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friends September 12 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Zechariah 7-8; Ezra 5:1- 6:18

God Works for our Good

We value our best friends, not just because they like us or do things together with us, but because they love us and want what is best for us. They are on our side in good times and bad. Perhaps you have experienced trouble and difficulty in your life, and you need more than a friend – you need God. Is God still at work? Is he on our side? This Bible study may offer you some encouragement.

By the grace of God many Jewish exiles returned to their homeland. They built an altar and sang as the foundations of their temple were laid. As we saw in yesterday’s Bible reading, their neighbors did not want the Jews in their land. They set about to discourage the work and were successful in stopping it. God was not happy. He decided to stop blessing the Jews. Furthermore, he sent drought and famine. Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the Jews to repent, return to God, rise up, and rebuild. The people did so; the work was re-started, and God’s blessings returned to them.

For the last seventy years before God delivered the Jews from exile in Babylon, they had held an annual fast of mourning because of the destruction of their land, and they also held religious feasts. A delegation from the nearby town of Bethel wanted to know that if now that the temple was being restored,should they continue the ceremony? God’s response was that he wants reality not ritual (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.1559). Previous generations continued religious rituals but were rebellious against God and his laws. God said this was a new day. God had forgiven them, brought them back to their land, and now the temple was being restored. God said this was a time of rejoicing and feasting, not mourning.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me,” says the LORD Almighty, “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah.

Do not be afraid. These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD.

Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace,” (Zechariah 8:14-19, NIV)

By casting Israel out of her land, God had punished her for her good so that she would repent and turn back to him. Withholding his blessings to the returnees when they stopped rebuilding the temple was also for her good, that they might repent and turn back to him. But once he restored the people of Israel, there was no longer a reason to mourn; it was a time to rejoice and live responsibly! Do we have problems forgiving our sins? If God has forgiven us, he does not want us to continue to hang our head in remorse. No, he wants us to live obediently and rejoice!

Israel’s return to the work of building the temple disturbed her neighbors. The rulers of the area, called the Trans-Euphrates, questioned them about the legality of building a temple. Then they sent a letter to King Darius of Persia, asking him to search and find out if Cyrus had really made a decree allowing the Jews to return and do this. More trouble was brewing, but this time the Jews continued to build.

The report from the investigation shocked the rulers of the Trans-Euphrates. The truth of the Jewish claims was not only validated, but King Darius wanted the people in the area to supply the Jews with everything they needed to complete the job and then leave them alone. What could they do? They had to obey. The temple was completed in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius without any further harassment. There was much rejoicing, singing and sacrificial offerings. God had indeed worked for their good.

God will someday make Israel into the greatest nation on earth.

This is what the LORD says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age.

The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there,” (Zechariah 8:3-5, NIV).

These Scriptures refer to the future 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ (otherwise referred to as the Millennium, Revelation 20:4). It will be a time of world-wide peace and God’s favor upon Israel (Isaiah 11:1-10). All Israel will be spiritually regenerated (saved). Jesus will reign on his throne, and all nations will come to worship in Jerusalem (more about this in our next lesson). Everyone will want to be a friend to the Jew because he will be highly favored. God will bring about Israel’s great future after a time of great tribulation (Jeremiah 30:4-7).

Though not Israel, the church also has a great future ahead of her. All who have placed personal faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation have an inheritance in heaven reserved for them (John 14:1-3;1Peter 1:3-5). Have you placed your faith in Jesus? Do you have the hope of heaven in your future? (more...)

Lessons to live by:

  • God is at work for our good, even if we are suffering for our sins or poor choices.
  • When we return to God, he wants us to obey and live victoriously, not remorsefully.
  • All who have placed personal faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation have an inheritance in heaven reserved for them.
  • God is on the side of the Christian. He does all things for his glory and our good.

Today’s Bible memory verses: Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

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