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May 24                       Today’s Reading: Ezra 4-6

“The Lord made them joyful.”

Ezra 6:22


Our reading today begins with the sad pause of the people in building the temple (a pause caused by their enemies) and ends with the joyful celebration of the passover in the dedication of the house of God. The adversaries of God’s people spoke of them reproachfully, falsely accusing them of insurrection, rebellion, and sedition. We must not be surprised when that happens to us. Such has been and must be the lot of God’s saints in this world.


The Enemy

As it is now, so it was in Ezra’s day. — The reproach came from people who professed to be followers of Jehovah. The slanders and reproaches cast upon them were cast upon them by people of a mongrel religion, people who professed to call upon the name of the Lord, and yet served other idol gods. In every age, and in every place the greatest enemies with which believing souls must contend are not open infidels, but those who profess to believe and worship God, while practicing will-worship, despising the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, and altogether “denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

            Our Lord Jesus told us plainly that a man's foes are those of his own household (Matthew 10:36). So it is. So it has been. In a spiritual sense, we have foes even greater and nearer than these. Our own hearts, so full of sin and unbelief, and the vile corruptions of our fallen nature constantly oppose us in our walk with God and our service to his kingdom. But, blessed be our God and Savior, he has promised that we shall prevail at last. God’s house shall be completed. His holy temple shall be finished. All his elect shall be saved!


Work Ceased

Then ceased the work of the house of God.Yet, history plainly proves that the hand of the Lord was in it. How often we think the work of God in our souls has ceased; and we mourn with heaviness of heart. Then, our Savior returns, graciously grants us a little refreshing, and makes us joyful. He has his set time to favor Zion. He is everlastingly pursuing the designs of his love. As Zion’s walls were continually before him, even in her most desolate circumstances, so the work of his grace in the hearts of his chosen he never ceases to perform, though it may seem to us that he does.


Work Sure

At such times, our Savior is, by this very means, emptying us of self and working in our souls, causing us to seek him and his grace. It is by these things, so bitter in the experience, that our great God and Savior sweetly turns our hearts heavenward; destroying all creature confidence, he forces us to look to him for everything and causes us to “cry unto the Lord.” Then, he appears again in the revelation of his goodness. Then, how sweet the experience! — “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory” (Psalm 102:16). Be assured, child of God, that “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Blessed Son of God, are these the lessons you teach us in the deadness, emptiness, and barrenness of soul that makes us groan? Oh, for grace to cease from self and have my whole heart and soul fixed upon you, in whom alone is all righteousness, grace, redemption, and fulness! Ever make me to know my weakness, my Redeemer, for when I am most weak in myself, then, I am most strong in you and in the power of your might.





Don Fortner








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