Gold and Silver
“In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver.” Ezra 1:11
All the articles in the holy temple were made of gold and silver, materials we consider the most precious and valuable.
Does the Lord value the same things we do? This is questionable. There are streets of gold and a city of rubies in heaven, so what we deem precious here on earth may just be dirt cheap in heaven.
Of course, we desire to present what we consider the best to the Lord; therefore we should not use common material to construct God’s house. In fact, what we present to the Lord, including all our offerings, must be flawless.
What we consider the best will never be good enough for the Almighty, yet this doesn’t mean that we can be sloppy when we make sacrifices of any kind to God. The Lord deserves to receive our best efforts when we serve him and whatever we offer to him must not be perceived as second rate.
Writing has become somewhat like mass-production for me, and the products I have created over the years might not have been my best. If my composition is a form of sacrifice-making, I am afraid I have fallen far short of reaching the gold standard the Lord has established.
On the other hand, the principle of sacrifice-making should always be what Peter uttered in the temple area when a beggar approached him for money: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you…”
What exactly do I have then? This is precisely the question we should ask ourselves.
Obviously I cannot offer to the Lord what I don’t possess. What I am has been predetermined by my background and my genes, and “to whom much is given, much is required.” Therefore the Lord must not be requiring too much from me. I often comfort myself by placing the blame for my lack of giving or failing to offer to him my best squarely on his shoulders.
All the articles of gold and silver robbed by king of Babylon had to be taken back to the temple, for they belonged to the Lord. The value of our possessions in this life, be they gold or silver, matters very little to the Lord; what truly matters is that we present to him faithfully what we do possess.
The words I have written are not polished and they don’t seem to shine in any way and the thoughts contained in them are rather coarse and primitive. In fact, they are made of clay and mud which aren’t all that presentable; yet these are all I have and I will continue to place them on the altar to be burned.
Even so, there is no excuse if I don’t continue to improve myself to make my daily offerings more pleasing in his sight than what they were ever before.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 7:48:00 AM
“Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem…” Ezra 1:7
King Cyrus obviously played an important role in the reconstruction of the holy temple, yet he wasn’t merely a cheerleader on the sidelines cheering the Israelites on. He also participated in the project in a meaningful way. He made a great contribution toward the rebuilding by returning the articles taken away from the temple by the Babylonian king years before to where they righty belonged.
How could the king keep the holy articles while he was championing the enterprise of reconstructing the temple? It would have been rather inconsistent for him to do so, yet, on the other hand, he was the king and he could have done anything by his own volition and no one would have dared to challenge him.
By returning the holy articles, the king at the least could have maintained a clean conscience, knowing that he had done the right thing, pleasing in God’s sight.
How in the world can we keep a clean conscience if we keep some articles rightly belonging to God for our personal use or viewing pleasure?
“Should we tithe our social security income?” I asked my wife the other day. Since we have both retired from our jobs, it was time to restructure our tithes and offerings.
“It has all been tithed,” I answered my question before Kathy had the opportunity to answer. Yet she seemed to concur with my conclusion.
I nonetheless continue to ponder on this issue, trying to get to the bottom of things. Can one out-give God? I was wondering. For a while I was feeling guilty “bargaining” with the Lord concerning the amount of my offering, which didn’t seem to make any sense, for all I possess belongs to the Lord and he is entitled to it all. The amount of our offering to the Lord is and should always be all we have, not merely the ten percent required by the law.
Cyrus was the king of Persia and all the valuable articles looted from all nations were his personal property. It might have hurt a little parting from them, yet out of his fear and reverence for the Lord, he emptied out all the treasures and returned them to the true owner of his fortune.
By God’s grace we are who we are, and we merely do what we should by giving tithes and offerings to the Lord, which are a token of our profoundest gratitude toward the One who has created who and what we are. We are simply stewards of the valuables with which he has endowed us so abundantly.
Friday, January 11, 2019 8:30:00 AM
“And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold…” Ezra 1:4
If this had been merely a suggestion from the king, things probably wouldn’t have worked out for the Jews who were returning to their homeland to rebuild the temple, since people were in general poor, and it would have been rather difficult to squeeze out any extra resources and turn them over to a bunch of foreigners for whom they most likely had very little concern.
It would have been some kind of tax for the people had this been an order, and it would undoubtedly have caused bitterness among the natives. Had it been for a good cause, people might have been willing to help, yet they knew nothing about the Lord and couldn’t care less about building a temple for a foreign deity. Therefore the plan formulated by the king was doomed to fail, looking at it from a human point of view.
This must have been part of God’s eternal plan actually. How could he expect his people to launch a project on such a grand scale without providing for them the necessary resources to finish it?
Where there is will there is a way, so people say. This is merely a glorification of human creativity and ingenuity, for we know the human will may fall short and oftentimes our efforts may not be sufficient to achieve what we desire to accomplish. Yet one thing we do know, however: God’s will can never be thwarted by any force and things should always be considered done if the sovereign God wills it.
I would have gone without food or shelter as a youngster but for a kind-hearted landlady who not only didn’t charge me any rent for an entire year, but even occasionally prepared a lunch box for me as well. There isn’t any plausible explanation for her action except the Lord pitied my miserable estate and moved someone to help me. Human kindness will always fall short concerning this kind of thing unless the Lord unceasingly moves someone to help. Compassion for people in need may remain merely a feeling and only the Lord can turn the feeling of pity into solid action.
I found myself dragging my feet when it was time for me to go to Western Union to wire some money overseas to help some needy Christian brothers. In fact, it would have been a lot easier for us to do nothing for the poor and the needy at all.
I guess the people in the kingdom might have been rather reluctant to give toward the project of rebuilding the temple, yet they had no choice but to move after their hearts were moved by the Almighty.
Thursday, January 10, 2019 7:40:00 AM
“Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel…” Ezra 1:3
There was a choice to be made for the Jews who had settled down in the land of their exile, and some of them might not have had the desire to make the move. It was rather difficult in the beginning when they first moved to the foreign land, and it took quite an effort to carve out a little life in a strange place. Yet, by this time they might have become well-adjusted to the country and the culture, and being uprooted might not have been such a desirable thing to do.
Naturally, some of the Jews among the exiles might have decided not to participate in the great enterprise of rebuilding the holy temple.
The idea was obviously quite appealing, and the thought of being a part of God’s eternal plan must have been exhilarating to many of them, yet when the excitement subsided, they were suddenly struck by the reality of such a daunting task they were about to undertake and the sacrifices they would have to make. After careful consideration, some of them might have decided not to take part in the impending project.
The king wasn’t going to force the Israelites to move back to their hometown, and the ones who decided to do so were motivated by their love for the Lord and their ambition to make something out of their lives. In other words, they yearned to make a difference in the world and, by doing so, their lives became more in contact with eternity, finding significance in the mundane and the eternal in the temporal.
This is something for us to ponder actually: how am I going to lead my life on earth in such a way as to make life more eternally significant?
There really isn’t anything earth-shattering occurring in our life actually and we are merely going through the motions doing all the mundane things to keep our life moving. There isn’t a whole lot beyond this, is there? Indeed, most of us are little people doing little things to scratch a little living in the world, so what is important to do is to endow meaning into what we do routinely every day. I am not saying that we should attempt to create meaning along the way when we do all the chores in life; what we must do is to discover the meaning of what we do by examining the Scriptures and establishing a proper attitude and motivation in conducting our activities.
I suppose what makes what we do meaningful, be it great or small, isn’t what we do but how we are motivated.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019 7:59:00 AM
“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.” Ezra 1:2
From time to time we ought to take an inventory of what we have and consider the purpose behind it, asking the Lord what he wants us to do with what we possess. We are entirely misled if we believe that it’s for our personal enjoyment and benefit that the Lord has bestowed on us all the good things we have, both physically and spiritually.
The king of Persia might have been a ruthless leader and he wouldn’t have gotten his position without being that way. Surely he had shed much blood in the process of his conquests and was hated by people of many nations. By all accounts, King Cyrus might not have been an admirable man and, like all monarchs in human history, he was lauded by some and condemned by others, a mixed bag of both good and evil.
Yet there was one thing that stood out in the king’s life: he evidently believed in the sovereignty of God and was willing to submit to His leading concerning one particular thing - the construction of God’s temple in holy city of Jerusalem. The king proclaimed “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.”
The king was obviously convinced that it was the Lord who had handed the vast kingdom to him and with the gift came a responsibility, for the Lord had an important mission for him to accomplish. He realized the Lord had appointed him “to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.”
What kind of gift has the Lord given to me at this point in my life and what are the purposes attached to it? This is an essential question that I must ask myself, lest I squander God’s gifts on useless things and, consequently, lead an unproductive and unprofitable life.
I am by no means rich, but to give to the poor isn’t a privilege for the rich alone, for we are called to give according to what we have, not what we don’t have. Even the poor widow mentioned in the gospel was fully equipped to give. Besides material things, there are other gifts that I have been given which I must share with others. Am I going to bury my talent of writing and speaking in the sand, or give it away freely so that people can benefit from it?
I suppose this is what the apostle meant when he exhorted us to offer our lives as “living sacrifices.” Whatever I have received from the Lord should be placed on the altar to be consumed by fire for God’s glory. King Cyrus might not have known the essence of what he was doing, yet by issuing the edict, he was actually making a sacrifice to the Lord.
Friday, January 4, 2019 7:38:00 AM
“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah…” Ezra 1:1
The particular prophecy mentioned here was made years before by the prophet Jeremiah concerning the reconstruction of the holy temple by the exiles returning from the Babylonian captivity. It might have sounded rather farfetched when the foretelling was made, yet the prediction would eventually come true when the time came, and miraculously, the whole thing was initiated by a pagan monarch, Cyrus king of Persia.
God’s sovereign will can never be thwarted, no matter how strange it may appear from a human point of view. Evidently, the king of Persia was an idolater and it’s hard to figure out how he was motivated to do such a thing. We can only conclude that he was moved by the Lord to issue such an edict so that the will of the Lord might be fulfilled.
All things that took place in our past seem to have happened capriciously, without any rhyme or reason behind them at all, yet if we look at them in retrospect with an “all knowing” perspective since they have already occurred, we can always connect the dots and make some sense out of them. All things that happened did have reasons behind them, and the ultimate goal is to make God’s purposes come to fruition in our lives.
Of course, we may only be referring to the big events that have occurred in the past and it’s not hard to detect an inkling of divine design behind all of them, but what about all the small details in our lives that don’t seem to have any purpose at all. This is what puzzles us, isn’t it? Does the Lord really care about what I wear today and where I go for lunch? Or how I relate to my friends and neighbors in my seemingly routine words and deeds?
Perhaps all the so-called great events in our life are the accumulation of and culmination of all the insignificant things that we do daily, and what we do in the smallest details in life is the primary force that brings forth the fulfillment of all the monumental occurrences the Lord preordained for us.
I would like to believe that the decision King Cyrus made concerning the rebuilding of the holy temple somehow had something to do with how the Jews had behaved as subjects of the king. It seems obvious to me that the king had a favorable impression of God because of those who resided within the kingdom of Persia.
Thursday, January 3, 2019 8:09:00 AM
“Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” Col. 4:17
We know very little about Archippus whom Paul mentioned at the end of this letter, yet one thing we know about him is that he had a ministry from the Lord to finish. It appeared to be a matter of such great importance that Paul made a point to bring it up at the end.
“Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
The name appears in the Bible twice and was only mentioned in passing. The man didn’t seem to be a person of great renown, although according to legend he might have become a bishop of some sort at the end. In fact, a particular day was set aside by the church to observe his life. These don’t seem to matter all that much compared to what he was admonished to do by the apostle, which was to finish the ministry which he had received in the Lord.
We can’t help asking ourselves this question after we come across this verse: “What sort of ministry have we received from the Lord, and are we determined, as long as we live, to finish it?”
If what I am doing has been self-appointed and self-generated, it matters very little whether I finish it or not, but if it truly comes from the Lord I must take it with utter seriousness. This is something I continue to ponder every day and the answer to it remains rather vague: Is this writing ministry God’s calling or my personal aspiration?
We may aspire to do something great for the Lord, and what we try to do might just be fulfilling our personal ambition and the high sounding proclamation of serving the Lord is merely a pretext we employ to justify our lifelong endeavor of self-gratification.
The statement of serving the Lord can be deployed as a justification or rationalization for what we spend our entire life laboring and the distinction between the two is very vague. What we must do is to dig deep into our heart and examine how we are motivated to do what we do. Is it really for God’s own glory or my own personal glorification?
I pray I will be given sufficient time in this life to finish what I have been charged to do, if this writing project is truly his charge, of course. If this isn’t from the Lord, why bother?
Wednesday, January 2, 2019 7:37:00 AM