“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) The Providence of God in the Life of Ezra (Bryan Gibson)
2) The Zeal of Jesus (Heath Rogers)
3) Sword Tips #161 (Joe R. Price)
The Providence of God in the Life of Ezra
For an Israelite who lived under the law of Moses, no finer words could be said of a man than were said of this man: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
In the 7th year of King Artaxerxes (ca. 458 B.C.), Ezra led a group of Jews on a four month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:6-9). About 1700 men took this trip, along with their families (Ezra 8:1-20). That God helped them on this journey is indicated by the repeated use of the phrase, “the hand of the LORD,” and other slight variations (7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31). Here are three specific ways God helped Ezra and his fellow-Israelites:
God helped provide them servants for the house of God (Ezra 8:15-20). Ezra noticed that among the group set to return there were no sons of Levi, and so he commanded certain men “that they should bring us servants for the house of our God” (Ezra 8:17). Servants were brought, and while human effort was certainly involved, Ezra attributes this provision to “the good hand of our God upon us” (Ezra 8:18).
God guided them on their journey to Jerusalem and protected them from harm. Traveling without an armed escort, they prayed to God for help and protection, and He answered their prayer (8:21-23). “And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road” (8:31).
We don’t know all the means He used, but in some way God influenced King Artaxerxes to provide the Israelites all the assistance they needed for this journey—and then some (7:6, 11-26). Ezra petitioned the king, and “the king granted him all his request, according to the good hand of the Lord upon him” (7:6). Here are some highlights of the king’s decree, issued in response to Ezra’s request:
Any Israelite who wants to go with Ezra, you’re free to go (7:13).
For all you need to make sacrifices at the temple—here’s a “blank check” (7:14-22).
Whatever God commands to be done for His house, let it be done (7:23).
No tax will be imposed on those who work at the house of God (7:24).
Appoint magistrates and judges who know the law of God to rule over you, and for those who don’t know the law of God, make sure you teach them (7:25).
Punish severely those who do not observe the law of God or the law of the king (7:26).
And what was Ezra’s reaction to these amazing concessions from the king? “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, and has extended mercy to me before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty princes.’ So I was encouraged, as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me” (7:27-28).
When I read the Book of Ezra, especially chapters 7-10, I’m impressed with Ezra, but I’m even more impressed with God. I want the “good hand of our God” to be upon me, too; but for that to happen, I need to become more like Ezra—I need to prepare my heart to learn the will of God, obey the will of God, teach the will of God, and pray fervently to God.
Remember what they said to the king, when they were ashamed to ask for an escort: “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him” (8:22).
— Via Plain Words from God’s Word, August 7, 2023
The Zeal of Jesus
In just three and a half years, Jesus accomplished the greatest work ever done. He preached the gospel of the kingdom throughout Galilee. He did mighty works that proved He was the Son of God. He trained the 12 apostles. He offered the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus completed these amazing tasks because of His incredible work ethic, a work ethic driven by great zeal.
Jesus began at an early age. When He was 12 years old, His parents searched for and found Him in the temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions. When questioned about this, Jesus responded, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).
Jesus’ zeal is seen at the beginning of His earthly ministry (Mark 1:35-39). Knowing His days would be busy, He made it a habit to awaken early in the morning and find a secluded place to be alone with the Father in prayer. After preaching the gospel in one place, He made it His aim to go to other towns. “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43).
Statements Jesus made during His ministry reveal His zeal for the Father’s work.
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Jesus was hungry and tired when He encountered the Samaritan woman at the well (vv. 6, 8, 31-33). Despite these circumstances, He took time to initiate a life-changing conversation with her and help her come to a point of faith. He stirred up her zeal (vv. 28-29). Jesus came to finish the work the Father gave Him. The opportunity to reach this soul presented itself, and it wouldn’t wait (v. 35). How many times have we allowed opportunities to slip by because they conflicted with our schedules?
“I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). As our Lord’s ministry grew, so did His conflicts with those who opposed Him. He knew enemies were plotting against Him and that such efforts would eventually end in His death. Despite what the Jewish leaders thought and/or said, Jesus never backed down. He made it His aim to always do the things that pleased His Father. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Are we always seeking to do the things that please God?
“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). Jesus and His disciples were escaping some Jews who were seeking to stone Him when they encountered a man born blind (John 8:59-9:3). The disciples asked about the man’s condition, and Jesus took the time to heal him. The Lord had a sense of urgency regarding the completion of His work. It had to be done because of the rapid approach of a time when no work could be done. Do we serve the Lord with a sense of urgency, or do we believe there will be plenty of time later?
“It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus died at the age of 33. With His dying breath, He could honestly say He had fulfilled His purpose. He had completed His Father’s will for His life. He worked right up to the very end. “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). Most of us will probably leave this world knowing we could have done more to serve and glorify God. Will we be motivated by our Lord’s example and work until the end?
Conclusion: Jesus showed great zeal in His work. It was motivated by His love for the Father and commitment to finish His task. Jesus did not come to earth to be served as a King. He came on a rescue mission. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). This work was urgent.
Jesus is our perfect example in all things. He shows us exactly how to please the Father. We need to develop Christ-like zeal for God’s work and honor.
— Via Articles from the Knollwood church of Christ, September 2023
“And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17)
SWORD TIPS #161
Joe R. Price
“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Proverbs 29:11)
It is not wise to “lead with your emotions.” Our feelings can blind us and lead us down paths we later wish we had never traveled. Restrain your emotions and do not be rash with your words. Solomon went on to observe that there is more hope for a fool than for the person who speaks before he thinks (Prov. 29:20). Self-control is much wiser than “venting” your emotions. Words spoken in frustration, anger or hate, for example, can never be retrieved. The damage is done. How much better to be wise and control yourself so you will not have to say, “I regret having said that!”
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel — for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30-31).
2) Believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins. For every accountable person has sinned (Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10), which causes one to be spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23). Therefore, repentance of sin is necessary (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30). For whether the sin seems great or small, there will still be the same penalty for either (Matt. 12:36-37; 2 Cor. 5:10) — and even for a lie (Rev. 21:8).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). This is the final step that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). For from that baptism, one is then raised as a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), having all sins forgiven and beginning a new life as a Christian (Rom. 6:3-4). For the one being baptized does so “through faith in the working of God” (Col. 2:12). In other words, believing that God will keep His word and forgive after one submits to these necessary steps. And now as a Christian, we then need to…
6) Continue in the faith by living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Matt. 24:13; Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday: 9 a.m. Bible Classes and 10 a.m. Worship Service. Congregational Song Service: 5 p.m. for every first Sunday of the month.
Wednesday: 7 p.m. Bible Classes
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
https://thomastedwards.com/go/all.htm (This is a link to the older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990.)