Monday, November 10, 2008


I have a friend I’ll call “Joann.” She’s given me permission to share her stories as long as I don’t use her real name – to protect the innocent…and the guilty – ha! I’ve only recently gotten to know Joann, but she’s kept me in stitches with the hilarious recounting of her life’s ebb and flow. Most of all I’ve been amazed at the single golden thread that’s woven through each story – the thread of the Gospel shared with a needy soul and God’s transformative power in that person’s life…and in Joann’s. Her first story began with her arrest due to a false accusation. Then a crooked lawyer gave faulty advice, and she was given a yearlong sentence on a work-release crew on weekends, while living at home and working a full-time job Monday through Friday. The result? The work-crew foreman gave his life to Jesus, and revival swept through the county work-crew officers. A few years later, she answered her door and found a policeman standing there with an apologetic smile. “I’m here to arrest you again,” he said. This time she didn’t cry. This time she even put on make-up for the mug shot. After being led to the cell block, when it was the second tiered cells’ turn for walk about, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Alright, who prayed that God would send someone to pray with them tonight? Because I didn’t do what I’m accused of doing, and I shouldn’t be here, so somebody must have prayed for help. I’d like to go home, so if you could just tell me who you are, we could talk about the Lord, and then I can go home.” A little voice in a corner cell said, “I prayed.” Before the night turned to day, that little voice was raised in the sinner’s prayer. And from that night’s experience, Joann began a women’s Bible study at the jail on Sunday mornings at 6:30am. Sometimes God puts us in places we can’t imagine in order to do BIG things for Him. Joann influenced in a prison, Ezra influenced in a palace. We don’t usually get to choose where or when we have or use our influence, but how we handle the opportunity is our own to determine...

Ezra 7:11-12 – “This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel: Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven: Greetings.”
  • Artaxerxes, a pagan king, is about to use a considerable amount of papyrus to ensure this foreign priest/teacher safe passage on a journey to worship a god that’s not the king’s own. However, it’s clear that Artaxerxes has spent much time with Ezra learning about this “God of heaven.”

Ezra 7:13-14 – “Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand.”

  • These verses tell us WHY Ezra was sent to Jerusalem – to ensure the Law of God was being taught and followed in Jerusalem. They also tell us how a copy of the Law found its way back to Jerusalem – in the capable, safe hands of Ezra the priest and teacher.

Ezra 7:15-17 – “Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.”

  • This part of the letter reveals Artaxerxes’ familiarity with the Law of God. The specific terms he uses for offerings, “freewill…grain…drink,” and his specific reference to bulls, rams and male lambs for sacrifice shows some familiarity with Ezra’s teaching.
Ezra 7:18-20 – “You and your brother Jews may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you may have occasion to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.”
  • This pagan king just wrote a blank check and gave it to Ezra – without an itemized receipt for the supplies. And he did it based on his belief that Ezra would hear and KNOW the will of his God.

Lord, You haven’t placed me in a palace, but You have placed me in a circle of people that only I can influence. There are people in my life that will hear my voice, people in whom I’m supposed to plant seed, some whose seed I’m supposed to water, and perhaps some I’ll even be blessed to harvest the fruit of others’ planting. Help me to be a faithful influencer of those in my life, Father.

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