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Mar 11, 2015

90 Day Challenge – Day 70

Sarah Christmyer

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Bible Time Period:Return

You brought the exiles back to Canaan; they rebuilt the Temple and Jerusalem and were taught once more from your Law: Rebuild my broken heart and life as I return to you.

Reflection

Ezra was a scribe, or teacher of the Law of Moses, who had devoted himself to studying and teaching God’s word.  He descended from a high priestly line that went back to the days of David and Solomon.  In chapter 7, he is sent to Jerusalem with the second wave of exiles.  In chapters 9-10, Ezra finds that in spite of God’s mercy, some of the people have married foreign wives, which is one of the things that got them into trouble to begin with as that led to idolatry.  Ezra’s solution may seem radical to us but it was necessary at that time for a new start.  The people are fresh back from generations of exile.  They need to return to God wholeheartedly and follow him alone.

Today’s Reading

Ezra 6-10

Today’s Question

Why is Ezra sent to Jerusalem, and what help does he receive?

Join the discussion below!

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  • When Moses was given the ten commandments, the Lord said; “lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they play the harlot after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and one invites you, you eat of his sacrifice, and you shall take of their daughters for your sons,
    and their daughters play the harlot after their gods and make your sons play the harlot after their gods.” Exodus 34: 15-16 God was quite serious about false gods and any bond the Israelites would make with other cultures.

    We now speed up to Ezra’s day and the Israelites have intercultural marriages by the dozens. Ezra is filled with despair and rents his clothes and confesses to God that he and the people have sinned against God. The picture of the Israelites shows a group of people that have disobeyed their God.
    Ezra couldn’t take back the past, but what his massage to God did for the people that witnessed Ezra confess to God his and their iniquities surprised me. The people, these ‘stiff
    necked’ people, wept bitterly when they heard Ezra’s lament. There was hope on
    the horizon! Now there were a lot of Israelites that turned their backs on Ezra and God, but there were others that accepted the grim task of ending their marriage and giving up their children of
    these inter cultural marriages only to please God. God touched the hearts of these people. I surely hope when my heart is touched by His Hand, I will be there attentive and with an open heart.

    • This brought to mind for me the interracial and intercultural marriages that take place today. Though I don’t believe it is the marriages themselves that God was against…it was the fact that into that mix came the idols and false god worship that God was against. For even Abraham had a foreign woman by whom he had a child…Hagar the Egyptian…..with whom God himself promised to bless. Hagar worshiped God and took God at His Word in the desert that Ishmael would become a great nation. So, I believe what God was against the fact that outsiders would not worship God, but continue to worship idols and bring down the Jewish husband and family that they were in. Today it is difficult to carry on your faith in an interracial, intercultural marriage…and keep your faith in tact. it is not impossible, but difficult. Being in a marriage in which my husband doesn’t have faith has been difficult for me…try as I might, I have seen my entire family turn away from God. However, with the help of the family within the Church, I have been able to maintain my faith…and even prosper in it. I believe I was brought into this marriage to be God’s connection with my family. And this I must continue to strive to be. I don’t think the people of Ezra’s time were able to have strong of a faith to keep God as their focus. The Jewish people had shown this time and time again. Their faithfulness continued to be lacking all the way to Jesus’ time. Because we have the fullfillment of the law through Jesus, we are able to have the graces necessary to achieve spiritual growth far above what these earlier believers were able to do. (There were individuals in the Old Testament who achieved such growth, ie. David, Isaiah, Ezra, etc., though.) God is in the business of reshaping his people into the people He wants them to be for their time and age. Just as He did at the time of Ezra, I pray that He will move to reshape us in this time and age into the people He would have us to be. Amen.

      • Beverly, I hope you can be at peace knowing you sanctify your family with your love, faith and prayers for them. I, too, understand that Ezra ‘ extreme pronouncement is not an indictment against mixed religion marriages for all times, but a warning to remain faithful. As I heard in one of the lectures, Israel was not kept separate from other people because they were holy; it’s because their level of holiness could not withstand the level of unholiness around them. We are endowed with many graces through Christ to help us remain steadfast today. God bless you as you minister tirelessly to your family.

      • As I read your message, it brought to my mind that Jesus warned his disciples to only go to the Jewish people and not the gentiles until they received the Holy Spirit. After the decent of the Holy Spirit, they went to the gentiles–they were strengthened. I believe I have that sequence of events correct. At any rate, I hear many who distressed by the failure of their children to remain faithful. I ponder that regularly but have found no sure answer. Thank you for your insights and sharing. Guess we all take hope that as long as there is life, there is hope.

        • The evangelist Billy Graham was fond of saying in his preaching that we have hope because: “we know the rest of the story”…we certainly do!! There is always hope…Jesus gave us that in His Resurrection…Nothing provides me greater comfort than knowing that God is in the business of restoring people…And as Sr. Faustina told us: “Jesus, I trust in you.”…This is our sure answer. For this I have faith in and take comfort in, and so can you. Just trust God and in His time He will accomplish what is best for all. Peace…

      • Beverly, what an excellent post. You are right on target with your assessment. I empathize with your situation in your marriage. I too, was in an interracial, intercultural marriage. I used to think that having different religions didn’t matter, but I’ve discovered that yes, it does matter… very much.

        When we split up, my husband tried to entice me, just like Jesus was tempted in the desert in yesterday’s Gospel. He practically offered me the moon to stay. I told him, you forgot one thing. “Bow down and worship me, and all this shall be yours.” I decided that no amount of wealth or material comfort was worth staying in this non-Christian union. “For what good is it to gain the whole world, but lose your soul?

        My faith is what got me through. I was able to grow closer to Jesus during the rocky times. My situation escalated to a point that we are no longer together. However, I also have my family within the church. And Jesus has a prominent place in my new home! BTW, I would never suggest that you do as I did and leave (though technically I was pushed away). After all, perhaps you’re right and your mission is to be God’s witness to your family.

        When you say that your family turned away from God, do you mean your children? (I don’t have kids.) I pray for peace within your family and within your soul. I’m sure you shall continue to pray for them too. Just keep in mind to guard your own soul at all costs.

        I love what you said, “we have the fulfillment of the law through Jesus, we are able to have the graces necessary to achieve spiritual growth”. I thank God every day for the grace He’s given me.

        “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

        • Marianne and Bev, the two of you are an inspiration to me. May the two of you continue to bring good positive strength to Christians. God bless the two of you!

          • Thank you for the kind words, Carla! It is such a joy to learn and share our faith with one another. Blessings, Mar

  • Ezra was sent back because of who he is. A man of God. A cheerleader for the love and laws of God. I think of Ezra in terms of this bible study we are all partaking in. We are all various forms of Ezra in that we are champions of God, models for each other, as we each try to start, strengthen, or rebuild God in our lives. We are “Ezras” in each others lives. This study has helped me so much to not only better understand the bible so far, but also its relevance in my life and faith. It has made me not a follower but rather an active participant that stops and thinks before acting. Sharing with all of you has been just what I needed to help focus my life. In hebrew, Ezra means help. Isnt it so true we are all helping each other become better in our faith and lives? I can only hope this continues to some capacity after the 90 days is over. Even if it is weekly reflections on various passages. This has been such a blessing in my life and I am grateful to all of you “ezras” out there in this forum that have been my helpers through rediscovering my faith in God and love of this wonderous, mysterious, and beautiful religion we are all a part of, and that is a part of us.

  • Beverly, I sent you a reply but I have been having many problems with Discuss. My replies do not always post. Thanks you for your sagacious words each and every day, as with all others that post daily. It helps me get through the day.

    • Thank you so much…God has granted me much in this “living school of learning” about Himself….we have been on a journey for a very long time now, and there have been many ups and many more downs…I am sure this will continue as long as remain faithful to Him. Most of what I have learned I have shared with only a few close friends, it is only recently that I have begun to “spread my wings” so to speak and talk to others about my journey. I have a spiritual director and he is encouraging me to tell my story to others, so that is what I am beginning to do.

      • I agree, Beverly. That has become my goal… to glorify the Lord by telling others what He has done in my life… and how they too can overcome adversity by trusting in Jesus. One of the first things I bought for my new home is a statue of an angel with a bird on her hand. And on her wing it says, “your spirit has wings that were meant to soar”. I feel like I’ve finally come into my purpose (better late than never).

        “Under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield.” (Psalm 91:4)

        • Both Beverly and Marianne…how I wish I could meet you both and give each of you a big hug! You have beautiful souls. I love the sharing you bring to this study. I’m to the point now that I truly wish this 90 day challenge would never end! God bless you both. You are both in my prayers of gratitude.

          • Thank YOU Rosi. I feel the same way about you and Beverly and so many others we are sharing this Lenten journey with. I never cease to learn from all of you. Tonight I attended a healing service in my area with the Franciscan Friars and I am full of such peace. Their message was a reminder of God’s love for each one of us. We were urged to let go of hurts, forgive others, and just as important, to forgive ourselves.

            Every person in the church this evening got to touch the monstrance, just as the woman who was hemorrhaging touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:20-22) with faith that she would be made well.

            My prayer is that with our faith, we will all feel the healing power of God’s love in our bodies, minds, hearts and all our souls.

            Blessings and peace, Mar

          • Amen to that! Last evening my parish had the privilege of having the first-class relic of St John Paul II in our church. What a beautiful evening. We started the evening with Mass…followed by veneration of the relic. People were lined up for over 3 hours. It was awesome to witness. A recording was played of JP II speaking to the people of America. It brought tears, especially when he used the Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) to bless America. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been able to attend. He was a Pope that just radiated love, and trust in the Lord. I can still hear him saying, “Be not afraid!” And his love for the Blessed Mother was so beautiful. He truly was a good shepherd…and an awesome saint.

  • Ezra is a scribe and so sent to Jerusalem to teach the people how to live and worship faithfully for the LORD. The most important assistance Ezra receives is that “the hand of his God was over him” (7:6, 9). All assistance – supplies, safe passage, royal support – is due to God’s providence.

  • As others have said Ezra is a lawyer and teacher with a mission to draw people into the law. He had a lot of help as he was given absolute human authority as described in Chap 7 v 25 and 26 where he is given authority to appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice, instruct and punish those who refuse to obey. He even had authority to issue death sentences.

    On the one hand, given the history, I understand the requirement for people to sacrifice their wrongful ways (pnkyB4brain) explained it so well, but my heart
    goes out to the women who loved their husbands and especially to the
    younger children. How it must have hurt a small child who was brought up to obey the Commandments, especially honoring their mother and father. We may never know, but I hope that God blessed them (especially any who loved Him and the children who were motherless and then made fatherless).

    I am so grateful for Jesus’ new commandment to love others as yourself.

    • Thank you Avila, I wasn’t going to post it, but you did so I will add comment. I too felt very sorry for the wives and children, and had thoughts of “What about those who became 100% converted?” Most converts are VERY faithful people! I am sure that some had not become fully faithful to the one true God, but still… what about those who were!!!. Yet again, when reading this part, I had to remind myself that God knows the hearts of people, and if God directed Ezra to do this, it was for a good reason.

  • I have to “park” a lot of the violence and cruelty in the Old Testament as it is impossible to understand the decisions they made from our perspective today.

    I read the story of Ezra breaking up families from this perspective: the story of Ezra tells me that ripping sin out of my life is incredibly painful: like the separation from those I love most. Jesus also told his disciples to walk away from everything they were attached to and to follow him. This is not something we do in a dream like state but something that requires tremendous courage. I know I have to leave a lot that I love in my life if I am to truly follow Christ.

    • My sister in her 30s had a dream to follow the Lord. She was an interior decorator at the time working in Manhattan New York and was quite successful. She gave away all of her worldly possessions and joined Lumen Dei – a strict Catholic religious order. God does call us, however do we hear him?

      • May your sister, made “poor” by the world’s standards when she gave up her worldly possessions, be richly blessed by the spiritual possessions she acquired instead.

        Sometimes we have to be hit over the head before we heed the call. Sometimes He reaches us in our sorrow and brokenness. Sometimes we feel we have nothing left to lose. Sometimes we see no way out.

        After a lot of soul searching, I had to start over from scratch. I’ve learned that I still have to depend on God every day. I have much to atone for in my life, and yet in God’s mercy and kindness, I have been blessed. I live my life, now consecrated to His will, as a testimony to that great goodness that can hopefully bring others peace and bring them closer to Him.

        “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
        burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

        • Thank you for your kind words Marianne. My sister was a nun for 2 1/2 years and she got herself on the right track. Then the Lord decided to take her to heaven. We all were affected by her transition and how she handled having cancer – yes she was truly blessed. It taught me a whole lot.
          I admire your strength in the new journey you decided to undertake. It appears that you too have been blessed. I am still trying to figure out what path I must follow.

          • Oh, Luz, I am so sorry for your loss… I did not even realize… Your post brought tears to my eyes, especially at this moment in time. My coworker found out just last night that her sister, who had surgery yesterday, has malignant cancer that is spreading from the brain and prognosis is very poor. They only give her maybe nine months. She is devastated. And her sister lives 1,000 miles away. She wanted to be there for the surgery but wasn’t able to go. And now this…

            I was thinking to myself, I won’t be able to bear it if anything were to happen to my own sister, who lives 2500 miles away for half the year. And one day, her house here will be sold, and she won’t be coming back. Time is so precious, yet so uncertain. All last summer, we made the most of our time together. And we’ve come full circle, attending mass together on Sundays and then gathering for dinner afterward at my house.

            Anyway, I find that many terminal patients have a surprisingly resilient spirit and faith. May your sister’s living faith be a source of strength for your own journey. The forks in the roads we take may differ, but I know that the destination we seek is the same. God bless you, Luz.

          • The truth is that we never know when will be our last day and we need to treasure each and every day. I didn’t pray very much back then, but I’ll never forget my sister telling me “pray 3 Hail Mary’s every night before you go to bed – this is your passport to heaven!” So I have been doing that ever since and added an Our Father daily for good measure. Such a simple thing she said to me has made an impact on me daily as I like to pray them before I fall asleep.

            I will meet up with my sister in heaven one day – God willing, that is how I look at it. We are physically temporarily apart, because I feel her spirit with me every single day. So try not to be sad about losing our loved ones. Jesus has provided us with a bridge to heaven. How lucky are we!

            Your coworker hopefully can spend as much time with her sister. Giving of ourselves is the most precious gift we can give to another. Until our paths cross again – I love chatting with you Marianne : )

          • Amen, sister!

            I pray that my coworker will somehow be able to take the trip to Florida to spend time with her sister. But there are financial constraints.

            I like that you are saying the three Hail Marys before you go to sleep. I am working on praying the Rosary daily. This has been very hard for me to do, timewise. So I am determined to set aside time throughout Lent for this, with special intercessory requests for those most in need, including a couple of dear young family members. One of them is just eight years old and there is an urgent need for prayer.

            We just finished up our study on Galatians tonight. So I’ll close this post with Scripture:

            “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) because…
            “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

            “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

            May your own Lenten journey be fruitful, Luz.

          • I just bought the app for my iPhone called “Liturgy of the Hours” for $15 and have been doing morning and evening prayer. The app updates the prayers daily so that you don’t have to them down if you had the Book. All you have to do is select which prayer you want to do such as Morning or Evening Prayer. They read the prayers and sing the hymns which sometimes really moves me. They start the prayer with a Church bell and end the prayer with Church bells, makes you feel like you were just at mass. When I am pressed for time I listen to it in the car on earphones on my way home from work or on my lunch break. I highly recommend it, I wish someone had told me about it sooner, I therefore share this with you.

            Thanks for sharing your Bible Study verses with us. God bless.

    • I’m a day behind my reading, but came across this daily Lenten reflection from Fr. Robert Barron that might shed some light on the violence and cruelty of the OT, and today.

      “When reading about the Cleansing of the Temple, we might assume this was the first time in Jewish history that the Temple had been defiled and needed fixing. But that isn’t the case. In the second book of Chronicles we read, “…the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple.”

      This is the tragedy of Israelite history. The nation that was supposed to be the bearer of God’s holiness had become unholy. The Temple, which was meant to be the dwelling place of God, had become an abomination.

      But did God give up? No, he sent messenger after messenger to the people, calling them back to holiness. Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and Elijah – all of them were the messengers of God, summoning Israel back to fidelity, “because he had compassion on his people.”

      Still Israel remained faithless: “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets.” At which point the anger of the Lord was awakened.

      God’s anger is not God’s emotional temper tantrum; it is the divine passion to set things right. Sometimes when things get too bad, they just have to be cleaned out. Remedies and halfway measures don’t work: a thorough cleansing is called for. Therefore God uses secondary causes in order to realize his will: “Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, set all its palaces afire and destroyed all its precious objects. Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon.”

      What does this have to do with us? It helps us interpret our own catastrophes. What does it mean when a marriage falls apart or a loved one is killed? How about when we lose our job or our Church is rocked with scandal? Might there be a cleansing going on in these cases, something purifying and clarifying?

      In the Bible, the negative is always in service of a greater positive. But it happens in God’s way, on God’s timetable. This means we should never despair; never give up even when catastrophe strikes. The entire process is being watched and supervised by God.”

  • Ezra is sent to Jerusalem to restore the Temple and the Law. He recieves a lot of monetary help from Darius, the Persian king.

  • Ezra was sent to Jerusalem to rebuild spiritual levels by teaching the Law. This came about with total support from Artaxeres Decree, Wow!
    Ezra prepares for his journey, blessed by The Lord the God of our ancestors who put it into the heart of the King thus to glorify the house of The Lord. Ezra gathered Israel Leaders to make the return journey with him.

    When good outcomes come from God the heart of those involved or in support are at peace. This is a great deed that warmed my heart as I read it I can only image how Ezra and the believers of God felt…excited, ready to move forward with God.
    Where I need to grow with this section is that doing the good deeds of God is to be done without any strings attached, other than it is for the sake of God.

  • During these biblical times of today’s readings, Ezra was the ‘go to’ person of this second wave of Israelites that were allowed to return to their Promised land. As a scribe who studies God’s law and educates the people on this subject, Ezra receives King Artaxerxes’ authority to oversee this group of captives and also oversee the supplies that were to be delivered to Jerusalem for the completion of God’s temple.
    Ezra was sorely disappointed with the Jewish people when he finally arrived. Whatever the people could do that went against the commandments of God, they did. Ezra fell to the ground with utter despair and was ashamed of his people. Ashamed enough that he dare not lift his head as he prayed to God. God came to Ezra’s aid throughout this reading.
    I often think of how things can take a positive turn that would be much to my surprise. While thinking of today’s question; “What help does he receive?”, I know there were people that assisted him with the journey and the problems with the Jewish people when he arrived. Ultimately, though, God was the One who gave Ezra help. Can it be that God helps me when I least expect it?

  • Ezra has a large responsibility laid on him by King Artaxerxes and the Lord as he accompanies the second wave of Israelites back to their Promised Land. As the responsible party under King Artaxerxes, Ezra is charged with the peoples’ safe passage, transfer of the wealth from Babylon back to Jerusalem, and oversight of the rebuilding of the temple and of Jerusalem itself. The Lord was with them on their journey as the Israelites and their precious cargo arrived safely to Jerusalem.

    Under the Lord, Ezra’s responsibility is much more important and critical to the survival of the Israelites returning to Canaan. The Lord has entrusted Ezra with the cleansing of the people after their intertwining with the pagans and idolatry worshippers; also, he was to reestablish the Lord’s commandments, ordinances, statutes, and laws among the people. Unfortunately for Ezra he finds that many of the Israelites have intermarried with the “people of the land” – this included the Levites themselves who are the holy priests appointed by the Lord. The intermarriage between the Israelites and the “people of the land” had brought the worship of idols and paganism within the walls of Jerusalem as they were entrenched within the families.

    The only option left for Ezra was to command that all Israelites separate themselves from foreign wives and to cast the wives and children aside in order to cleanse their race once again to the requirements of the Lord. Surprisingly, all but just a handful (maybe less) agreed and did so; they cast aside their foreign wives and children to turn themselves back to the Lord. This was one of the strongest demonstrations of faith that I believe I have read in these narratives – it would seen the Israelites finally “get it” and are willing to turn their whole body, mind and sole back to the Lord and to live by his commandments, laws, statutes and ordinances. Goodness could this be the beginning of a glorious end – I am sure there is disappointment just ahead.

  • 11 March Wednesday Third Week of Lent
    When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought Jesus before their Sanhedrin. They said–“If you are the Christ, tell us,” but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and fi I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” Luke 22: 66-70

    To the first question, Jesus knew that their image of the Messiah was more of a political leader. “You say that I am.” is his answer to the second question and the words on their own lips are true. General Councils in 325 A.D.; 381, and 431 said that Jesus is truly God. The Nicene Creed says that “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…true God from true God begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.” Spend some quiet time with the Lord.
    We are half way through Lent 2015.

  • Ezra was appointed to a huge responsibility because of the knowledge and faith he had with the laws of God. He was disappointed to find faults with the people he attempted to gather into the fold of the restored faith of God. There were many who assisted him in getting the people to return to the rebuilt temple, he also couldn’t help feeling despair when he saw so many who took foreign wives. However, in the teaching of the laws of the Lord this was forbidden he convinced some to turn away from their foreign wives and children. I actually found this part difficult to absorb because of the historical ramifications I have seen with people against mixed marriages in our current society. I can’t help believing that Jesus may have changed this way of thinking.

  • Since the genealogical line is traced to Aaron—the original high priest—the primary purpose of this genealogy may be to identify Ezra as a priest, thereby giving him the authority to institute various reforms. Another noteworthy descendant is Eleazar, who assisted at the commissioning of Joshua. Ezra had set his heart on the study and practice of the law of the Lord and on teaching statutes and ordinances in Israel which describes his fixed determination. Because of this he was sent to inquire into the religious condition of Jerusalem, to correct abuses, and to enforce the observance of the Law (4:6). His purpose’ to search for’ truth, to live by it, and to teach it to his countrymen is an epitome of the ideal scribe’s career. Not only is Ezra helped with astonishing co-operation by the Persians with materials, but anyone connected to the services of the Temple are being held exempt from taxes. But above all it is God who helps by turning the hearts of the people involved.

  • Reading the discussion, I had to share that I am not apt. smart,but a friend put me on Laudate apt. for my phone. It is free and it has the liturgy of the hours, daily reading you can read or listen to podcast and it has the whole Bible. While out of town, I did one of my lessons with it instead of carrying my Bible with all my other spiritual reading. It has stations of the cross-etc. and marvelous readings reflection.
    Ezra certainly was a man of prayer and obedience. I wonder how these people who had foreign wives and children put them away. I guess they cast them out? Hard times but the Israelites were constantly being led into idolatry by foreign wives.

  • Ezra was a man who was aligned to listening for God’s word, action and direction. He therefore heard his call to go and lead people to stay away from marrying foreign wives. He carried this out with full support from the people in Judah and Jerusalem. Another example of how the LORD walks people through their duties.

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