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Ezra 3:1-4:23

Worship Begins Again

By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. Then they all assembled in Jerusalem, and Joshua son of Jehozadak, his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, together with his relatives, rebuilt the altar of the God of Israel, so that they could burn sacrifices on it according to the instructions written in the Law of Moses, the man of God. Even though[a] the returning exiles were afraid of the people who were living in the land, they rebuilt the altar where it had stood before. Then they began once again to burn on it the regular morning and evening sacrifices. They celebrated the Festival of Shelters according to the regulations; each day they offered the sacrifices required for that day; and in addition they offered the regular sacrifices to be burned whole and those to be offered at the New Moon Festival and at all the other regular assemblies at which the Lord is worshiped, as well as all the offerings that were given to the Lord voluntarily. Although the people had not yet started to rebuild the Temple, they began on the first day of the seventh month to burn sacrifices to the Lord.

The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins

The people gave money to pay the stonemasons and the carpenters and gave food, drink, and olive oil to be sent to the cities of Tyre and Sidon in exchange for cedar trees from Lebanon, which were to be brought by sea to Joppa. All this was done with the permission of Emperor Cyrus of Persia. So in the second month of the year after they came back to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, they began work. Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of their people, the priests, and the Levites, in fact all the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, joined in the work. All the Levites twenty years of age or older were put in charge of the work of rebuilding the Temple. The Levite Jeshua and his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons (the clan of Hodaviah[b]) joined together in taking charge of the rebuilding of the Temple. (They were helped by the Levites of the clan of Henadad.)

10 When the builders started to lay the foundation of the Temple, the priests in their robes took their places with trumpets in their hands, and the Levites of the clan of Asaph stood there with cymbals. They praised the Lord according to the instructions handed down from the time of King David. 11 They sang the Lord's praises, repeating the refrain:

“The Lord is good, and his love for Israel is eternal.” Everyone shouted with all their might, praising the Lord, because the work on the foundation of the Temple had been started. 12 Many of the older priests, Levites, and heads of clans had seen the first Temple, and as they watched the foundation of this Temple being laid, they cried and wailed. But the others who were there shouted for joy.

13 No one could distinguish between the joyful shouts and the crying, because the noise they made was so loud that it could be heard for miles.

Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple

The enemies of the people of Judah and Benjamin heard that those who had returned from exile were rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel. So they went to see Zerubbabel and the heads of the clans and said, “Let us join you in building the Temple. We worship the same God you worship, and we have been offering sacrifices to him ever since Emperor Esarhaddon of Assyria sent us here to live.”

Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the heads of the clans told them, “We don't need your help to build a temple for the Lord our God. We will build it ourselves, just as Emperor Cyrus of Persia commanded us.”

Then the people who had been living in the land tried to discourage and frighten the Jews and keep them from building. They also bribed Persian government officials to work against them. They kept on doing this throughout the reign of Emperor Cyrus and into the reign of Emperor Darius.[c]

Opposition to the Rebuilding of Jerusalem

[d]At the beginning of the reign of Emperor Xerxes, the enemies of the people living in Judah and Jerusalem brought written charges against them.

Again in the reign of Emperor Artaxerxes of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their associates wrote a letter to the emperor. The letter was written in Aramaic[e] and was to be translated when read.[f]

Also Rehum, the governor, and Shimshai, the secretary of the province, wrote the following letter to Emperor Artaxerxes about Jerusalem:

“From Rehum, the governor, from Shimshai, secretary of the province, from their associates, the judges, and from all the other officials, who are originally from Erech, Babylon, and Susa in the land of Elam, 10 together with the other peoples whom the great and powerful Ashurbanipal moved from their homes and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in West-of-Euphrates Province.”[g]

11 This is the text of the letter:

    “To Emperor Artaxerxes from his servants who live in West-of-Euphrates.
12 “We want Your Majesty to know that the Jews who came here from your other territories have settled in Jerusalem and are rebuilding that evil and rebellious city. They have begun to rebuild the walls and will soon finish them. 13 Your Majesty, if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the people will stop paying taxes, and your royal revenues will decrease. 14 Now, because we are under obligation to Your Majesty, we do not want to see this happen, and so we suggest 15 that you order a search to be made in the records your ancestors kept. If you do, you will discover that this city has always been rebellious and that from ancient times it has given trouble to kings and to rulers of provinces. Its people have always been hard to govern. This is why the city was destroyed. 16 We therefore are convinced that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, Your Majesty will no longer be able to control West-of-Euphrates Province.”

17 The emperor sent this answer:

    “To Rehum, the governor, to Shimshai, secretary of the province, and to their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of West-of-Euphrates, greetings.
18 “The letter which you sent has been translated and read to me. 19 I gave orders for an investigation to be made, and it has indeed been found that from ancient times Jerusalem has revolted against royal authority and that it has been full of rebels and troublemakers. 20 Powerful kings have reigned there and have ruled over the entire province of West-of-Euphrates, collecting taxes and revenue. 21 Therefore you are to issue orders that those men are to stop rebuilding the city until I give further commands. 22 Do this at once, so that no more harm may be done to my interests.”

23 As soon as this letter from Emperor Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their associates, they hurried to Jerusalem and forced the Jews to stop rebuilding the city.

Footnotes:

  1. Ezra 3:3 Even though; or Because.
  2. Ezra 3:9 Probable text (see 2.40) Hodaviah; Hebrew Judah.
  3. Ezra 4:5 The account of these events is continued at verse 24. The material in verses 6-23 describes events which took place almost a century later.
  4. Ezra 4:6 AddEsth 1:1
  5. Ezra 4:7 From 4.8 to 6.18 this book is not in Hebrew, but Aramaic, the official language of the Persian Empire.
  6. Ezra 4:7 The letter … read; or It was in Aramaic and was written in the Aramaic script.
  7. Ezra 4:10 Under Persian rule the land of Judah was part of this large Persian province west of the Euphrates River.
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1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4

God's Wisdom

Yet I do proclaim a message of wisdom to those who are spiritually mature. But it is not the wisdom that belongs to this world or to the powers that rule this world—powers that are losing their power. The wisdom I proclaim is God's secret wisdom, which is hidden from human beings, but which he had already chosen for our glory even before the world was made. None of the rulers of this world knew this wisdom. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as the scripture says,

“What no one ever saw or heard,
    what no one ever thought could happen,
    is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”

10 But[a] it was to us that God made known his secret by means of his Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, even the hidden depths of God's purposes. 11 It is only our own spirit within us that knows all about us; in the same way, only God's Spirit knows all about God. 12 We have not received this world's spirit; instead, we have received the Spirit sent by God, so that we may know all that God has given us.

13 So then, we do not speak in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, as we explain spiritual truths to those who have the Spirit.[b] 14 Whoever does not have the Spirit cannot receive the gifts that come from God's Spirit. Such a person really does not understand them, and they seem to be nonsense, because their value can be judged only on a spiritual basis. 15 Whoever has the Spirit, however, is able to judge the value of everything, but no one is able to judge him. 16 As the scripture says,

“Who knows the mind of the Lord?
    Who is able to give him advice?”

We, however, have the mind of Christ.

Servants of God

As a matter of fact, my friends, I could not talk to you as I talk to people who have the Spirit; I had to talk to you as though you belonged to this world, as children in the Christian faith. I had to feed you milk, not solid food, because you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready for it, because you still live as the people of this world live. When there is jealousy among you and you quarrel with one another, doesn't this prove that you belong to this world, living by its standards? When one of you says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos”—aren't you acting like worldly people?

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 2:10 But; some manuscripts have For.
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:13 to those who have the Spirit; or with words given by the Spirit.
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Psalm 28

A Prayer for Help[a]

28 O Lord, my defender, I call to you.
    Listen to my cry!
If you do not answer me,
    I will be among those who go down to the world of the dead.
Hear me when I cry to you for help,
    when I lift my hands toward your holy Temple.
Do not condemn me with the wicked,
    with those who do evil—
    those whose words are friendly,
    but who have hatred in their hearts.

Punish them for what they have done,
    for the evil they have committed.
Punish them for all their deeds;
    give them what they deserve!
They take no notice of what the Lord has done
    or of what he has made;
so he will punish them
    and destroy them forever.

Give praise to the Lord;
    he has heard my cry for help.
The Lord protects and defends me;
    I trust in him.
He gives me help and makes me glad;
    I praise him with joyful songs.

The Lord protects his people;
    he defends and saves his chosen king.
Save your people, Lord,
    and bless those who are yours.
Be their shepherd,
    and take care of them forever.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 28:1 HEBREW TITLE: By David.
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Proverbs 20:24-25

24 The Lord has determined our path; how then can anyone understand the direction his own life is taking?

25 Think carefully before you promise an offering to God. You might regret it later.

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