September 29 - 3 John, Ezra 7-8 and Psalm 94

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1From the church leader.
To my dear friend Gaius.
I love you because we follow the truth, 2dear friend, and I pray that all goes well for you. I hope that you are as strong in body, as I know you are in spirit. 3It makes me very happy when the Lord's followers come by and speak openly of how you obey the truth. 4Nothing brings me greater happiness than to hear that my children are obeying the truth.

Working Together

5Dear friend, you have always been faithful in helping other followers of the Lord, even the ones you didn't know before. 6They have told the church about your love. They say you were good enough to welcome them and to send them on their mission in a way that God's servants deserve. 7When they left to tell others about the Lord, they decided not to accept help from anyone who wasn't a follower. 8We must support people like them, so that we can take part in what they are doing to spread the truth.
9I wrote to the church. But Diotrephes likes to be the number-one leader, and he won't pay any attention to us. 10So if I come, I will remind him of how he has been attacking us with gossip. Not only has he been doing this, but he refuses to welcome any of the Lord's followers who come by. And when other church members want to welcome them, he puts them out of the church.
11Dear friend, don't copy the evil deeds of others! Follow the example of people who do kind deeds. They are God's children, but those who are always doing evil have never seen God.
12Everyone speaks well of Demetrius, and so does the true message that he teaches. I also speak well of him, and you know what I say is true.

Final Greetings

13I have much more to say to you, but I don't want to write it with pen and ink. 14I hope to see you soon, and then we can talk in person.
15I pray that God will bless you with peace!
Your friends send their greetings. Please give a personal greeting to each of our friends.

Ezra Comes to Jerusalem

Ezra 7 1-6Much later, when Artaxerxes was king of Persia, Ezra came to Jerusalem from Babylonia. Ezra was the son of Seraiah and the grandson of Azariah. His other ancestors were Hilkiah, Shallum, Zadok, Ahitub, Amariah, Azariah, Meraioth, Zerahiah, Uzzi, Bukki, Abishua, Phinehas, Eleazar, and Aaron, the high priest.
Ezra was an expert in the Law that the LORD God of Israel had given to Moses, and the LORD made sure that the king gave Ezra everything he asked for.
7Other Jews, including priests, Levites, musicians, the temple guards, and servants, came to Jerusalem with Ezra. This happened during the seventh year that Artaxerxes was king.
8-9God helped Ezra, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month of that seventh year, after leaving Babylonia on the first day of the first month. 10Ezra had spent his entire life studying and obeying the Law of the LORD and teaching it to others.

Artaxerxes Gives a Letter to Ezra

11Ezra was a priest and an expert in the laws and commands that the LORD had given to Israel. One day King Artaxerxes gave Ezra a letter which said:

12Greetings from the great King Artaxerxes to Ezra the priest and expert in the teachings of the God of heaven.

13-14Any of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom may go with you to Jerusalem if they want to. My seven advisors and I agree that you may go to Jerusalem and Judah to find out if the laws of your God are being obeyed.

15When you go, take the silver and gold that I and my advisors are freely giving to the God of Israel, whose temple is in Jerusalem. 16Take the silver and gold that you collect from everywhere in Babylonia. Also take the gifts that your own people and priests have so willingly contributed for the temple of your God in Jerusalem.

17Use the money carefully to buy the best bulls, rams, lambs, grain, and wine. Then sacrifice them on the altar at God's temple in Jerusalem. 18If any silver or gold is left, you and your people may use it for whatever pleases your God. 19Give your God the other articles that have been contributed for use in his temple. 20If you need to get anything else for the temple, you may have the money you need from the royal treasury.

21Ezra, you are a priest and an expert in the laws of the God of heaven, and I order all treasurers in Western Province to do their very best to help you. 22They will be allowed to give as much as 7,500 pounds of silver, 500 bushels of wheat, 550 gallons of wine, 550 gallons of olive oil, and all the salt you need.

23They must provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his temple, so that he won't be angry with me and with the kings who rule after me. 24We want you to know that no priests, Levites, musicians, guards, temple servants, or any other temple workers will have to pay any kind of taxes.

25Ezra, use the wisdom God has given you and choose officials and leaders to govern the people of Western Province. These leaders should know God's laws and have them taught to anyone who doesn't know them. 26Everyone who fails to obey God's Law or the king's law will be punished without pity. They will either be executed or put in prison or forced to leave their country, or have all they own taken away.

Ezra Praises God

27Because King Artaxerxes was so kind, Ezra said:

Praise the LORD God of our ancestors! He made sure that the king honored the LORD's temple in Jerusalem. 28God has told the king, his advisors, and his powerful officials to treat me with kindness. The LORD God has helped me, and I have been able to bring many Jewish leaders back to Jerusalem.

The Families Who Came Back with Ezra

Ezra 8 Artaxerxes was king of Persia when I led the following chiefs of the family groups from Babylonia to Jerusalem:
2-14Gershom of the Phinehas family;
Daniel of the Ithamar family;
Hattush son of Shecaniah of the David family;
Zechariah and 150 other men of the Parosh family, who had family records;
Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah with 200 men of the Pahath Moab family;
Shecaniah son of Jahaziel with 300 men of the Zattu family;
Ebed son of Jonathan with 50 men of the Adin family;
Jeshaiah son of Athaliah with 70 men of the Elam family;
Zebadiah son of Michael with 80 men of the Shephatiah family;
Obadiah son of Jehiel with 218 men of the Joab family;
Shelomith son of Josiphiah with 160 men of the Bani family;
Zechariah son of Bebai with 28 men of the Bebai family;
Johanan son of Hakkatan with 110 men of the Azgad family;
Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah who returned sometime later with 60 men of the Adonikam family;
Uthai and Zaccur with 70 men of the Bigvai family.

Ezra Finds Levites for the Temple

15I brought everyone together by the river that flows to the town of Ahava where we camped for three days. Not one Levite could be found among the people and priests. 16So I sent for the leaders Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam. I also sent for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were very wise. 17Then I sent them to Iddo, the leader at Casiphia, and I told them to ask him and his temple workers to send people to serve in God's temple.
18God was kind to us and had them send a skillful man named Sherebiah, who was a Levite from the family of Mahli. Eighteen of his relatives came with him. 19We were also sent Hashabiah and Jeshaiah from the family of Merari along with twenty of their relatives. 20In addition, 220 others came to help the Levites in the temple. The ancestors of these workers had been chosen years ago by King David and his officials, and they were all listed by name.

Ezra Asks the People To Go without Eating and To Pray

21Beside the Ahava River, I asked the people to go without eating and to pray. We humbled ourselves and asked God to bring us and our children safely to Jerusalem with all of our possessions. 22I was ashamed to ask the king to send soldiers and cavalry to protect us against enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king that our God takes care of everyone who truly worships him, but that he gets very angry and punishes anyone who refuses to obey. 23So we went without food and asked God himself to protect us, and he answered our prayers.

The Gifts for the Temple

24I chose twelve of the leading priests--Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their relatives. 25-27Then I weighed the gifts that had been given for God's temple, and I divided them among the twelve priests I had chosen. There were gifts of silver and gold, as well as the articles that the king, his advisors and officials, and the people of Israel had contributed. In all there were: 25 tons of silver; 100 silver articles weighing 150 pounds; 7,500 pounds of gold; 20 gold bowls weighing 270 ounces; and 2 polished bronze articles as valuable as gold.
28I said to the priests:

You belong to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and these things also belong to him. The silver and gold were willingly given as gifts to the LORD. 29Be sure to guard them and keep them safe until you reach Jerusalem. Then weigh them inside God's temple in the presence of the chief priests, the Levites, and the heads of the Israelite families.

30The priests and Levites then took charge of the gifts that had been weighed, so they could take them to the temple of our God in Jerusalem.

The Return to Jerusalem

31On the twelfth day of the first month, we left the Ahava River and started for Jerusalem. Our God watched over us, and as we traveled along, he kept our enemies from ambushing us.
32After arriving in Jerusalem, we rested for three days. 33Then on the fourth day we went to God's temple, where the silver, the gold, and the other things were weighed and given to the priest Meremoth son of Uriah. With him were Eleazar son of Phinehas and the two Levites, Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. 34Everything was counted, weighed, and recorded.
35Those who had returned from exile offered sacrifices on the altar to the God of Israel. Twelve bulls were offered for all Israel. Ninety-six rams and seventy-seven lambs were offered on the altar. And twelve goats were sacrificed for the sins of the people. 36Some of those who had returned took the king's orders to the governors and officials in Western Province. Then the officials did what they could for the people and for the temple of God.

Psalm 94
The L
ORD Punishes the Guilty

1LORD God, you punish the guilty.
Show what you are like and punish them now.
2You judge the earth. Come and help us!
Pay back those proud people for what they have done.
3How long will the wicked celebrate and be glad?

4All of those cruel people strut and boast,
5and they crush and wound your chosen nation, LORD.
6They murder widows, foreigners, and orphans.
7Then they say,
"The LORD God of Jacob doesn't see or know."

8Can't you fools see? Won't you ever learn?
9God gave us ears and eyes! Can't he hear and see?
10God instructs the nations and gives knowledge to us all.
Won't he also correct us?
11The LORD knows how useless our plans really are.
12Our LORD, you bless everyone
that you instruct and teach by using your Law.
13You give them rest from their troubles,
until a pit can be dug for the wicked.
14You won't turn your back on your chosen nation.
15Justice and fairness will go hand in hand,
and all who do right will follow along.

16Who will stand up for me against those cruel people?
17If you had not helped me, LORD,
I would soon have gone to the land of silence.
18When I felt my feet slipping,
you came with your love and kept me steady.
19And when I was burdened with worries,
you comforted me and made me feel secure.
20But you are opposed to dishonest lawmakers
21who gang up to murder innocent victims.

22You, LORD God, are my fortress,
that mighty rock where I am safe.
23You will pay back my enemies,
and you will wipe them out for the evil they did.

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This reading is from The Holy Bible, Contemporary English Version, copyright © American Bible Society, 1995.

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