"…who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…" 1 Chronicles 12:32
Who Wrote Chronicles?
Ezra compiled and edited the Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, drawing from the official histories and archives: "The Chronicles of King David"; the Book of Samuel, the Book of Nathan, the Prophesy of Ahijah, the Book of the Kings of Israel, the Vision of Isaiah the Prophet, and other annals. Ezra had access to journals, diaries and public records, which are now not available.
What is the Difference Between Kings and Chronicles?
1 and 2 Kings give a parallel account of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, Chronicles focuses primarily on the southern kingdom.
Three Sections of Chronicles
1: 1 Chron. 1 – 9, lists the genealogies.
2: 1 Chron. 10 – 2 Chron. 9, presents the story of the United Kingdom under King David and his son Solomon.
3: 2 Chron. 10 – 36, the story of Judah in the time of the divided kingdom.
Why So Much Attention to Genealogies?
Under the old Covenant land was apportioned to families and could not be sold in perpetuity. It was to remain within the family. The priesthood was also hereditary, according to families. Similarly, the kingly line was to come from the ancestry of David. The emphasis on genealogies in the Bible shows that an important part of our identity is who our parents and ancestors were. Who we marry will affect future generations, for eternity.
"Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord His God upon him." Ezra 7:6
Who Was Ezra?
Ezra was a scribe, a descendant of Aaron, the original high priest, through his son Eleazar, and later Phinehas and Zaddock. Ezra was of the tribe of Levi, with a long, unbroken line of priests in his ancestry.
When Was Ezra Written?
The Book of Ezra was written between 460 and 440 BC.
The first exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon 537 BC.
The Temple was rebuilt 516 BC.
Esther became Queen of Persia 479 BC.
Ezra led the second expedition from Babylon 458 BC.
The Book of Ezra covers over 100 years, dealing with the three deportations from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and the three returns from Babylonian captivity.
THE MESSAGE OF EZRA
There had been two exiles. The first exile involved the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, when Assyria conquered Samaria and deported the ten tribes in 721 BC.
The second exile involved the two tribes in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, following the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. The main prophets to the Judeans in exile in Babylonia were: Ezekiel and Daniel.
"You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach." Nehemiah 2:17
Nehemiah was a contemporary of Queen Esther, the prophet Haggai, and Ezra. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. It is possible that Queen Esther persuaded her stepson, Artaxerxes, to give this place of honour and trust to Nehemiah.
News of the trouble and disgrace of the returned exiles in Jerusalem reached Nehemiah. The walls were still broken down and the gates had been burned with fire. Nehemiah sat down, wept, mourned, fasted and prayed. From his regret and repentance, he was led to make a request of the king, to be released to travel to Jerusalem to aid his people in rebuilding the walls of the city. Nehemiah provides us with a proven strategy for success in any venture. This book inspired the launch of Africa Christian Action and it has guided many in how to achieve their goals.
"My people perish for lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6.
We must be informed. It is when people are informed that they can be inspired to prayer and action. Nehemiah researched amongst the rubble and developed a plan of action.
"Without a vision a people perish." Nehemiah had a vision of a great work and he inspired those around him with that vision.
"...who knows whether you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14
The book of Esther is a dramatic and romantic historical novel. The powerful drama portrayed in Esther includes: intrigue, suspense, love, hatred, pride, conceit, malice, conspiracy, revenge, murder, duty, honour and courage.
A Colossal Conflict Between Continents
The historical backdrop to the book of Esther is one of the most famous and dramatic chapters in world history. Xerxes, the King of Persia, was about to launch his famous invasion of Europe. His father, Darius I, had been defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon. The historian Herodotus informs us that the occasion for the great feast described in Esther 1 was for planning the campaign against Greece in the third year of Xerxes' reign.
Xerxes (king Ahasuerus) accumulated a massive army of reportedly 5 million men. Only 10% of these were Persians, the rest conscripted from the 127 provinces ruled by the Persian Empire. Xerxes' engineers used over 670 boats lashed together to form two bridges across the Hellespont, enabling his huge army to march from Asia into Europe.
The Capriciousness of Xerxes
Indicating what a volatile individual Xerxes was, when a storm wrecked the first attempts of his engineers to complete the bridge across the channel, he ordered the Hellespont flogged and chained as punishment for its tempestuousness!
"There was a man in the Land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yolk of ox, 500 female donkeys and a very large household. So this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.
"And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on their appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings, according to the number of them all. For Job said, 'It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts'. Thus Job did regularly.
"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and satan also came among them. And the Lord said to satan, 'From where do you come?' So satan answered the Lord and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it' Then the Lord said to satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?' So satan answered the Lord and said, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands and his possessions have increased in the land. But now stretch out your hand and touch all that he has and he will surely curse You to Your face!'
"The Lord said to satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.' So satan went out from the presence of the Lord." Job 1:1-12
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“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:15-17
Frequently one hears the refrain: “The Bible does not give any guidelines for music. It is all a matter of taste and preference.” However, the Bible speaks to all areas of life and music is no exception. “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Ephesians. 5:17-21
Wholehearted Scriptural Worship
Music is to be melodious. We are to sing as unto the Lord. It is to be wholehearted. The content is to be Scriptural, with the Psalms predominating. It is to be in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and thanksgiving for all things to God the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ is to characterise it. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song I will praise Him.” Psalm 28:7
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7
In Psalms we find the Christian on his knees, in Proverbs we find the Christian on his feet.
The Psalms are for daily devotions, the Proverbs are for daily work and walk.
The Psalms are for our quiet times and the place of worship, the Proverbs are for the market place, the work place, the school room and the home.
Proverbs shows that Godliness is practical. The Proverbs deal with our duty to God and to our neighbours, the duty of parents and children, husbands and wives, employers and employees, citizens and rulers.
"The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death." Proverbs 14:27
The Proverbs are short, profound sayings of what sometimes is called common sense, but which is increasingly uncommon. Perceptive, practical, pointed and positive.
The Proverbs are "like apples of gold in settings of silver" Proverbs 25:11.
Solomon's Search for Meaning and Purpose in Life
King Solomon, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, was the richest and most powerful king in the world at his time. Solomon was famous for his wisdom, riches and literary achievements. Solomon had the power to do anything he wanted and he had the wealth to indulge every whim.
Asking the Right Questions
It is incredible to think that this Book was written almost 3,000 years ago. It seems so very up-to-date in this secular humanist, existential and hedonist society. Solomon's philosophical search for meaning and purpose in life resonates through the ages. He asks the fundamental questions: Is life more than the things we see, do and possess? What is the meaning of life?
Futility and Frustration
"'Vanity of vanities,' says the Preacher; 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' What profit has a man from all his labour in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. All things are full of labour; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:2-9
"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." Song of Solomon 2:4
The Song of Solomon is also known as the Song of Songs. This book was written early in King Solomon's reign, probably around 965BC.
Union and Communion
Our relationship with God is to celebrated and sung about. The Psalms and Hymns are essentially celebrations of God's love for us, and our love for Him.
As the Psalms are about worship,
Proverbs deal with wisdom,
Song of Songs deals with our love for God and His love for us.
Wisdom, worship and love are to be received with gratitude and celebrated with joy.
"Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
The Song of Songs illustrates God's passionate love for His people through a love story based on an actual romance of King Solomon. In the Song of Songs we see:
Seeking His countenance,
Surrendering the will,
Reflecting His beauty,
The perfection of the Bridegroom,
Sharing the Divine nature and
The main themes are:
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6
The Bible in a Nutshell
Isaiah is a mini-Bible in structure. Like the Bible, Isaiah has 66 chapters in two main sections. 39 chapters in the first section (like the Old Testament) and 27 in the second section (like the New Testament). The message of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah summarizes the message of the Old Testament. The message of the last 27 chapters of Isaiah summarizes the message of the New Testament.
Dealing with Sin
The Old Testament opens with God's case against man because of his sin. Isaiah opens the same way. "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1:18
The Coming King
The first section closes with a prophecy of the coming King of righteousness and the Redemption of Israel, just as the prophets close the Old Testament with predictions of His coming Kingdom. "But to you who fear My Name, the Son of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…" Malachi 4:2
Prepare the Way
Isaiah is a Messianic Book. The second part of Isaiah, starting with chapter 40, begins with "Comfort, yes, comfort, My people! Says Your God… the voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together…" Isaiah 40:1-5. These are the very words used by John the Baptist at the beginning of the New Testament (Matthew 3:1-3).