Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Archive for September, 2013

Sorrowful Homecoming

Israeli celebration

Israel 60 Years photo by FaceMePLS on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

The book of Ezra chronicles the beginning of the return of the Jewish exiles from captivity in Babylon back to Israel and Judah. King Cyrus of Persia was moved by God to not just allow over 42,000 Jewish captives to return to their homeland, but to finance the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. He even returned much of the gold and silver articles that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple during the original conquest of Jerusalem.

As the Temple was being rebuilt, Ezra 3:11-13 describes the scene of younger people praising God and rejoicing while the older folks who remembered the previous Temple crying out loud in sorrow for what had been lost over the years. The noise was heard from far away, but the voices mingled into a loud roar indiscernible whether it was joyous or sorrowful.

The construction of the Temple was met with resistance from those who were enemies of Israel and they were successful in stopping the progress until several years later. The succession of Persian kings from Cyrus to Ahasuerus (Xerxes, who married Esther), Artaxerxes and then Darius (mentioned in Daniel) is discussed in chapters 4-7, with a gap of over 50 years between chapters 6 and 7. King Darius got the ball rolling again and the Temple was finally completed in the sixth year of Darius’ reign. (Ezra 6:15) In the chapters that follow,

Ezra the prophet leads the people back to Israel/Judah with hearts of repentance and humility before God.

Chapter 9 explains that when the genealogies were reviewed, it was found that many of the Jews had married Babylonians against God’s separation commandment in Deuteronomy 7:3-4:

“Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so that the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.” (NKJV)

Despite the claims of some, this prohibition was never a call for racism (they were all Semites) and the reason is explained in verse 4. At the time, the Jews were the only people to whom God had personally revealed Himself. As it turned out, when the Jews intermarried with their pagan neighbors, they did indeed turn away from their faith in God. Ezra and the exiles understood very clearly the reason for the 70 year captivity and begged God’s forgiveness for them and their ancestors.

The events that followed in chapter 10 are indeed sorrowful. Many of the Jews who had married Babylonians sent their spouses and children away (presumably back to Persia) in an extreme act of devotion to God. I really have trouble reading this chapter, knowing how much God hates divorce. In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus laid it out that we need to love God above all else, including family, should it come down to that. This is the reason we taught our children to date only Christians; there is no call in the Bible for “Missionary Dating.” For those who are already married to non-believers, I Corinthians 7:12-16 persuades believers to remain in the marriage if the non-believing spouse is willing to stay in the marriage.

Proverbs 4:23 simplifies the whole matter by encouraging us:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to three boys, a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside. Lisa is a member of the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon. 

The Brainy Beauty Queen

Esther-Denouncing-Haman

Esther Denouncing Haman by Ernest Normand on Christian Images Fine Art.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

The Old Testament book of Esther begins with the Persian king Xerxes throwing a six-month long celebration that did not end well for his Queen Vashti, who refused to come present herself to the crowd. Vashti was quickly deposed and after Xerxes got over his anger, the search for a new queen of the Persian Empire began. The search took about four years to complete, with one full year of beauty treatments and a special diet for each of the potential queens before being presented to the king. Out of all the young women presented to the king, Hadassah or Esther as she was also known, gained the favor of the courtesans and stole the heart of the king. Not only was Esther a stunning beauty, there was much more to this girl than met the eye.

Esther was the child of Jewish captives taken by King Nebuchadnezzar and was raised by her cousin Mordecai after her parents died. She had learned to trust and obey Mordecai and from that obedience grew the wisdom and favor needed to handle the enormous responsibility of not just being the Queen, but to discreetly and shrewdly ensure the survival of her people.

Mordecai instructed Esther not to reveal her Jewish heritage when she was taken into the Persian beauty pageant. As a matter of fact, God is not even mentioned in the entire book of Esther, but there is no denying the fact that His mighty hand was working as the drama unfolded. There is too much to share here, so go read the ten chapters of Esther, whether you have read it before or not.

Queen Esther was wise, genuine and brave as she carried out her purpose in life. Her story serves as a beautiful model of how the content of our character and the depth of our faith can help us gain favor with those who are in authority over us while we do the work that God has set before us. We can follow her example as we go to work, care for our families and help those around us; without ever having to compete in a beauty pageant!

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to three boys, a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside. Lisa is a member of the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon. 

Dare to be Like Daniel & Friends

Daniel

Prophet Daniel photo by Allie_Caulfield on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

The book of Daniel is rich in history and prophecy. The key point to be taken from the book this time around involves the impeccable character traits of Daniel and his three friends mentioned in the book: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. First of all, they were given Chaldean names, respectively, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego when they were conscripted as teenagers into King Nebuchadnezzar’s service.

The young men stood up for their faith when served food from the King’s menu that was not acceptable to their Kosher diets. Rather than arguing about the food, Daniel asked for a ten day trial during which he and his friends would only eat vegetables and drink water. Daniel and his friends looked so much better than the rest of the men after the ten days that all of the young men were put on the diet. (Daniel 1: 3-4)

God’s favor was on Daniel and his friends and they were given positions high up in the kingdom. (Daniel 1:19-20; 3:30)

Despite the fact that Daniel and his friends were captives in a foreign land, they maintained attitudes of honor, honesty and respect for all the kings. Daniel had the reputation of having “the Spirit of God in him” (Daniel 4:18; 5:11, 14) and the only fault that his enemies could find in them was their faith. (Daniel 3, 6:4-5)

Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abed-Nego) refused to bow down before a 90 foot golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar. They were thrown into a fiery furnace, but were miraculously delivered. (Daniel 3)

I don’t know about you, but if my country were destroyed, thousands of my countrymen were killed by hostile forces, it would take everything I could muster not to be bitter and vengeful towards my captors, but there is no reference to this attitude by Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael or Azariah. On the contrary, their exemplary service and attitude earned them positions high up in the kingdom. Little is known about Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah after the furnace incident, but those are examples enough of the impact their faith had on the King.

Daniel served four great kings during his captivity: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, who used the gold and silver tableware from the Temple in Jerusalem for a party (Daniel 5); Darius, king of the Medes & Persians who conquered Babylon soon after Belshazzar’s ill-fated party; and Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Israel/Judah and commissioned the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1)

The impact that the faith of these men, especially Daniel, had on the Kingdom of Babylon may never be fully known, but tradition suggests that the Magi who visited the baby Jesus may have been from the Persian region.

What we do know is that Daniel and his friends set a great example for us all by their faithfulness to God in the roles to which He called them; captive servants and advisors as they were.

Lisa Nordell-Detres is a mother of four, grandma to three boys, a pastor’s wife and has worked in the garment and customer service industries in southern California. Besides writing, Lisa enjoys cooking, sewing, organic gardening, hiking, skiing and doing most anything outside. Lisa is a member of the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Lisa was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, studied Christian Apologetics at Simon Greenleaf University, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fashion Design from Woodbury University and an MBA from California State University at Northridge. Lisa, her husband and their youngest child now live in central Oregon. 

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