The Bible Differs From All Other Religious Books Because It Accurately Predicts the Future
INTERESTING FACTS : James Manning, MEMBER OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS; PRESIDENT OF BROWN UNIVERSITY
"I rejoice that the religion of Jesus prevails in your parts; I can tell you the same agreeable news from this quarter. Yesterday I returned from Piscataway in East Jersey, where was held a Baptist annual meeting (I think the largest I ever saw) but much more remarkable still for the Divine influences which God was pleased to grant. Fifteen were baptized; a number during the three days professed to experience a change of heart. Christians were remarkably quickened; multitudes appeared."
DAILY READING : EZRA 4 - 7
TEXT : Ezr 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Ezr 1:2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Ezr 1:3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
THEME : PROPHECY
As we read through Ezra, we find ourselves in the period of Judah's history after the kings. It is the time after the nation of Judah is taken captive by Babylon, and is about to return to the land they lost through sinning against God. This captivity lasted for seventy years as announced by the LORD through the prophet Jeremiah.
Ezra, who is called "a ready scribe," designating his diligence in performing his duty as a scribe, follows the LORD with all his heart, soul, and strength. It is he who has the task of instructing the people of God in the Word of God, as the Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar, and plundered, is rebuilt under the guidance and direction of Nehemiah. Also prominent during this time is Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These prophets, particularly Haggai and Zachariah play a key role in helping rebuild the Temple, chiefly when the Temple work is halted due to opposit ion. The preaching or prophesying of these two prophets were an inspiration as they exhorted the people to continue rebuilding the Temple, which they did.
Ezra is a descendant of Hilkiah the priest who found the Book of the Law [ Deuteronomy or perhaps the entire Pentateuch] during the reign of the godly king Josiah. He is also a descendant of Aaron through Phineas. Ezra is also thought to have initiated the system of laws for the scribes, the collation, editing, and rewriting of the Canon of the Old Testament Scriptures, the establishment of the synagogue, and a few other matters. It is not possible to state with any certainty all that Ezra may have accomplished in his life, since some of these views belong to [Jewish] tradition.
"He was "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," who "had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." "He is," says Professor Binnie, " the first well-defined example of an order of men who have never since ceased in the church; men of sacred erudition, who devote their lives to the study of the Holy Scriptures, in order that they may be in a condition to interpret them for the instruction and edification of the church. It is significant that the earliest mention of the pulpit occurs in the history of Ezra's ministry (Neh_8:4). He was much more of a teacher than a priest. We learn from the account of his labours in the book of Nehemiah that he was careful to have the whole people instructed in the law of Moses; and there is no reason to reject the constant tradition of the Jews which connects his name with the collecting and editing of the Old Testament canon. The final completion of the canon may have been, and probably was, the work of a later generation; but Ezra seems to have put it much into the shape in which it is still found in the Hebrew Bible. When it is added that the complete organization of the synagogue dates from this period, it will be seen that the age was emphatically one of Biblical study" [Easton's Bible Dictionary]
There are a few salient facts concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its Temple that command our attention. First, is that the people of Judah went into captivity because of their violation of God's laws. Second, it was told to them if they did not repent, the Babylonians would come and take their land and carry them away captive for [exactly] seventy years. Third, this was a prophecy - the unique aspect of the Bible proving it to be God's Word and not [merely]man's, since no one can accurately predict the future except God. Fourth, although God fulfilled His Word by the decree of Cyrus of Persia [once the Persians conquered the Babylonians], it was a work opposed by man.
From these aspects of Judah's history, we learn that God is no respecter of persons. "The soul that sins shall die," is what God has told us. [Ezekiel 18:4; 20] Under the New Covenant, Jesus foretells us that without repentance and being born of the Holy Spirit, captivity awaits every living soul. The difference is, Hell is forever, not just seventy years. We also see that any true wok of God will be opposed by Satan and Man.
Ezr 4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; Ezr 4:2 Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. Ezr 4:3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Ezr 4:4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, Ezr 4:5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Zec_3:1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of t he LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. Zec_3:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
"Adversaries - i. e., the Samaritans, a mixed race, partly Israelite but chiefly foreign, which had replaced to some extent the ancient inhabitants after they were carried into captivity by Sargon (see 2Ki_17:6 note)." [Albert Barnes]
"E very attempt to revive true religion will stir up the opposition of Satan, and of those in whom he works. The adversaries were the Samaritans, who had been planted in the land of Israel, 2 Kings 17. It was plain that they did not mean to unite in the worship of the Lord, according to his word. Let those who discourage a good work, and weaken them that are employed in it, see whose pattern they follow." [Matthew Henry]
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "THE BIBLE DIFFERS FROM ALL OTHER RELIGIOUS BOOKS BECAUSE IT ACCURATELY PREDICTS THE FUTURE!
The Book of Ezra opens with an engaging statement - "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing..."
Ezra 1:1 is a prediction, that is, a prophecy, uttered about one hundred years before Judah leaves the land and returns, and shows the distinct nature of the Bible. That is, it foretells the future. Moreover, it foretells it with amazing precision and accuracy.
Jer 25:9 Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Jer 25:10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. Jer 25:11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jer 25:12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. Jer 25:13 And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations.
"According to the uniform teaching of the Bible the prophet is a speaker of or for God. His words are not the production of his own spirit, but come from a higher source. For he is at the same time, also, a seer, who sees things that do not lie in the domain of natural sight, or who hears things which human ears do not ordinarily receive." [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]
Such is the uncanny accuracy of the Bible. Written by God, it tells us what is to come. In many cases, prophecies uttered by the mouth of the Prophets are already fulfilled. Yet, the Bible still has a number of predictions yet to come. Most significant among those prophecies is the return of Jesus Christ and His coming to judge the living and the dead. The judgments of the Book of Revelation still sleep. Yet, one day they will be awakened by God and fulfilled. After this, the entire world will see a period of Tribulation much worse than what Judah saw in their seventy years in Babylon. Then, as Jesus judges all who live or ever have lived, people will spend eternity - somewhere. Either in captivity in the Lake of Fire, or in freedom in God's Kingdom. Yet, everyone will be where they are by choice.
The great prediction which runs like a golden thread through the whole contents of the Old Testament is that regarding the coming and work of the Messiah; and the great use of prophecy was to perpetuate faith in his coming, and to prepare the world for that event. But there are many subordinate and intermediate prophecies also which hold an important place in the great chain of events which illustrate the sovereignty and all-wise overruling providence of God." [ Easton's Bible Dictionary]
Hence, we should learn a lesson from the people of Judah. Heed the warnings of the Holy Scriptures! They did not believe the Prophets. Yet, they went into captivity just the same. They did not listen to Jeremiah, but spent seventy years in Babylon. Like Ezra, God is building His Church today. It is a sovereign work of God, and not under the dominion of Man. We must cooperate with Him, and thereby be blessed and safe. We must find ourselves on the walls at work for Him when He comes. Though difficult and opposed by men as Ezra and Nehemiah were, the Church will be built even as Jerusalem and the Temple were. We are assured, by the prophecies of God, His will shall prevail. Let us be found in submission to His will, for will be ill with those who do not. Remember, the Bible differs from every other religious book because it accurately predicts the future!