Monday, July 15, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Coming Home: Gratitude

So far, we've learned the significance of the role of Ezra as a priest and a scribe. As such, he provides a rich background of what happens to the Jews that are freed after Cyrus' proclamation. Catch up on this study here, here and here.

Finally, the first wave of exiles is on their way to Jerusalem. I'm sure there were excited and relieved, but also perhaps nervous and worried. Humans can get used to anything, and for those
that opted to stay, it was a sure sign that they became used to their lifestyle in Babylon though they were captives. As a captive, you can never live up to your full potential. They were an oppressed people with limited income, a limited mindset, and limited capabilities. The oppressed operate differently sometimes just to survive. (I digress).

Some families may have lost elders, but for the younger generation, captivity in Babylon was all they knew. So the older generation may have been eager to return home; however, the younger generation may have heard stories of their history, but it was abstract to them. And now King Cyrus said they're free and they can go back home, but for the younger generation where was home? 
Because of my background, I have a hard time calling any place on this earth home. I was born in the Bahamas, my parents are from Barbados, I grew up in NY, lived on Long Island for over 20 years, and finally, I now live on the West Coast. Though I am Bahamian, none of my relatives are in the Bahamas; most are in Barbados or Canada. I will say that when I finally touched foot in Barbados, it felt like coming home. I could see and hear myself in the people around me. But home for me is also where my children and husband are; where we have created memories and built a family. Home is literal and figurative for me. So I can imagine the Jews heading back to Jerusalem filled with nervous anticipation and excitement. The feeling of coming home is hard to describe: at once there's familiarity and relief. There's a respite for the soul. As their eyes absorb the contents of home, the freed Jews are moved with gratitude, in particular, the family leaders.
When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders made voluntary offerings toward the rebuilding of God’s Temple on its original site, and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests. Ezra 2:68,69 NLT
The family leaders would have been those who were older who knew the significance of the Temple. Though their faith may have wavered over 70 years, the elders in the family can now bear witness to its fruition. This knowledge prompted their gratitude. Gratefulness dictated their giving as they offered freely without prompting, what they had. The temple was in ruins, but it reminded them of what they once knew, of freedom in Christ. It showed the reason for their return. It provided a visual incentive of remembrance. Their emotions produced gratitude, which led to voluntary and effusive giving based on what each possessed. All they had was the captive's currency, and God blessed it. The priestly garments would be necessary for the new temple, so they gave those as well. Each gave what they could, yet it was significant. Their willingness to offer was an indication of their hearts. God can take the little we have and multiply it.

Gratitude liberates so that you can move on to the next thing. I imagine the returning exiles were exhausted in a good way by their giving yet they attended to the practical matters at hand: settling into their villages.
So the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled in villages near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel. Ezra 2:70 NLT

They were finally home and could start the vital task of rebuilding the temple.

Reflections - The last three verses of Ezra 2 demonstrates what freedom in Christ does for us. When we are aware of the latitude freedom in Christ provides, we are no longer slaves to sin. We can walk through life with the confidence that God is with us. It is then out of the abundance of our hearts that we can give thanks. We give thanks with our possessions, our time and our whole being. Could your faith survive a 70-year gap like the folks here? We see what happens during the long wait - some hold on and some give up. For those that held on, their faith is rewarded, and gratitude ensued.

Prayer - Dear Lord, I thank you for the freedom we have in you. You have told us that if you set us free, we are free indeed. I thank you that we are no longer captives. This freedom does not enslave but reinforces that when you are with us, we are home. This world is not ours for we are in it but not of it. With gratitude, we rest assured that our earthly home is no comparison to the heavenly home you have prepared for us. So may our lives be a sweet offering that is pleasing to you. Amen
--Nylse

Resources:
Gotquestions.org
Logos Bible Software
Scofield Reference Bible
Bible Gateway


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13 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this devotion. I really like your personal touches, sharing about your heritage and your personal reflections on what HOME means. Thank you for blogging for Christ's kingdom.

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  2. You are definitely from many places! What a rich experience that gives you. Home is truly where the heart is.

    I love this: "Gratitude liberates so that you can move on to the next thing."

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  3. I don't know your feeling of coming home, although, I expect to experience it 10 fold when I enter heaven. Our true home is with Jesus, and yes it may be hard to wait, but the wait is well worth it. Enjoyed reading, Many Thanks 8)

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  4. That's a good question - could our faith hold on through a 70 year gap? I would love to say yes, but I do know how discouraging it would be to wait that long! I pray that God will increase and encourage our faith as we journey Home!

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  5. We've been told that we can't out-give God. Giving from a place of gratitude is blessed experience. Thanks for sharing. Blessings to you!

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  6. Thank you for sharing scriptures as they really made my Saturday better. Thanks for sharing at the #TrafficJamWeekend Linky Party - have a blessed weekend!

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  7. What a beautiful devotional and prayer. Thanks for sharing with us.

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  8. It really helps to relate and grasp the magnitude of events like the one described in Ezra when we picture what it would have been like. It's easy to think of those in biblical times as either better or worse than we are today. As even like superheroes everyone seems to like these days--either they were good and always did good or they were bad and received just punishment. But they were people just like us, with the same insecurities we have.

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  9. Amen! Our freedom in Christ opens us up to "the abundance of our hearts that we can give thanks." A truth to soak in daily and be grateful. Thank you!

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  11. I can see why Ezra especially resonates with you, Nylse. I would call wherever my family is "home" also. In a way, you are lucky - there are lots of locations you can call "home". I love your prayer. Freedom is indeed found in the Lord.

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  12. Enjoyed your message. Ezra's is one of my favored prophets.

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