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prisoner September 7 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 2Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1-2, Nehemiah 7:4-73a

God Answers Prayer; the prodigal comes home

A prodigal might wonder if it is possible for him to return home. Perhaps he even committed crimes and was sent to prison. He identifies with the 1973 song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” written by Irwin Levine and L.Russel Brown and sung by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Here is a good synopsis of the song according to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia:

The song is told from the point of view of a prisoner who has completed his three-year sentence but is uncertain if he will be welcomed home. He writes to his love, asking her to tie a yellow ribbon around the “ole oak tree” in front of the house [which the bus, bringing him home from prison, will pass by] if she wants him to return to her life; if he does not see such a ribbon, he will remain on the bus [taking that to mean he is unwelcome]. He asks the bus driver to check, fearful of not seeing anything.

To his amazement, the entire bus cheers the response – there are 100 yellow ribbons around the tree, a sign he is very much welcome.

This song is still popular because it gives the prodigal some hope that he might be able to be forgiven and return home. Sometimes God answers even the most impossible prayers when he is pleased to do so.

Do you understand God’s plans and purposes so that you will get more answers to your prayers? Think about Daniel’s example from our last lesson. He observed what God had been doing to punish Israel for her sins. He was a student of the Scriptures. He read Jeremiah’s prophecy that in seventy years God would return the Jews to their homeland (Jeremiah 29:10). Daniel also knew that God would answer their prayers only if they were humble and contrite about their sins and would confess them. Daniel knew God still had a future for the Jewish people (Daniel 9:24-27; 10:1-14). He claimed God’s promise and appealed to his mercy and grace to restore them to their land. Though their land was devastated and partially occupied by foreigners, it was still their home.

God answered Daniel’s prayer. He forgave Israel’s sin and made provision to restore her to her land. How did he do it? Perhaps, though we don’t know for certain, King Cyrus of Persia was told how God delivered Daniel from the lions’ den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a fiery furnace, and how Daniel’s prophecies were literally fulfilled, even the prophecies concerning Medo-Persia’s conquering of Babylon. For whatever reason, or simply because God put it into his heart, King Cyrus of Persia issued an edict to allow the Jews to return to their own land, as many as wished to go. Over 49,000 Jews were among the first to return. It is amazing that most had not lost their Jewish identity after all those years in exile, but records were kept. Families are important to God. Under the influence of Daniel and Ezekiel many Israelites held onto the hope of their return according to Jeremiah’s prophecy. In their company were some prominent individuals who would play an important part in the rebuilding of the temple and the wall around the city: Zerubbabel, Jeshua [Joshua], Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai [not the uncle of Esther], Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah (Ezra 2:2, NIV).

King Cyrus made provisions for the Jews to build the temple and sacrifice to their God. He even allowed them to bring back the temple articles that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had confiscated. He could have sent them back empty handed or not at all. The grace of God is great.

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 (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV).

The leaders of the Jewish families, according to their ability, also brought with them many treasures that they contributed to the work (Nehemiah 7:70-73a). If they contributed they would show some pride of ownership in the restoration of Solomon’s temple.

Lessons to live by:

  • God can answer even the most unlikely, impossible prayers. He is merciful and gracious to those who are oppressed, who are contrite, and who believe his promises. He offers us forgiveness, peace and spiritual life (more...)
  • Families are important to God; everyone counts.
  • Though God may provide, we can each contribute to his work according to our ability. This allows us to take ownership of the project or ministry.

Today’s Bible memory verse: Psalm 20:6 “Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.” (NIV)

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