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Nov 10: Ezra 5-6 | Hosea 7 | Acts 25-26

Reading 1 - Ezr 5; 6

"The unexpected opposition to the work of God discouraged the people. If any of the wall had been set up (Ezr 4:2), it had now been broken down (Ezr 2:17; Nah 2:17). The foundations of the temple if built (Ezr 3:10) had to be again restored for building (Hag 2:18). The people had dispersed to the cities (Ezr 2:70), claiming the time had not come for building (Hag 1:4). A spirit of gross materialism set in. Houses were built and glamorised (Hag 1:4), and every effort was made to build up personal wealth (Hag 1:6), but there was no true prosperity (Zec 8:9-18). A succession of bad seasons left the people impoverished (Hag 1:10,11) and completely dispirited. Haggai's message was 'Consider your ways!' But in Ezr 5, the work is resumed. The two chapters in Ezra combine the faithful actions of the people (Ezr 5), and the authoritative commands of the Persian monarch (Ezr 6).


"It is a type of the latter-day restoration of Israel and the government of the multitudinous Christ. The conclusion of Ezr 6 is a most delightful report of the nation in harmony with their God. Ezr 6:22 concludes the first portion of the book, with the temple built and the people rejoicing in the accomplishment of their hands. A great passover was held, as it will again be conducted in the millennial temple. The priests and the people were ceremonially purified (Ezr 6:20), typical of the saints, and through whom all the 'children of the captivity' were separated from the 'filthiness' of the nations (Ezr 6:21). It was a wonderful time, only to be eclipsed by the glory of the Age to come" (GE Mansfield).


Reading 2 - Hos 7:8

"Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over" (Hos 7:8).


"In the East it is the custom to heat the hearth, then sweep carefully the portion heated, put the cake upon it, and cover it with ashes and embers. In a little time the cake is turned. It is then covered again, and this process is continued several times, until the cake is found to be sufficiently baked. Ephraim has many representatives at this hour:


  • The man who lives for pleasure alone is a cake not turned. One side of his nature is unduly baked, the other is entirely neglected. Pleasure has its uses, but pleasure as a business is a very poor business indeed. There are many such persons, both in the lower and in the higher grades of society. The man who lives for pleasure is dead while he liveth. He is a wretched parasite; he is a reproach to his species. One side of his nature is burnt to a crust by the fires of unholy desire; the other side of his nature is raw dough. Both are worthless.

  • The man who lives for business alone is a cake not turned. Business is good. Even though it be honourable, and the methods of its pursuit unobjectionable, the man who lives for this life alone loses this life as well as the life that is to come. The man to whom this world is a god is a wretched idolater. This life is never truly lived except it is used for the good of others and for the glory of God. If a man lives for business alone, one side of his nature is scorched by the friction of the world's cares, and the other is raw dough.

  • A man who lives for culture alone is a cake not turned. No man can claim the honours of culture, portions of whose nature lie fallow. A true culture sweeps across every faculty. Man has earthward, manward, and Godward relations. If lacking in any of these directions, it is a partial, defective, and unauthoritative culture. Tried by this true standard many claimants for the honour of culture will be found wanting. That is not true culture which fails to cultivate the nobler, the Diviner elements of the soul.

  • A man who is half-hearted in religion is a cake not turned. Ephraim, though proud and haughty as a tribe, had been lacking in moral backbone, in loyalty, in consecration, in the service of God. There are such professors of religion today. A half-and-half man is a failure always and everywhere. Today Jesus Christ calls for men with one heart, and that heart on fire with His love. We want no unturned cakes. We want men with convictions. It is said of some men that they are very pious Godward, and very crooked manward. That is a severe criticism when it is true. That is not Christ's model man. He is symmetrical: he is baked through and through. Christ alone can make such men" (Biblical Illustrator).

Reading 3 - Acts 26:14

In this chapter Paul reveals details of his conversion experience on the road to Damascus which were not mentioned in the historical account of Acts 9:


"We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads' " (Acts 26:14).


This last statement of the Lord is very interesting; its meaning turns on the precise definitions of two words:


  • "Kick" is "laktizo": literally, it means "to lift up the heel": the Greek word occurs only here and Acts 9:5. (The Acts 9:5 word occurs only in KJV, but not NIV and other translations: it is probably an interpolation, or borrowing, from Acts 26:14.)

  • "Goads" is literally "pricks" (Greek "kentron": a point, a sting). It occurs elsewhere in the NT: 1Co 15:55,56; Rev 9:10.

Thus, taken together, the statement might be translated: "It is hard for you to lift up your heel against the sting of the serpent!" Now this may be seen as an obvious allusion to Gen 3:15. The Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, zealous for the Law, had sought to conquer the sin-power through personal effort, but inevitably he failed -- as all men must! Only the Lord Jesus Christ could successfully destroy the serpent-power of sin (Gen 3:15), either for himself or for others!


Such an allusion, from Christ, implies that the young man Saul must have felt, for some time, an uneasiness in attacking Christianity -- having realized that he had not been able to, nor could he ever by his own strength, resist the power of sin successfully... but that this man Jesus had done what he could not.


'How long, Saul, will you resist my appeal to repent of your own pride and self-righteousness, and find true peace in me?'

 

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