Lesson 9

Trials, Tribulations, and Lists

(Daniel 5, Ezra 8, Nehemiah 11)
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Introduction: A famous preacher mentioned in a sermon that God helps him find good parking spaces. As I listened my reaction was to agree. God does small kindnesses for me. I pray for small kindnesses for others - like finding their car keys. Some strongly criticize this idea. Why would God trouble Himself with your parking spot when people are dying of cancer? There is a false assumption in this criticism. It assumes that God has limited resources and finding your keys means someone else will suffer loss. I believe in an unlimited God! Our lesson this week is about God's attention to small details. Let's jump into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Keeping Track


    1. Read Daniel 1:1-2. We have studied this tragedy in the past. What two things are lost? (God's people are lost to captivity. The articles in God's temple are taken by the invaders.)


      1. Should Daniel not have mentioned the temple articles and simply focused on the human tragedy? (Those of you who know this story know that God sanctioned this defeat because His people had been unfaithful to Him.)


    2. Read Ezra 1:7-11. Are you surprised that the Babylonians kept such detailed records of what they took from each conquered nation?


      1. Is there a theological lesson here? (If something is important to humans, who have very limited abilities, why would we think it was unimportant to God, who has unlimited abilities?


      2. When my son was very young, he lost his most important toy, a teddy bear, at Disney World. We prayed about it and I walked straight to the place where it had been lost. My grandson's most important toy, a puppet, was lost for days. They prayed about it and God led his mother to where it was located. Are those important or unimportant events? (We talk about the found teddy bear thirty years later! My grandson sings praises to God for his recovered puppet. These are major faith events for a child.)


    3. Read Daniel 5:1-4. What does this teach us about reasons why the Babylonians would keep careful records? (It was not about the articles, it was about theology! It about how their gods defeated the God of Heaven.)


    4. Read Daniel 5:13-14 and Daniel 5:26-28. How does God view the issues here?


      1. What does this teach us about finding good parking spaces and our car keys? (The issue is not what needs to be found, the issue is who we worship.)


      2. What about those who are suffering or dying from cancer? Is it the same issue? (I believe it is the same issue. Who is your God? This shows us that the issue is not about us, but about God.)


      3. What about the charge that people who involve God in minor matters treat Him like a vending machine? (If you had a good friend with you, would you ask your friend to help you look for your keys? I would.)


  2. Trusting God


    1. We learned that King Cyrus returned the articles taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. Did he include transportation back to Jerusalem?


    2. Read Ezra 8:21-22. The answer to the previous question is "No." What dilemma did Ezra face? (He had been bragging about his God, so why should he need soldiers to guard them as they brought all this treasure back to Jerusalem?)


      1. What would you have done? Do you trust God and carry a gun? Do you trust God and purchase insurance on your home? Do you trust God and lock your doors?


        1. Where does trust cross over the line into presumption? Can it ever cross that line?


    3. Read Ezra 8:23. How did Ezra answer this question? (He fasted and prayed. He did not answer the question, he asked God to answer it.)


      1. Did God answer? (The Bible says that He did.)


      2. Would you be able to tell whether God was answering you, and what answer He gave?


      3. Will God shout if necessary? (The major decisions in my life have been pretty obvious. In college my wife to be sat right next to me when I was the only one in the room and there were 99 other empty seats. God has been clear in His direction for my legal career, even being very specific about where I should teach. God was clear when we started these lessons.)


      4. Sometime after the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C. in 2001, I had the very strong impression that I should move out of the Washington, D.C. area. I thought there would be another attack, this time nuclear. Although I ended up moving in 2013, my impression was wrong. I don't trust myself when God is less than obvious.


    4. Read Ezra 8:24-29. Why does Ezra weigh the temple articles? (It proves the amount with which they were entrusted. This has to do with honesty.)


      1. How do you think the twelve priests and their helpers transported this fortune? It would have been worth millions today! (I have the sense that they distributed everything among themselves. They did not put it in one big wagon and transport it.)


    5. Read Ezra 8:30-33. If we are right to understand that all this wealth has been distributed, is it fair to say that Ezra was depending on stealth and deception for protection against bandits, and not relying solely on God? (Reliance on God does not mean you stop thinking. That is one reason why I have insurance on my home and I lock my doors.)


    6. Read Nehemiah 11:1-2. How do you understand this - did the people want to live in Jerusalem or not? (The commentaries that I read uniformly understand this as requiring people to live in Jerusalem. Most wanted to live in the country.)


      1. Look again at Nehemiah 11:2. If people who "won" the lottery got to live in Jerusalem, why would those who volunteered to live in Jerusalem be "commended?" (This makes the matter clear. The leaders agreed to live in Jerusalem, brave volunteers agreed to live there, and then they cast lots to see who else would be required to live in Jerusalem. An important reason for requiring this was to have an adequate defense for Jerusalem.)


    7. Read Nehemiah 11:3. Why would people prefer to live in the towns instead of Jerusalem? (Read Nehemiah 7:6. This shows that they claimed their historic family property. They wanted to live in the places that had historically been assigned to their tribe and their family.)


      1. What other reason might they not want to live in Jerusalem? (It is the point of attack for their enemies. From my perspective, thousands of years later, I would prefer living inside the walls if the attackers were outside.)


      2. Now the hard question. If they trusted God, why would they need to have a certain amount of people inside Jerusalem to help defend it?


        1. Is this a failure of faith? (This reinforces the idea that God wants us to use common sense. We are partners with Him to further the Kingdom of God.)


      3. Many years ago the leaders of my local congregation found a wonderful piece of land to build a new church. Nothing was wrong with our old church, except that we wanted to grow. When everything was in place, the question was whether we should agree to buy the new property before the old church was sold. Was that a test of faith? (The leaders decided not to take the risk. Shortly thereafter, property values plunged. Had the leaders gone forth on "faith," the congregation would have been legally responsible for the now overpriced new property and they would have been unable to sell the old church for an adequate price. It would have been a disaster. God could have worked out a solution, but I think we would have needed a clear message from Him before we purchased the new property.)


    8. Friend, God cares about us in both the small and large matters of life. He wants us to be His partner in living. He expects us to consult with Him. When we are not clear on His will, we should use the wisdom that He gave us. Will you ask God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to help you work more closely with Him?


  3. Next week: Worshiping the Lord.

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Lessons on Ezra and Nehemiah

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