by Barbara Henderson
In the days of Ezra the scribe, there were those who did not want to see either Ezra or the people he led to prosper. In fact, they wanted him to fail. (As you probably already know Ezra had led a band of Jews to return to Jerusalem and live in the land of their ancestors. This was with the king’s permission.)
As Ezra attempted to accomplish what he had set out to do, those who wanted him to fail set out to stop him. They eventually wrote a letter to the king explaining what was going on with the Jews rebuilding and what they thought would happen if the Jews did actually rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and settle in to live there. Of course the concern of the writers was for the king instead of themselves. They really weren’t even thinking of themselves at all. They were just thinking of the good of the kingdom. Here is verse taken from the letter they sent to the king.
‘Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonor therefore have we sent and certified the king.’ (Ezra 4:14)
My thoughts about that verse have always been ‘sneaky dishonest self-serving politicians of that day are just like the ones we have today!’ However, I recently read a sermon by Spurgeon that looked at it differently. I am sure he saw the politicians about like I see them, but he had a different take on the application of the verse. Spurgeon said that believers:
Receive our maintenance from our King – God!
As receiving our lives and the things with which our lives are maintained from the King, we owe Him everything.
And, it is not right that we would allow our King to be dishonored!
So, we should take the things that dishonor our King directly to Him in prayer.
Of course taking the things that dishonor God to Him prayer is a wonderful solution. What Christian cannot sincerely pray for new converts or the safety of the unborn? Or, for the working family to be able to keep the things for which they have labored. It is a good thing to pray for our leaders to turn to God, or for politicians to be elected who love our God in the first place. It is a good thing to pray something like, ‘let evil policies come to nothing.’ Or ‘Build up the family and the church.’
It is harder to pray, ‘Forgive me for the sin in my life. Don’t let me dishonor You, my God, by my actions.’ I wonder if we as Christians are somewhat distracted by the evils we see around us to the point that we don’t see the sins in our own lives.
Proverbs 16:7 says, ‘When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’
Now don’t you find that very interesting? Doesn’t it make you wonder, ‘What if the individual Christian set out daily to please God with what he or she does that day?’ No one can make others set out to please God by their actions, but we can set out to please God with our own actions. We can seek to please Him by the thoughts in our hearts as well as the things we do throughout the day.
Just suppose for an instant that all true believers, starting with you and me, followed the instructions in Ephesians 5:30-32. ‘And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness and wrath, and anger and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.’
What can we do for Christ’s sake, considering all that He has done for our sake? It would be pretty interesting to see what big changes would occur in our own lives if each of us set out to live our lives for Christ’s sake. We do many things for the sake of those we love. We work and sacrifice in order to do right by those who depend on us, and to make life better for them. We set aside our own desires in order to do more than our duty to those we love and whose care is our responsibility. Shouldn’t we at least do the same for Christ’s sake?
What interesting changes would come into our lives and those around us if we were begin forgiving as we have been forgiven. I personally find that forgiveness is first a decision and then a progressive action. If we don’t decide to forgive then we wind up with bitterness. As usual with the things Christ requires of us, forgiveness is far more for our own benefit than the benefit of the one being forgiven.
Here is another interesting item to consider. According to biblegateway.com the word ‘thanksgiving’ is used 27 times in the King James Version of the Bible. You should look them up and read all of them. Of course the verse that is probably best known to most of us is Philippians 4:6 which says, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.’
If each of us began to follow this pattern in prayer, it would be very interesting to see the increase in answered prayers. What if we took the time we spend being anxious (filled with care and worry) and spent that same time giving thanks to God for the good things He has already given to us? In thanking Him for His wonderful goodness to the children of men, we are reminded that God gives good things to His children. This encourages us to present our requests knowing that God has answered prayers in the past. We have a written record telling us how God saved the Children of Israel from the Egyptians and continued to save them from the perils they encountered in the wilderness. His mercies fail not. Our God will not forsake us! Furthermore, we have written instruction to ‘boldly approach the throne of grace’! (Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.)
‘May you live in interesting times’ is a phrase commonly quoted as a Chinese curse. However, if the ‘interesting times’ were due to your personal decision to follow the instructions in Psalm 34:8 which says, ‘O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.’, then any curse this world has would be turned to blessings.
The third chapter of Colossians is a very interesting chapter in the Bible. It speaks of ‘putting off’ the evil things of life before salvation, and putting on the better things of life as a Christian. I will give you a few verses here, but you should read the entire chapter. ‘ But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath malice, blasphemy filthy communication out of your mouth. (9) Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; (10) And have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:’. Take a few minutes to see if you have truly put off the old things of your life before Christ and put on the new and better things of Christ.
Honestly, ‘interesting times’ are coming. The economy is in turmoil. Governments around the globe are scrambling to just survive. We really don’t have much input in how world affairs are being handled. Too much time spent considering the possible scenarios of the current political and economic situations can lead to anxiety, worry, and fear. It is better to do what you are able to prepare for an uncertain future, and then set your interests on doing the things that please Christ. So much is out of your control. Why not concentrate on something that is within your control? Concentrate on pleasing Christ, and see just how interesting your life will be.
By the way, something I find especially interesting is this. Are there problems in your family that you would like to see resolved? Is there a family member or close friend you are separated from by some evil action on his or her part? Do you want to make peace with them, but simply cannot? Read proverbs 16:7 again. ‘When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ If God will make even your enemies to be at peace with you, don’t you think He will make those you love to be at peace with you as well? I just love that verse.
The song that seems to fit this article is ‘Jesus Paid it All’.
Jesus paid it all – all to Him I owe! Spurgeon was right. Our maintenance comes from God, and we owe Him everything.
Jesus Paid it All
I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.
Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.
When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.
And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.