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

Posts tagged ‘faithfulness’

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. 

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. 

Hope for the Future

Glimpse of Heaven

Glimpse of Heaven by sabrina’s stash on Flickr.

By Lisa Nordell-Detres

As we finish reading the book of Ezekiel, the story takes a sharp turn starting with chapter 40. God takes Ezekiel on a vision ride to the future Israel and shows him in detail how the devastated city of Jerusalem and the Temple will one day be rebuilt.

Ezekiel suffered greatly during his years of service, even having to go through the death of his wife without being allowed to grieve for the sake of being God’s messenger to his country. Because of his faithfulness to God, he was given a detailed tour of the new and improved Jerusalem and Israel, right down to the exact measurements of the Temple and the carved cherubim and palm trees that decorated the interior.

Then God gives Ezekiel the plans for the division of the nation of Israel by tribes with the tour ending with a walled city with twelve gates, each named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The book ends with the name of this city: Jehovah-shammah, or THE LORD IS THERE.

God allows us to go through difficult times in our lives, but He promises us that we will never go through those times alone, He is always with us. Ezekiel knew this and lived out his life in obedience to God. What a blessing it is to have such beautiful examples of faithfulness!

Reading the description of the new Kingdom reminded me of another glimpse of our future in Heaven as depicted in Revelation 21-22:5. I love reading this because it gives us all a picture of the beautiful glory that awaits all of Jesus’ faithful followers. It brings hope and encouragement to those who are suffering and comfort to those who are on their death beds. God never leaves us without hope; better things are to come!

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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