when there is nothing else happening? Do they watch television for hours and then feel too tired to pray? Is God first in their lives? If someone calls a time for Bible study, do they put it off? God holds their future in His hands. He will be their judge, not the friends who come to call on Bible study night. What lame excuses will they present to God when they face Him on the day of judgement for their poor performance on this Earth? They have to give an account for everything they do in this body. How do they respond to the Word of God when they hear it? It is more demanding for the one who speaks. It is a double disgrace, if the speaker chooses to speak about a subject and bring the Word of God to the people and does not put it into practice himself. Then he is a hypocrite. He has no excuse. Ch 2 v 7. There is a curse for disobedience of the Word of God. The leaders have the prime responsibility but each person is accountable to God. No one can hide behind the poor performance of the leaders.

3. Malachi addresses the question of adultery. Ch 2 v 14. He does not compromise his words. Adultery is rife in many countries. People watch it on television and in films and read about it in books, magazines and in the daily newspapers. Satan sows seeds of doubt in the minds of people. “It is the done thing.” That is the message to many nations. “Maybe your wife is involved? Maybe your husband did not need to be away overnight?” Satan fans the flames of lust in the hearts of people. The way in which some women dress tempts men. God hates divorce. It is the bottom line. It is bad enough, if people are not reliable in business, let their friends down, do not repay their creditors but to cheat on their wife or husband is inexcusable. That is an abomination. The whole of society is based on the nuclear family. When Satan destroys the family, he destroys the nation. The family is God’s plan for mankind from Genesis. Ch 2 v 15. It is not a new idea – one man and one woman for life. Divorce shatters the solemn promise of life-long commitment. When a man breaks that promise and looks at the consequences he should be ashamed. Aids! Millions of orphans in the World. Aids is known in every land throughout the World. Man is called to choose the way of faithfulness and loyalty, because that is what God wants of him – to be like Him.

4. The people were playing with words. They were calling into question even God’s own statements. Just like Satan. Did God really say? They were asking the age-old question. Ch 2 v 18. Where is the God of justice who allows such suffering? It was an excuse. Today people say; “Where is the God of love in the disaster, which has just struck? Why does God not do something?” They are casting doubt on the ability of God to deal with injustice. But He has. His Son died for the sins of the World and Jesus told His Disciples to get the whole mess in the World cleaned up. There is enough food in the World to feed everyone one and a quarter times over – if only man would share it out. It is also true to say that some of the poor need not be so poor, if they were not so lazy.

5. Judgement. Jesus is coming again to planet Earth. Prepare the way. Judgement is coming. Again Malachi does not hold back from speaking the truth. God is only delaying His coming to allow the people time to sort out their lives. He will judge with severity anyone involved in the occult, adultery, liars, those who cheat on employees, those who neglect the widows and orphans and those who do not help others in trouble. There are those who ignore God – the humanists. Do believers hold back from reminding people that God is not only a God of love but also a God of judgement? Malachi did not do that. God always comes to mankind with a word of judgement and a word of mercy. It is a recurring theme in the Bible. Adam – out! Judgement. Yet God spared him and clothed him. Mercy. God is the same today. He died for each man – no one has any excuses. It is the man who has moved away, if he is less close to God now than he was previously. Get back to God. This is Malachi’s advice, his invitation, and his desire, speaking as a prophet of God. How is it to be done? The people ask: “What must we do to turn back to you?”

6. Malachi’s answer is money. In order to get a response from a man, touch his wallet. Dare the Church mention money? Money is the only thing man has made out of nothing. The love of it is one of the roots of evil. The love of money is one of the obstacles to spiritual growth. Tithing is giving to God a tenth. This demonstrates that a man owes God everything. But for His grace he might be in another land and have lost everything. Psalm 24 v 1. The Earth belongs to God! Everything in the World is His. God makes it easy – one tenth. Islam says 1/40th. Money is the key to spiritual prosperity. The choice is this – 9/10ths with the blessing of God or 10/10ths without it? It is just as hard for those on £10 a week as for those on £1,000 a week. One has only £9 left. The other has to give £100. A tenth is not a lot considering how much money is wasted on trifles. A man should make sure that no one takes from him the money God has given him in any other way than is appointed by God. Should tithing be on the gross or net amount of income? Gross! The tax deducted is spent for the individual on the army, the police and other benefits for him. Some say that the question of tithing was an Old Testament idea. Listen to Jesus in Mat ch 23 v 23. Who is man’s biggest creditor? To whom does he owe most? God. Blessings are the promised return for tithes. Mal ch 3 v 10. A man cannot afford not to tithe. A man cannot ask God to bless someone, as long as he has the means to be the instrument of blessing. If he prays for someone, he can expect God to ask him to put his hand into his pocket. If believers are the body of Christ, then He can only give what believers are prepared to give. God loves a generous giver. Giving is a question of the will and not of the emotions. There is nothing wrong with having money. It is a question of how it was acquired and what is done with it.

Principles of giving in 1 Cor ch 16 v 1-3.
1. Periodic and regular – weekly or monthly. Keep a record. The heart of man is deceptive.
2. Personal, rather than by family or Church.
3. Proportionate – as God prospers a man.
4. Preventative. To avoid hurried collections. Tear Fund wells are better provision than water tanks to famine relief spots in a drought. It is better to help poor people grow their own crops than rush round with sacks of grain during a famine.
2 Cor ch 9 v 4-5. Remember that those who give only a little, will get only a little. A willing gift is better than a duty. Tithing is a big stumbling block to believers. It is a little like diving in at the deep end of the swimming pool. A decision to tithe is a big step – a personal one.

Malachi has listed the questions on the lips of the people.
1. “Are we not all children of God? There are many paths to God.”

2. A second question. It is not worth while serving God. Others seem to get away with it. They have more time to enjoy themselves. Often the children of God have a tough time. Ch 3 v 17. Believers are engaged in a battle. They live by faith and not by Worldly means. Success is doing the will of God. What if a missionary in Japan returns home with very little and has to live in poverty, while his former school friend has had it good all his life, with a large house, a big car etc.? But God is the perfect judge. Only faith pleases Him. The friend living at home may never have exercised faith and never pleased God. A man sows for eternity and not for the present life only. Only those who live for God on this Earth will be in Heaven. Some things are worth doing if a man is to live for seventy years. Others are worth doing, if he is to live forever. The ungodly do not win in the long run. “Lay not up treasures on Earth but in Heaven.” Accept this deeply. There is a day coming like the tape at the end of a marathon, when those who hit the tape will get the prize. Ignore the others. Go for it. Put up with the pain and disappointments. The day a believer dies will be the greatest day of his life. He will walk through the thin veil, which separates the life on this Earth with the life beyond death, where he will meet Jesus, and receive his reward. Never mind the wicked, as they prosper in the short term. A believer is going where they cannot go.

Malachi had the answers to the questions of his day. The people of God were not living as they should. There were three areas of sin – adultery, inter-marriage and tithing. Justice will catch up with all mankind sooner or later.

Conclusion. Remember the Bible. Elijah was to come before the day of the Lord. Twice Jesus comes – the first time to save – the second time to judge. John the Baptist came the first time to herald the arrival of Jesus. Rev ch 11 v 3-6. One last warning will be given before Jesus comes a second time. Better to get it all sorted out now. After pointing out all the ways the Jewish people had failed God, He still invited them to come to Him for forgiveness. Even then they claimed that they had nothing for which to be forgiven. Ch 3 v 7. This was the last word from God for over 400 years until Jesus came to Earth.

Malachi addressed the questions of the day. He raised a fourfold standard. Do all religions lead to God? Where is justice in the World, when evil men prosper and good men suffer? Is a man prepared to put his money where his mouth is? Divorce? Is it acceptable? Training children. Whose responsibility is it? Not a lot has changed since Malachi wrote 2,400 years ago.

Ezra

EZRA.

God gave Ezra the desire to lead the Jewish people back to Judea. At the same time he gave Cyrus the desire and determination to see the Temple rebuilt. God can use anyone – including His enemies – to accomplish His purposes. God sent the Jewish people back and used Ezra to bless them. 42,360 went back to Jerusalem. The Jewish people were meticulous in their records. It was a special gifting for them. Arabs do not seem to write so much or be so concerned with the truth. As soon as the Jewish people were back they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. The Temple foundations were laid on the second day of the Feast. There was enormous joy that the work had been started. The people were bound together by the project as they worked together.

Ch 4 v 1-2. The Temple was to be built by Israelites only and not by any others who professed knowledge about God. The Church should do the work of God alone and not be linked with non- believers. Christian charities should not rely on the World for funds to carry out their purposes. There was constant hostility from the enemies of Israel. Intimidation is a regular tactic of the enemy. They even wrote to the Emperor who miscalled Cyrus. The enemy said: “Stop”. God, through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, said: “Continue.” The Books of Haggai and Zechariah should be read in conjunction with Ezra. The Jewish people said: “Look at the evidence. It supports our case.” The evidence that Jesus is God is overwhelming. The authority for bulldozing houses seems to have come from King Darius of Persia. The Persians have a record of being kind to the Jewish people. Iran’s leadership today is very hostile towards the state of Israel and the work of God in Israel.

The restoration to the land came first and then the Temple was built – then repentance and restoration to God. Ezra was determined to study and obey the Law of God and God honoured Him through Artaxerxes. Ezra was recognised as an authority on the Scriptures. Regular and sustained Bible study is essential if the Church is to grow.

The Jewish people had made an impression on the King. ch 7 v 23. Why risk God’s wrath? The workers on the Temple were to be tax-free. God put it in Ezra’s heart to do it. Believers should pray for God to put it in the hearts of others to do His will and to change the hearts of others, who are opposed to God.

The holy people were polluted by mixed marriages. This was a deep sin. The non-Jews were good people but were opposing the Spirit of God and they were drawing the Jewish people away from God. The political leaders were some of the worst offenders. They were reminded of the God from whom they were running away by the presence of the Jewish people.

Ezra was a born leader. He took the initiative. He knew his Bible and what had to be done and he did it. If a man is not sure, he will not do what requires to be done for fear of doing it wrong and allowing other men to laugh at him. Ezra had the courage to tell the people that they had sinned and had better do something about it. The matter would not be resolved quickly. It would require to be worked out and would take time. It may take time to accomplish a task God has given to a believer. The people had to separate from the heathen wives and children. It was hard – but it had to be done. Otherwise the wrath of God rested on them.

In ch 10 v 9 the people came together to hear the Word of God from Ezra and there was heavy rain – always a sign of God’s favour.

While informality in worship is to be encouraged, it can lead to an over-familiarity, which is unhelpful. God is sovereign over both national and personal history. The Bible brings the touch of eternity into everyday affairs. The day of a man’s judgement may be only one day away. A man must be constantly ready to give an account for his life. The people who had returned had learned that their security rested in their relationship with the Lord. Judah’s enemies sought to corrupt the work of God by mixing themselves into the people of God. The faithfulness of the Jewish people was met with fierce opposition.

“Who gave you the right?” is Satan’s way of casting doubt. Who gives certain believers the right to lead the people? God! Leaders should be confident that their authority came from God. Ezra stresses the necessity of urgent zeal in God’s work. “Remember your first love.” Do not despise administration in God’s work. God loves to send His people servants, whose gifts exactly fit the needs of the day. Ezra gathered men to go with Him.

The concept of holiness includes purity and also separation from the entangling sin of the World and its thought patterns. Intimate relationships with the godless often lead to contamination and compromise with their abominations. Ezra repented deeply first by himself. Are the sins of believers abominations in the sight of God? Are believers ashamed to lift their faces to God? In the history of Israel intermarriage with other peoples led to religious pluralism, compromise and decline in Israel. In mixed marriages today both partners are pulling in opposite directions.

Teachings from Ezra.

1. God uses other than His people to accomplish His purposes e.g. Cyrus. Chapter 1 v 1.

2. The work of God depends on generous self-giving. Chapter 1 v 7.

3. God’s enemies seek to corrupt the work of God by mixing with the people of God. There can be no compromise on this matter. Believers should expect opposition. God’s purposes can never be frustrated. Chapter 4 v 4.

4. No criticism should be allowed to interrupt God’s work. Satan often asks insidious questions to undermine confidence to do the work of God. Chapter 4 v 13 and Chapter 5 v 3.

5. God will always provide the men and the means for His work to be done. Never despise administration in God’s work. His work depends on spiritual power and the provision of financial and material needs. Believers need urgent zeal to carry out the Lord’s work. Chapter 1 v 5 and Chapter 2 v 64.

6. God prepares each man through His gifts and the man’s experiences to fulfil a particular place in His purposes. God loves to send His people servants whose gifts exactly fit the needs of the day. Ezra was a priest skilled in God’s work and he did it. He was close to the Lord and was used by Him. Ezra earned favour with the World. He gathered men around him, and taught them God’s word to counteract social and moral decline. Chapter 7 v 10.

7. The responsibilities of the leader are to ensure that preparations for God’s work are not undervalued. The Levites had lost their vision of God. There is nothing spiritual about being casual. Chapter 5 v 2.

8. The leader bears the pain of those who are afflicted. The people were affected by worldliness and had not sought holiness. Ezra first repented himself. Only the grace of God allowed a remnant to survive. Chapter 9 v 6.

9. Compromise is an affront to a holy God and a discredit to God’s people. Intermarriage with others outside Israel always led to disaster and decline morally and physically. Believers should not marry non-believers. “Do not be yoked with unbelievers.” Be strong and do it. Encourage one another. 1 Thes ch 5 v 11. There is hope for Israel in spite of sin. Chapter 9 v 12.

The overall message is that God speaks through a man who knows Him. Ezra was called to tell the people to do the will of God, not just to listen to it. He pointed out the sins of the people and called them to repent and come out of the World. God’s leaders must be organised and be watching out for persecution and discouragement. Chapter 10 v 6.

Esther

At first sight the Book of Esther is a strange book. It is in the Word of God yet God’s name is never mentioned – not even once. The King is mentioned 187 times. This is because it is an extract from the Persian Court. Yet the Lord says that: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Although not named, God is on His throne. Without overriding man’s free will He is ruling the affairs of the nations – as well as the circumstances of each personal life.

God hammers out His message on the anvil of history and this is a story from history, which has much to teach men today 2,500 years later. The events take place in the days of the Persian Empire – an Empire, which was established in 550 B. C. and lasted until Alexander the Great invaded in 331 B. C. The Empire spread from India to Ethiopia, and, scattered throughout the Empire, were pockets of Jews, dispersed after the fall of Jerusalem, when leading Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon. The King of Persia at the time was Ahasuerus (the Greek name was Xerxes) and he lived in the capital Susa at the Western edge of what is today Iran. Things were going well and the King arranged a banquet to celebrate and show off his success. The royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the King. In those days in Persia it was forbidden for women to appear in public. So Vashti was entertaining the ladies in a separate part of the Palace. Little has changed in Iran today. Only in Christ is there full emancipation and fulfilment of women.

Then the King became a little the worse for drink, flouted the custom and said: “Bring the Queen, so that everyone will see what a lovely wife I have.” She was beautiful to behold. But Vashti refused to come. This was a little embarrassing for the King – he was humiliated in front of all his guests, and he was mad! So he ordered his astrologers to tell him what to do and they said to him: “Look here King – if you let her away with this, all the women throughout the Empire will become conceited. You had better make an example of her.” So the King put Vashti out and sent a decree to all the provinces telling the men that they were to be ruler in their house from then on.

Then the King set about finding a new Queen. He gathered all the good-looking girls into his harem. One of these was Esther – a Jewess, whose Uncle Mordecai worked at the Palace as a civil servant. She found favour with the King and was chosen Queen in place of Vashti. Then one day Mordecai found out that two of the King’s men, perhaps Government Ministers, were plotting to kill the king. Mordecai told Esther. Esther told the King and the two men were hanged for treason. No wonder the King’s father had a cupbearer called Nehemiah to make sure that his drinks were not poisoned. Of course, the same thing has been going on ever since and military coups occur from time to time in the World.

The next thing to happen was the appointment of a Prime Minister – Haman – the Agagite or Amalekite. Saul was told to wipe out the Amalekites but spared King Agag. Haman was given great power. While the rest of the civil servants were prepared to grovel and keep in with Haman, Mordecai was not prepared to bow the knee before him. This angered Haman. He was a proud man and liked his position but he was an Amalekite. Mordecai knew his Scriptures and would not bow to a mere man, and especially not to an Amalekite. The Amalekites had been sworn enemies of the Jews since the days when Moses led the people out of the wilderness towards the Promised Land. Haman was so proud that he devised a plot to get rid of not only Mordecai but of all the Jews in the Empire. The Empire stretched from India to Ethiopia. That really meant the whole nation of Jews. Haman had planned the final solution to the Jewish problem. That has a familiar ring to it. Many times in history massacres and wars have been sparked off through the injured pride of one or two individuals with a desire for revenge. It is just the same situation with Hitler. The Jews remind the World of God – a World that wants to forget that only by the grace of God does a man have his being. In all probability Mordecai reminded Haman that he was Prime Minister only by the grace of God and that Haman ought to rule in accordance with God’s commands. That did not suit Haman, so he planned to get rid of all the Jews.

Haman told the King a mixture of truth and lies. He did not mention the Jews by name but just told the King that there were some troublesome people in the Empire. The King was not too concerned about justice and truth. Haman offered him some money and so the King signed the order and said to Haman: “The money is given to you and the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.”

Letters were sent to all the Provinces to kill all the Jews and to take all their belongings. The King and Haman had a drink together, while the Empire watched, perplexed – concerned about justice and compassion. No one was more upset than Mordecai and he put on sackcloth and ashes. Esther heard about the decree and messages passed between her and Mordecai. They had eleven months before the dreadful decree was to come into operation. God provides time for a man to put matters right. Haman had also consulted the astrologers to set the date. Although eager to be rid of the Jews, he still submitted to superstition.

No one, not even the Queen, could approach the King uninvited. The penalty was death. However, Mordecai spelled out the position to Esther in his note: “You are in this mess too. Do not think that just because you are in the Palace you will escape the edict. If you approach the King you may die. If you do not, you will still die. Actually if you pass up this opportunity God will still save His People, who are His chosen People but you and your family will die. This is your opportunity. Who knows that God has put you in the Palace for such a time as this!” Mordecai showed that he still trusted God. Esther had a great opportunity to serve God. What would she do? “Yes,” she said: “I agree. You go and fast and pray for three days. I and my maids will do likewise. Then I shall go to the King. If I die, I die, but you are right. I must be obedient to God.”

Esther had remembered the Scriptures. Exodus ch 17 v11. It was the same battle against the Amalekites, when God showed the Children of Israel this essential truth. Moses raised his hands to pray to God. As long as he did, the Israelites won. When he was tired and dropped his arms and stopped praying, the Amalekites won. When Moses’ aids held up his arms, the Israelites won. Nothing happens in this World but for prayer. Behind the physical seen World there is a battle going on between the powers of darkness and the angels. So Esther and Mordecai prayed. Then Esther approached the King. It was no surprise that the King did not have her killed. Instead he held out the golden sceptre and said: “What is your request my Queen?” Now Esther proceeded cautiously. She was sensitive to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and did not rush. She had a plan and invited the King and Haman to dinner. Meantime Haman was very pleased with himself but the sight of Mordecai in sackcloth and ashes still upset him. Haman talked it over with his wife, who suggested that he build a gallows and tell the King to have Mordecai hanged. The King agreed and ordered the gallows to be built.

In the meantime there was another little coincidence, which was taking place. A coincidence is when God wishes to remain anonymous. The King could not sleep, so he called his servant to read the record of his reign. The servant came to the story of how Mordecai had saved the King’s life. To his surprise the King discovered from the records that he had never honoured Mordecai and he resolved to do it first thing in the morning. Haman arrived early at the Palace seeking a warrant to hang Mordecai but the King spoke first and asked Haman to honour Mordecai. This an example of the providence of God.

Then Esther gave a feast for the King and Haman. The King asked Esther for her request. So she told him that she was a Jewess and that she and all her People were to be destroyed. “Who has presumed to do such a thing?” the King asked. “Haman;” said Esther. The King was genuinely furious. At this point one of the servants added that Haman had a gallows built for Mordecai. The King blurted out in his anger: “Hang him on that.”

So they hanged Haman on his own gallows. Esther then revealed to the King that Mordecai was her Uncle and the King promoted Mordecai to Prime Minister in place of Haman. Esther made bold to ask the King to revoke the decree against the Jews. He did so and gave Mordecai an edict whereby the Jews were to defend themselves and to destroy any armed forces, who attacked them. The interesting consequence is that many became Jews, recognising how the God of the Jews had looked after them in their time of need. Today many Muslims become believers when they see that the God of Israel is more powerful than Allah and leads Israel to defeat the armies of Islam. They renounced idolatry and worshipped the true God. In this instance the Jews, by trusting God, had revealed His power to the people of other lands and they came to serve the living God.

Then the day came when Haman had ordered the extermination of the Jews. The Jews were organised against attack and went on the attack against their enemies. In Susa itself 800 people were killed including the ten sons of Haman who were hanged in public. Throughout the Empire an estimated 75,000 were killed. It was either kill or be killed. But they only killed those who were armed and they did not take any loot. Haman’s pride was his undoing. He is a picture of Satan, who fell from eminence through pride. Isaiah ch 14 v 12-15. It is a clear picture of the consequences of pride – final destruction. Pride may have started in a small way, but fed on a regular basis, it grew until it became the compelling passion of his life. Pride has to be starved to death – by focusing on the cross of Jesus. The key teaching of Jesus is: “Forget yourself.”

A festival was instituted to be observed by every generation to remember how God had intervened to save the Jews from extinction. It is still celebrated today in Israel. It is called the Feast of Purim. This comes from the word “pur” in Persian, which means: “throwing dice.” It is a day for dressing up and sending gifts to the poor. The Jewish people, recognising that they have received mercy, are obliged to give to the poor and to show mercy. Mordecai held the post of Prime Minister for a long time and served his King and his fellow Jews in an outstanding manner.

What has the story of Esther to teach today? Although God’s name is not mentioned all the ingredients of the Gospel are there. There is a King and his Prime Minister living a life without God, and consulting the astrologers for advice. There is sin. Truth and justice are sacrificed in the interests of human pride. One sin leads to another. Haman’s pride led to the threat to Mordecai and then to the whole Jewish race. There is the element of judgement for evil when Haman and then the enemies of the Jews meet their death. The Jews remind the World of God. The rejection of God by the World focused on the Jews. There is faith when Mordecai trusted God for deliverance. Esther followed Mordecai’s example and also prayed. She too prayed to the living God and acted in obedience by going to the King. There is the providence of God. God intervened to save the Jews and spoil Haman’s wicked plot. A coincidence is when God wishes to remain anonymous. It was a coincidence that Esther should be chosen to be Queen and be in such a strategic place of influence. It was a coincidence that the King could not sleep that night and was reminded that he had not honoured Mordecai, the very night before Haman was all set to hang him.

There is the grace of God – the sheer unmerited favour. After all is said and done the Jews were not any better than the other peoples. Esther was quite prepared to be in a harem and she and Mordecai were not too bothered about the death of 75,000 people throughout the Empire. Yet through the story there is the promise of God fulfilled – the just shall live by faith. Those who trust Jesus as their Lord, repenting of their sins, shall inherit eternal life. Haman and Esther lived before Jesus but they knew enough of the revelation of God that He was trustworthy – He was a miracle working God. So He proved to be.

There are so many parallels today. Just as the King’s idea of a celebration was to have plenty to drink, so it is today that many celebrate God’s coming to Earth in person by getting drunk at Christmas time. Many in the World cannot think to enjoy themselves without drink. Not a lot has changed. Because of the sins of the Jews, God had hidden His face from them. However, He was not forgetful or unconcerned for His People, even though He acted anonymously. Today, despite much open public sin in the World, God is blessing nations anonymously in many ways. God is slow to anger and steadfast in love. Haman and the King were both guided by consulting astrologers. They were proved to be useless, yet many in the World today consult their horoscopes, mediums and fortune-tellers. They act on the advice given to them from such unreliable sources. These are simply tools of the Devil to lead people astray. It is astonishing how many people “touch wood” and “cross fingers” ignoring the call of God to trust Him for the future.

The purpose of the writer of the book was to record the amazing deliverance of the Jews. God has not cast off His ancient People. He made a covenant with them long ago. The Jews as a nation may have broken their side of the covenant but God will never abandon them. He has brought them back into the Land He promised to Abraham and they still have an opportunity to be His witnesses. The Festival of Purim is still celebrated to this very day. As the threat of extermination from the P. L. O. and the Muslim extremists tightens, the nation of Israel will one day be forced to pray again to the Lord for deliverance.

Perhaps the best-known verse from Esther is ch 4 v 14. “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther knew that she had an opportunity to speak up for God. She saw the injustice of the situation. She had a choice. She could keep her head down and hope or she could take courage in both hands and act by going to the King. God would have fulfilled His purpose but she would have thrown away her chance and may never have had another opportunity. Perhaps right now a man feels that God is asking him to do something specific for Him. He cannot see too far ahead as to how it will work out or just how it fits in to God’s plan but he is aware of the choice before him. If Esther could do it, he could. God may be remaining anonymous but is prompting him in a particular direction.

It was as a result of faith on the part of Mordecai and Esther and their prayers that the power of God to change events was demonstrated to the World. Many believed as a result. It is an awesome responsibility, which believers have as witnesses for the Lord. Through their action or lack of it depends the salvation of others. Do others see God at work in their lives to such an extent that they want to know Him for themselves?

It is a strange book but it is part of His unfolding story. It is strange why the Jews in Europe in the 1930s did not learn the lesson from Mordecai but they had failed to put their trust in God. It is strange how easy it is for believers to be casual about their salvation – how complacent about sin – how they let the old sins creep back into their lives and lose the power of God to see the situation change in their land. This particular part of the Scriptures has many lessons to teach, if believers will learn from them and be doers of the Word.

Teaching Points.

1. Haman distorted the truth in asking the King for authority to wipe out the Jews, because they would not obey the King’s laws. The same thing happened in the Roman Empire.

2. When Esther decided to act, she prayed and then proceeded cautiously. She was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. There is a danger in rushing. There is a time for everything under Heaven.

3. One simple act of obedience can mean so much. Prayer includes seeking God’s wisdom in the practicalities of life.

4. The King’s idea of celebration was plenty to drink. Many celebrate today by getting drunk.

5. The King was ignorant of the feud between Haman and Mordecai. Mordecai probably irritated Haman by speaking about God. Pr ch 9 v 16. The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. So was Haman.

6. The victory of the Jews persuaded many of the power of God and many became converts. Today the testimony of converted drug addicts and criminals points to the power of God.

7. The purpose of the writer was to record the amazing deliverance of the Jews. God has not cast off His ancient People. They are still His witnesses and remind the World of God.

8. Mordecai would not worship the King in place of God.

9. It was against the custom for women in Persia to appear in public. The King was drunk and ignored the custom. He sought to dishonour her. She refused and he was humiliated in public before his guests. He consulted astrologers. Drink often frees the tongue and encourages people to do things they would not do or say things they would not say if sober.

10. Esther had to make a choice. God would have succeeded through some other way but, if she had remained silent, she would have lost her opportunity.

11. Plots against the King were commonplace as they are today. The army plots, as do businessmen to take over another’s business. Supermarkets undercut the toyshops at Christmas and put the toyshops out of business. Loss leaders are used.

12. The Jews did not deserve God’s favour. Esther and Mordecai were no better than the others, putting their enemies to death.

13.God accomplishes His purposes without in any way overriding the free decisions and actions of those involved.

14. Even after the death of Haman the edict still stood. Even though Satan was defeated by Jesus on the cross, Satan’s evil works still linger on. There is still work to be done by believers.

15. Despite the moral dilemmas, which it raises, God still calls on a man to participate fully in influential secular work.

16. If a man has discerned what God wants him to do, he still needs to wait for God’s timing.

17. Haman was guided by superstition – omens – luck – fate. These influence many today. They are useless to protect a man. God does that. The Persians were very superstitious and still are.

18. Whenever the Jews have experienced persecution, Esther has been the hope of their ultimate deliverance and survival.

Chronicles

The two books of Chronicles give a divine view on the history of Israel from the time of David to the time of the captivities in Assyria and Babylon. The life of David is considered from a spiritual aspect. The second book gives the spiritual and moral reasons for the downfall of Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel is virtually ignored. The writer was especially interested in two themes – true worship and true kingship. It was written for the people who had returned with Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Genealogies are important to the Jewish people. They give authority to the lives of the individuals. They also prove to the Jewish people after the exile that their community was a continuation of the former Davidic kingdom. The new community needed to be linked to the past and to learn the lessons from history, if they were not to repeat the mistakes.

 

There is a brief record of the kings, with few comments on the bad kings and more detail about the good kings. While none of the kings of Israel did what was right in the sight of God, 8 of the 20 kings of Judah did follow the laws of God and Judah lasted longer as a result. Josiah is recorded as one of the best kings. 2 Chr ch 34. He discovered the book of the law – probably the Pentateuch. This suggests that the people were living a life based on the traditions and that the direct Word of God was not present in their midst. Josiah understood the serious sins, which were being committed and he brought in reforms according to the laws of God.

 

There is reference to the constant spiritual battle with the forces of evil. The political powers were then, as now, constantly seeking to expand their power base. Little Israel was often used as a pawn to expand one empire against another. People often want believers to agree with them to support their opinion. The book stands as a record of the requirements of God for leaders of the people.

 

The theme of the first book is Jehovah as sovereign Lord, blessing obedience and punishing disobedience. God is with those who are faithful to His covenant. Despite the sin of the nation, God was still keeping His promises to the nation and working out His plan for the nation. It is considered that both books were written during the time of the exile in Babylon. The two books were possibly written by Ezra about 400 B. C., since they end at the time of the captivity in 586 B. C. The last verses of the second book relate the edict of Cyrus allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. The book only deals with the kings of Judah. It is occupied with magnifying the Lord and giving Him His right place in Israel. He reigns over all, despite the flood of iniquity. What God thinks about the situation is evident throughout. Righteous leaders exalt the nation, while evil leaders cause the people to sin. Each leader is confronted by a prophet, a man of God or by God Himself. There is approval or disapproval of the actions of each king. Some kings started off well but power and success proved to be their undoing. More emphasis is given to the reforms of the good kings than to the sins of the evil kings.

 

The book begins with a chronology of people from Adam to David. The writer wants the post-exiled Jews to know that their community was a continuation of the former Davidic line. It is a statement, which confronts evolution. There was a first real man and men today are directly related from Adam and bear his sinful nature. It also indicates that no one even the least important of men is not watched over by God and has a place in God’s story – His story. Families are important to God. They are His building block of society.

 

Whereas the history of Israel is viewed from man’s standpoint in Samuel and Kings, in Chronicles it is viewed from a divine perspective. In Samuel it is shown that the Philistines killed Saul. In Chronicles it is shown that God killed Saul. The Philistines were merely God’s executioners. David was the real founder of the Temple, although it was Solomon who actually arranged for its building. The sins of David detailed in Samuel and Kings are not included. David instructed Solomon to build the temple.

 

FIRST CHRONICLES.

Ch 1 v 13-15. Canaan was the ancestor of the people who lived in Canaan. God instructed the Israelites to wipe them out. Deut ch 7.

Ch 1 v 25. One of the sons of Ishmael was Kedar. Mohammed came from that tribe. Al Quaeda may be the product from that tribe.

Ch 10 v 13-14. Saul died due to unfaithfulness, because he sought advice from other than the Lord. The writer was writing to people who knew the earlier books. There was no need to repeat what had been said in the earlier books. He was interested in pursuing the themes of true worship and true kingship in Israel. The new community returning from Babylon needed to know the right lines on which to re-establish patterns of worship. Above all they needed to be reminded that idolatry and neglect of God’s laws would lead to judgement and disaster, as it had always done. Prosperity and wellbeing depend on faithfulness to God.

Ch 11 v 5. David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites. David wanted to build a temple but Nathan the prophet told him that he must not.

Ch 13 v 9. Uzzah and David should have known better. The ark was to be carried on poles by the Levites. All God’s instructions have a purpose and significance.

Ch 13 v 13. When the ark of the Lord lodged at the home of Obededom, he and his whole family were blessed. When the Word of God is central in a home, the whole family will be blessed, even though several members of the family are not saved.

Ch 14. David sought God’s advice each time he attacked the enemy and God gave him different advice each time.

Ch 15 v 29. David’s wife did not rejoice with him when he danced before the Lord. Members of the family of a believer may have hatred for God in their hearts and be looking for an opportunity to express that hatred. Proper worship is characterised by orderliness and joy. Music has a special place in worship.

Ch 16 v 26. Other so-called gods are actually demons. Behind each false religion is a demonic principality.

Ch 17 v 9. There is the promise of a permanent home for the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria.

Ch 19 v 4. The enemy sought to bring shame on the people of God. Nakedness is always a sin.

Ch 21 v 1. It was Satan who deceived David into taking a census. He put the thought into David’s head and probably suggested that it was a good thing to do. Believers have to evaluate all thoughts, which come into their mind, to test if they are of God or not. Satan has power only within the limits set by God.

Ch 21 v 24. An offering to the Lord, which does not cost a man personally, is not acceptable to God. Money taken from the World is not a sacrifice on the part of a believer. To use money from the World for God’s purposes puts God in debt to the World.

Ch 22 v 8. . The reason David was not to build the temple was that David had spilled a lot of blood in his reign. God indicates that His Son Jesus will build a temple forever.

Ch 22. Detailed instructions were given for the building and the worship. This shows God’s concern for detail. Everything matters to God. Everything a man does has consequences. Everything will be recorded in the Books to be opened on Judgment Day. The Temple was built on Mount Moriah where Abraham had offered Isaac as a sacrifice. It was the place chosen by God at the centre of the World.

Ch 28 v 6. God chose Solomon as successor to David, despite the fact that Solomon was the offspring of David’s adultery with Bathsheba.

Ch 29 v 14. Everything a man has is by grace – even the air he breathes.

Ch 29 v 17. God tests a man to see what is in his heart. Jesus was tested in the wilderness.

 

SECOND CHRONICLES.

Ch 1 v 7. God is more than willing to give and challenges man to ask for anything, which will serve His Kingdom. Those, who are to serve as leaders, need to receive wisdom and courage and many more attributes. God will give them willingly, provided their motive is right. God engulfed Solomon with grace.

Ch 3 v 1. David chose to build the temple on the top of Jerusalem. It had great significance for God. Only the grace of God allows anyone to serve Him.

Ch 6 v 8. It is good to have a desire to serve the Lord in one area, even if a man is not called by God to serve Him in that way. God knows the hearts of all men.

Ch 7 v 14. This is a principle of God as far as prayer is concerned. Repentance and humility are essential to answered prayer.

Ch 10 v 8-10. General advice is given to listen to God’s advice and not to the opinions of men.
Ch 12 v 13. God confirms that He chose Jerusalem to be a symbol of eternity. The New Jerusalem is the final place for God to dwell with men in eternity

Ch 15 v 2. God will not forsake His people as long as they do not forsake Him. Blessings flow after obedience and disasters follow disobedience.

Ch 16 v 12. Asa went to the medical people first and not to God. There is a place for medical advice, but the Lord is a man’s healer. Possibly the medical men were offering cures based on magic.

Ch 18 v 27. God will speak to a man though other men selected by Him – if he has an ear to hear.

Ch 18 v 33. God is still in control, even when an arrow is fired in a haphazard way. Otherwise He is not God.

Ch 20 v 15. Even when all seems to be lost, God is still able to deliver His people. Sometimes believers are called to fight but on other occasions they are called to stand and wait for God to act.

Ch 20 v 22. As soon as they began to praise, God delivered them. The enemy were scattered when the praise rang out. God is enthroned on the praises of His people.

Ch 24 v 19. God sent prophets to the people but they would not listen. He is still sending His people with Bibles and messages to people, but mostly they will not listen. The true prophet should live a life, which gives honour to God. For all the reforms of Josiah the hearts of the people were not touched.

Ch 33 v 2-6. It was because of the evil of King Manasseh that Judah was sent into exile in Babylon. He was one of Judah’s worst kings. Jer ch 15 v 4.

Ch 35 v 22. Despite all the good things Josiah had done he did not believe the word from God concerning Neco of Egypt and as a result he died. Those who persevere to the end shall be saved.

Ch 36 v 15. This is the passage to which Jesus referred in Mat ch 23 v 37. It is one of the saddest verses in the Bible and stands as a warning to all believers. When Israel sinned she was worse than the heathen peoples round about.

Ch 36 v 21. This is the verse, which Daniel referred to in ch 9 v 2. The 70 years were up but Daniel still had to pray it to come to pass and could not sit back as a spectator. God had not utterly abandoned His people.