Redemption Community Church
Gathering 9/26
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        Jeremy Whitten

        August 30, 2021 - 7:00 AM - 7:00 AM
  • Begone Unbelief
      • Psalms 53.1-2ESV

      • Psalms 53.3-4ESV

      • Psalms 53.5-6ESV

      • Ephesians 2.1-2ESV

      • Ephesians 2.3-4ESV

      • Ephesians 2.5-7ESV

      • Ephesians 2.8-10ESV

  • All I Have Is Christ
  • But God
  • His Mercy is More
      • Ezra 7:11–28ESV

  • Refuge and Strength (Psalm 46:1-2)
  • Last week: I introduced you to the second act of this historical account of the returning Jewish exiles from captivity in Babylon. Ezra was the focus of our study as the leader that God chose to lead this second wave of people back to the Promised land. We looked at Ezra’s priestly lineage (good or bad), his responsibilities (as scribe), his character, and lastly, his success. As in all our studies of people in the Bible, we can learn much from these faithful or unfaithful men and women, but our goal is to make much of Christ. We always need to learn about the condition of man in sin and the hope that we have in Christ. Christ is the best model for leadership as he sacrificed himself for sinners and paid for a sin debt that was not his own. Ezra has much to teach us but Christ has more of himself that we should learn from as the Son of God.
    Today: Now we look to the next set of verses that take us to the end of the chapter 7 and our in-depth analysis will towards the Persian King Artaxerxes. Just as we spent time focusing on Cyrus, now we look at the second most important Persian King that is mentioned in Scripture. Artaxerxes I is our focus of study and he is the son of Xerxes I and he took the throne in Persia in 465 and ruled until 424 BC. He was known for overcoming a great attack from the partnered Egyptians/Greeks and after that victory, there was a season of peace in the ruled Persian kingdom.
    With that peace, came politics of the kingdom done the way the King wanted. The background behind the kingdom decree for the Jews to return home is the idea of polytheism. We read in Ezra 7:23
    Ezra 7:23 ESV
    23 Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons.
    The Persians were polytheists which means they believed in the existence of multiple gods. Polytheism is the major religious viewpoint of the enemies of God in the Biblical narrative. The Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Persians were all polytheists. Israel stood alone in its monotheism believing that God was the one true God.
    It was because of their belief in numerous gods ruling equally, that they must deny the existence of all gods or they must humble themselves under the power of them all. What we see in Artaxerxes’ decision to let the Jews return to their homeland is that it was motivated by the fear of not only the gods of Persia but also the gods of Israel.
    What I want us to consider here this afternoon is that this approach may seem pious, taking a “better than nothing” approach to the worship of God, but it is not true worship if it is not exclusive worship of YHWH. As the uncreated, almighty, eternal sovereign of the universe, he share his worship and glory with no other.
    Artaxerxes did not want to offend YHWH so he went to great lengths to offer his sacrifice to YHWH which was freedom of the Jews to return, but in God’s great ledger, ARTAXERXES was not living by faith in YHWH alone.
    What this passage teaches us today is the all earthly kings reign under the sovereign rule of God. Even though they may carry out his purposes as he sees fit, they will face his wrath for their lack of full devotion to him.
    In turn, I want you to consider the awesome and unlimited reign of God over all things. Let me invite you to evaluate your own life and ask yourself, am I like Artaxerxes, giving God a small portion of my life or does he have my full devotion. Am i guilty of offering to the God of the Bible and the gods of other lands as well?

    1. The King Grants Liberty 11-14

    Ezra 7:11-13 “11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel: 12 “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.”
    We once again witness awesome power of YHWH on display as he works through the evil of Artaxerxes’ polytheistic mind to carry out his purposes of sending Ezra and more Jews home. This letter is the official decree by the King to allow Ezra and “anyone of the people of Israel …may go with you.”
    Verse 14 gives a deeper explanation for freedom given to Ezra and these Jews. Ezra is sent back by this Persian king to make sure that the newly built community of people in Jerusalem are abiding by the law of God set forth in the Pentateuch. In other words, Persian King wants Ezra to make sure people are obeying the law that God established in his word.
    Only the sovereign God of the Bible can make such unnatural things occur and its because of such power that we are in awe of him and we worship His power and might. When our world screams loudly that we must live in fear day by day because of our foreign enemies, a pesky virus, an unstable economy, the church responds back,
    jeremiah 10:6-7 “6 There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.”
    Jeremiah 10:10 “10 But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.”
    Let us then be clear to give YHWH the praise for the freedom that He offered the Jews through his servant Artaxerxes. We must not praise the Persian king, for his motives were driven from fear but the Jews feared YHWH and trusted him to provide and he did. The true king granting freedom is YHWH!
    We have freedoms in America that are given by God that can just as easily be taken away as they are given. The Bible never teaches religious freedom is a promise from God. Instead, he tells that His presence will be with us even if our earthly freedoms are taken away. For the Jews under Babylon, their freedoms were taken away and then restored again in Ezra’s account.
    I think of Job’s response to His wife upon losing all their earthly possessions and loved ones, when he said,
    Job 1:21 ESV
    21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
    What is the Christian’s true freedom? Our true freedom is not freedom to worship, freedom to own a home, or freedom to bear arms. I appreciate those earthly freedoms but they are temporary and meaningless in the scope of eternity. Those earthly freedoms can be stripped away and we will still have Christ. We can will worship him and we will face punishment joyfully for doing so. But a prison cell and even death can ultimately remove earthly freedoms but not heavenly ones.
    Jesus came into the world to give us hope of something better that what the constitution gives us. Jesus the eternal Son of God came into the world to bless us with peace with our Heavenly Father and freedom from the bondage of sin and death. The heavenly life promised to us must be our ultimate goal as we live in a dark time. The Jews longed for a return to teh promised land and an earthly King granted that freedom to go home. Our heavenly King brought redemption so that we could have an eternal home with Him and we will enjoy it.

    2. The King Provides Resources 15-24

    Secondly, as we noticed from our account of Cyrus sending back the first wave of exiles, so God moved in the heart of Artaxerxes to provide Ezra all the financial resources to make the journey back to Jerusalem and for Ezra to return by making sacrifices on behalf of the king.
    Ezra 7:15
    Ezra 7:15 (ESV)
    15 and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem,
    Here again you see the King’s fear manifest into good as he provides all the financial resources needed for Ezra to purchase the necessary bulls, rams and lambs to take with him to offer sacrifices to God in the newly built temple. This again is Artaxerxes seeking to curry favor with God and yet God uses it to provide his people a safe and well funded travel home and the supplies to offer sacrifice when they arrive.
    Notice where they will collect these monies:
    v. 15 the king’s treasury
    v.16 with treasury from Babylon
    v. 16 freewill offering of Jews
    v. 21 monies from the Samaritans
    Ezra 7:21-22
    Ezra 7:21–22 ESV
    21 “And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, 22 up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
    One commentator calculates these amounts as follows:
    “a hundred talents of silver are just more than 33/4 tons;
    a hundred kors of wheat are approximately 650 bushels;
    a hundred baths of wine and oil are 607 gallons each.”
    Charles Fensham. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (p. 106). Kindle Edition.
    In other words it is a cumulative effort of monies going back for the people of God to use for the success of the temple work. The opposition to the Jews were commanded to give money to them. The pagan king was willing to give money to them. The spoils of war with Babylon also aided their financial needs. There was money coming to the Jews from every direction and therefore we once again are reminded that nothing is impossible with God.
    1 Chron 29:10-16
    1 Chronicles 29:10–16 ESV
    10 Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 15 For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. 16 O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own.
    All that we have in this world belongs to the supreme sovereign rule and power of our king. The God of the Bible is a gracious God and he blesses all people with grace through life, through relationships, through earthly possessions. He is a good and gracious God to give to all people these gifts they do not deserve.
    But the world exploits those gifts and they use the benevolence of God as a means to rebel further against his name. They don’t honor Him as the benevolent God he is. But God’s people recognize where these gifts come from. From that acknowledgment comes worship for His good grace.
    In the same way, as the church worships God for all that He blesses it with, there is also the command to not fear. in moments of life when finances are tight and large financial surprises occur, we are reminded that God’s power is displayed in this story of Ezra so we can see that His resources are unlimited to provide for His people. Therefore, instead of fear, let us see God’s grace manifested to us and let us have faith in Him to give us according to our needs.

    3. The King Appoints Governments 25-26

    Ezra 7:25-26
    Ezra 7:25–26 ESV
    25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. 26 Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”
    In the third example of God’s sovereign rule over the nations, we read that Artaxerxes calls Ezra to appoint magistrates and judges to rule in Jerusalem according to the wisdom given by God. The magistrate could also be look at as a regional governor, loyal to Persian but governing the region according to the religious freedom that God has appointed through Artaxerxes. Those governors were given supreme authority to judge and punish those who violated the laws of the Jews and the laws of Persian rule.
    This should encourage the church today which lives in a wicked and volatile world under a government that is restricting religious freedom more and more each day. Again, the reflection from Scripture is the unnatural implementation of God’s laws by a pagan king in a pagan ruled land. This should bring us hope in a tragic day. God is on the throne and he is ruling over our president, the Senate, the house of representatives, and state and local officials. Why would we be afraid? He turns their hearts as he wishes according to his promises and purpose in this world.
    Do you believe this church? Let me ask you as a demonstration of your faith i God in this way, do you pray for God to move among our leaders in our government? Do you pray for Joe Biden or do you just wish evil upon him? Do you ask God to turn the heart of Nanci Pelosi, or Kamala Harris, believing that He answers the prayers of his people. The church should pray in such a way because we know that accoridng to Romans 13:1-2
    Romans 13:1–2 ESV
    1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
    In your spiritual act of worship before a Holy God who does institute our national, state, and local leaders, let’s pray to our sovereign God for Him to move them towards His will knowing that He rules over them and He can instantly change their hearts which can change the trajectory of a nation.
    1 tim 2:1-4
    1 Timothy 2:1–4 ESV
    1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    4. The King Shall Be Praised 27-28

    ezra 7:27-28
    Ezra 7:27–28 ESV
    27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
    Finally in verses 27-28, we have a personal interlude from Ezra himself, where he stops to praise the Lord for all that he has accomplished. He acknowledges that the Lord put this mission in the heart of the king. He acknowledges that the Lord orchestrated a position of leadership for such a time as this so that the Jews could return back and fuflfill his promises to them. The Lord did the same providential placements for Esther so that she may save her people from being exterminated. He placed Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, Moses, the slave girl of Naaman, Rahab in Jericho, and so on! God is constantly working according to His providence so that His purposes might be fulfilled. Therefore,God’s people praise his providence no matter the situations that befall them.
    Ezra finally acknowledged that God’s hand was upon him, seeing God working in and through him, and instead of taking the opportunity to brag or be arrogant at his opportunities that were granted to him, Ezra praises the Lord for it was clearly the Lord who is to praised as He rules over the nations and the kings in those nations.
    Church, let us draw near to God in our lives as exiles in this foreign land. These laws of the land are not God’s laws. They are man-made laws that often flow away from godliness and holiness. Let us not lose heart but instead commit ourselves to the true King of our lives, the Lord Jesus who rules and reigns over these wicked rulers and wicked days.
    Psalm 47
    Psalm 47 (ESV)
    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
    1 Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! 2 For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. 3 He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. 4 He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah 5 God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! 7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! 8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. 9 The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!
      • Ezra 7:23ESV

      • Job 1:21ESV

      • Ezra 7:21–22ESV

      • 1 Chronicles 29:10–16ESV

      • Ezra 7:25–26ESV

      • Romans 13:1–2ESV

      • 1 Timothy 2:1–4ESV

      • Ezra 7:27–28ESV

  • Christ Is Mine Forevermore
      • Romans 10.14-15NRSV

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