Key Verse: Ezra 6:14
So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying [preaching and teaching] of Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, and they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes King of Persia.
In yesterday’s reading we were introduced to Kings Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes of Persia. It seems that they ruled between Cyrus the Great and Darius. In this interim period construction on the new Temple was stopped. A holocaust threatened the Jews until Queen Esther came on the scene (read Esther 3:12-14). Also we may want to read Esther 4:15-17 and Esther 7:4-6. In just over two weeks we’ll be reading the entire book of Esther.
Let us persist in our readings. The history of this period can be confusing. Hang in there! The Jews in the province of Judea held onto their vision. Two preachers made a big contribution to lifting the spirits of the people. Let’s read from the first preacher today, and the second tomorrow (Haggai 1:13-15 and Haggai 2:1-9). In spite of Haman’s threat to have all the Jews killed, they kept the faith. God had His Esther, and her uncle Mordecai, in the Persian Palace.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Lord God, I understand that You do not violate human free will, but I thank You that You do put people in place, and You do create circumstances that cause people to be willing to do, of their own free will, what is right. Please Lord, I pray that You’ll continue to do this in our world today. I volunteer for service, Lord, if I can be of any help in Your cause. In the Name of Jesus, the greatest Volunteer, I pray, Amen!!!
100 PERSONAL WORDS:
President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union and her satellite countries, the “Evil Empire.” But even there God was at work. In 1985 Crossroads made it into the Soviet Newspaper, Pravda, with the story of our unusual contract with Prague for the creative content of our “Pavilion of Promise” at Expo ’86 in Vancouver. I have lots of stories out of this period as to God at work in these officially anti-God countries.
Yesterday I wrote of the deliverance of many Jews from the USSR. Today I have a Christian story. I was speaker on two evenings during the first ever gathering of Christian leaders from all 15 republics of the USSR. This invitation resulted from the 1989 release of our Crossroads Creation TV series in prime time. Friends from Finland had translated it and made it look like we were speaking Russian. One morning I sat at breakfast with five Pastors. One of them, I thought, had the worst case of arthritis ever. However, it appeared to be in only one hand. I had to ask about it. The Pastors knew what was coming and they laughed. The man with the twisted fingers said, “I was teaching my children about God and was ordered to stop. They put me in prison and broke my fingers one at a time. With each finger they offered to stop if I would sign a paper admitting my guilt and promising to stop my teaching. Each time I refused. Now, however, they have called me in and offered to fix my fingers by re-breaking them, this time under anesthetic, and they said I could continue my teaching as I pleased. But I said, ‘No!’ I get a lot more attention when I preach using this hand to help make my points.” Loud laughter broke out amongst the Pastors. I felt like crawling under the table. I was not worthy to be in the company of such strong followers of Christ. Here I was, the guest speaker, and I was learning much more from them than they would ever learn from me. That evening, after my message on “The Church After Persecution Ceases,” I was kissed at least 500 times (Russian men kiss other men on the lips!). I’ve got to report that I simply tolerated it with the grace God gave me, but at the same time, I rejoiced with them because we all knew that the “70 years of the dark red night of atheistic rule,” as they called it, was almost over. They likened it to the 70-year Babylonian captivity of Israel.
Yours, like Esther, wanting to be at the right time and the right place in order to serve God and people,