Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Word from Ezra & Nehemiah

Read - Think - Apply

…the emphasis on purity concerned mainly those things from the world in which the Jews lived that were incompatible with the principles of their religion. The most dangerous threat came from a surrogate of their religion, such as the Samaritan or Ammonite form. In opposition to this, Ezra and Nehemiah stressed the pure or orthodox form, a tendency already present, for example, in 1-2 Kings against the syncretistic religion of the northern kingdom. The Jewish exiles came to live in Judah surrounded by all kinds of religions as well as surrogates of their own religion. They were poor and to a certain extent depended on their foreign neighbours for business. It was impossible to exclude foreign contact. In such circumstances the way of the least resistance would be to accept certain principles of the foreign neighbours in order to live in peaceful co-existence. But these principles might be incompatible with the principles of the Jewish religion, such as the sabbath law (Neh 13). Once they had conceded on certain points, it would become more and more difficult to keep up the principles of their own religion. The next step would be to become so familiar and associate on such a friendly footing with foreigners that intermarriage became possible. The danger of this development was grasped fully by Ezra and Nehemiah…

Therefore, strong minded leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah were necessary to take stern measures to protect the purity of the religion. Ezra and Nehemiah were driven to these actions not out of nationalistic feelings, but from a concern to protect the religious cult of the Lord. In a word, they were religiously motivated. They were also aware of the special call of the returned exiles to serve the Lord in accordance with the prescriptions of the law. They were an elect group with a special mission to serve the Lord in the context of pure religion. It is amazing that such a small, poor group of people could have become the foundation for the development of one of the largest religions of modern times, Christianity. But in the religion of the Lord it is not numbers but purity of heart that counts.

From: The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah – C Fensham (NICOT), p18

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Gift

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God, in his great love, sent us a Saviour.

(Source unknown)