Today our passages are Ezra 3:1–4:24; 1 Corinthians 2:6–3:4; Psalm 28:1-9; and Proverbs 20:24-25. The readings are from the Contemporary English Version. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Steet, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal by using the link below.
Ezra 3-4:24 (Contemporary English Version)
The First Offering on the New Altar1During the seventh month [a] of the year, the Israelites who had settled in their towns went to Jerusalem. 2The priest Joshua son of Jozadak, together with the other priests, and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his relatives rebuilt the altar of Israel's God. Then they were able to offer sacrifices there by following the instructions God had given to Moses. 3And they built the altar where it had stood before, [b] even though they were afraid of the people who were already living around there. Then every morning and evening they burned sacrifices and offerings to the LORD. 4The people followed the rules for celebrating the Festival of Shelters and offered the proper sacrifices each day. 5They offered sacrifices to please the LORD, [c] sacrifices at each New Moon Festival, and sacrifices at the rest of the LORD's festivals. Every offering the people had brought was presented to the LORD. 6Although work on the temple itself had not yet begun, the people started offering sacrifices on the LORD's altar on the first day of the seventh month of that year.
The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins7King Cyrus of Persia had said the Israelites could have cedar trees brought from Lebanon to Joppa by sea. So they sent grain, wine, and olive oil to the cities of Tyre and Sidon as payment for these trees, and they gave money to the stoneworkers and carpenters.
8During the second month [d] of the second year after the people had returned from Babylonia, they started rebuilding the LORD's temple. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the priests, the Levites, and everyone else who had returned started working. Every Levite over twenty years of age was put in charge of some part of the work. 9The Levites in charge of the whole project were Joshua and his sons and relatives and Kadmiel and his sons from the family of Hodaviah. [e] The family of Henadad worked along with them. 10When the builders had finished laying the foundation of the temple, the priests put on their robes and blew trumpets in honor of the LORD, while the Levites from the family of Asaph praised God with cymbals. All of them followed the instructions given years before by King David. [f] 11They praised the LORD and gave thanks as they took turns singing: "The LORD is good!
His faithful love for Israel
will last forever."
Everyone started shouting and praising the LORD because work on the foundation of the temple had begun. 12Many of the older priests and Levites and the heads of families cried aloud because they remembered seeing the first temple years before. But others were so happy that they celebrated with joyful shouts. 13Their shouting and crying were so noisy that it all sounded alike and could be heard a long way off.
Foreigners (4.1 Foreigners: People from foreign countries who had been captured by Assyrian and Babylonian kings and forced to settle in Palestine.) Want To Help Rebuild the Temple1The enemies of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people had come back to rebuild the temple of the LORD God of Israel. 2So they went to Zerubbabel and to the family leaders and said, "Let us help! Ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria [g] brought us here, we have worshiped your God and offered sacrifices to him." 3But Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the family leaders answered, "You cannot take part in building a temple for the LORD our God! We will build it ourselves, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us."
4Then the neighboring people began to do everything possible to frighten the Jews [h] and to make them stop building. 5During the time that Cyrus was king and even until Darius [i] became king, they kept bribing government officials to slow down the work.
Trouble Rebuilding Jerusalem (4.6 Jerusalem: Verses 6-23, which tell about the events of a later period, are placed here because they are also concerned with the problem of stopping or slowing down work on the temple.)6In the first year that Xerxes was king, [j] the neighboring people brought written charges against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. 7Later, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and their advisors got together and wrote a letter to Artaxerxes when he was king of Persia. [k] It was written in Aramaic and had to be translated. [l] 8-10A letter was also written to Artaxerxes about Jerusalem by Governor Rehum, Secretary Shimshai, and their advisors, including the judges, the governors, the officials, and the local leaders. They were joined in writing this letter by people from Erech and Babylonia, the Elamites from Susa, [m] and people from other foreign nations that the great and famous Ashurbanipal [n] had forced to settle in Samaria and other parts of Western Province. [o] 11This letter said:
Your Majesty King Artaxerxes, we are your servants from everywhere in Western Province, and we send you our greetings.
12You should know that the Jews who left your country have moved back to Jerusalem and are now rebuilding that terrible city. In fact, they have almost finished rebuilding the walls and repairing the foundations. 13You should also know that if the walls are completed and the city is rebuilt, the Jews won't pay any kind of taxes, and there will be less money in your treasury.
14We are telling you this, because you have done so much for us, and we want everyone to respect you. 15If you look up the official records of your ancestors, you will find that Jerusalem has constantly rebelled and has led others to rebel against kings and provinces. That's why the city was destroyed in the first place. 16If Jerusalem is rebuilt and its walls completed, you will no longer have control over Western Province.
17King Artaxerxes answered:
Greetings to Governor Rehum, Secretary Shimshai, and to your advisors in Samaria and other parts of Western Province.
18After your letter was translated and read to me, 19I had the old records checked. It is true that for years Jerusalem has rebelled and caused trouble for other kings and nations. 20And powerful kings have ruled Western Province from Jerusalem and have collected all kinds of taxes.
21I want you to command the people to stop rebuilding the city until I give further notice. 22Do this right now, so that no harm will come to the kingdom.
23As soon as this letter was read, Governor Rehum, Secretary Shimshai, and their advisors went to Jerusalem and forced everyone to stop rebuilding the city.
Work on the Temple Starts Again24The Jews were forced to stop work on the temple and were not able to do any more building until the year after Darius became king of Persia. [p]
- Ezra 3:1 seventh month: Tishri (also called Ethanim), the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-September to mid-October.
- Ezra 3:3 where it had stood before: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
- Ezra 3:5 sacrifices to please the LORD: In traditional translations these sacrifices are usually called "whole burnt offerings" (see Leviticus 1.1-16).
- Ezra 3:8 second month: Ziv, the second month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-April to mid-May.
- Ezra 3:9 Hodaviah: Or "Yehudah" or "Hodiah."
- Ezra 3:10 King David: Ruled from about 1010 to 970 B.C.
- Ezra 4:2 King Esarhaddon of Assyria: Ruled from 681 to 669 B.C. These people may have been brought to Palestine in 677 or 676 B.C., when Esarhaddon invaded Syria.
- Ezra 4:4 Jews: This was the name given to those Israelites who settled in Judah after returning from Babylonia.
- Ezra 4:5 Cyrus. . . Darius: Cyrus ruled 539-530 B.C. (see the note at 1.1); Darius I, known as Darius the Great, ruled 522-486 B.C.
- Ezra 4:6 first year that Xerxes was king: Either the end of 486 or the beginning of 485 B.C. The Hebrew has the king's Persian name "Ahasuerus," but he is better known as "Xerxes," the Greek form of the name.
- Ezra 4:7 Artaxerxes. . . Persia: Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.).
- Ezra 4:7 It was. . . translated: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. Ezra 4.8--6.18 is written in Aramaic, instead of in Hebrew like most of the Old Testament.
- Ezra 4:8 the judges. . . Susa: One possible translation for the names and titles.
- Ezra 4:8 Ashurbanipal: King of Assyria 669-633 (or possibly 627) B.C. In Aramaic the king's name is "Osnapper," but he is better known as Ashurbanipal.
- Ezra 4:8 Western Province: The land from the Euphrates River west to the Mediterranean Sea.
- Ezra 4:24 year after. . . king of Persia: 520 B.C.
1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4 (Contemporary English Version)
6We do use wisdom when speaking to people who are mature in their faith. But it isn't the wisdom of this world or of its rulers, who will soon disappear. 7We speak of God's hidden and mysterious wisdom that God decided to use for our glory long before the world began. 8The rulers of this world didn't know anything about this wisdom. If they had known about it, they would not have nailed the glorious Lord to a cross. 9But it is just as the Scriptures say,
"What God has planned
for people who love him
is more than eyes have seen
or ears have heard.
It has never even
entered our minds!"
10God's Spirit has shown you everything. His Spirit finds out everything, even what is deep in the mind of God. 11You are the only one who knows what is in your own mind, and God's Spirit is the only one who knows what is in God's mind. 12But God has given us his Spirit. That's why we don't think the same way that the people of this world think. That's also why we can recognize the blessings that God has given us.
13Every word we speak was taught to us by God's Spirit, not by human wisdom. And this same Spirit helps us teach spiritual things to spiritual people. [a] 14That's why only someone who has God's Spirit can understand spiritual blessings. Anyone who doesn't have God's Spirit thinks these blessings are foolish. 15People who are guided by the Spirit can make all kinds of judgments, but they cannot be judged by others. 16The Scriptures ask, "Has anyone ever known
the thoughts of the Lord
or given him advice?"
But we understand what Christ is thinking. [b]
1 Corinthians 3
Working Together for God1My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That's why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned. 2So I had to treat you like babies and feed you milk. You could not take solid food, and you still cannot, 3because you are not yet spiritual. You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world.
4Some of you say that you follow me, and others claim to follow Apollos. Isn't that how ordinary people behave?
Psalm 28:1-9 (Contemporary English Version)
A Prayer for Help1Only you, LORD,
are a mighty rock! [a] Don't refuse to help me
when I pray.
If you don't answer me,
I will soon be dead.
2Please listen to my prayer
and my cry for help,
as I lift my hands
toward your holy temple.
3Don't drag me away, LORD,
with those cruel people,
who speak kind words,
while planning trouble.
4Treat them as they deserve!
Punish them for their sins.
5They don't pay any attention
to your wonderful deeds.
Now you will destroy them
and leave them in ruin.
6I praise you, LORD,
for answering my prayers.
7You are my strong shield,
and I trust you completely.
You have helped me,
and I will celebrate
and thank you in song.
8You give strength
to your people, LORD,
and you save and protect
your chosen ones.
9Come save us and bless us.
Be our shepherd and always
carry us in your arms.
- Psalm 28:1 mighty rock: See the note at 18.2.
Proverbs 20:24-25 (Contemporary English Version)
24How can we know
what will happen to us
when the LORD alone decides?
25Don't fall into the trap
of making promises to God
before you think!
“All you say can be trusted; your teachings are true and will last forever.” - Psalm 119:160
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
American economist, and the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Paul Samuelson wrote, “Good questions outrank easy answers.”