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“A New Hope”, by Pastor Bruce Plummer

December 30, 2018

In this last message of 2018, we’ll find that there is an example of how to approach the next year ahead. It’s found in the life and ministry of Ezra, who chose New Year’s Day to leave on the adventure of his life! We’ll talk together about what made his transition so successful.

Listen to the Sermon

Sermon Notes

No, this is not a Star Wars message…
     But this was set in our galaxy long time ago. And yet it has implications for right now, that’s the beauty of the Scriptures.
 
     The backdrop of the events we read about is the time when Nehemiah was leading the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem and then the buildings inside the wall, eventually. This was at the end of the captivity, while the nation of Israel was still in Babylon/Persia. God was answering prayers that were aligned with prophecy that the time had come for restoration. 
 
     And Nehemiah had been used by God to rebuild the physical/political life of Jerusalem, the capital.
 
     Ezra came later and he and the spiritual servants addressed the re-establishment of the spiritual life of the Nation. First the natural then the spiritual.
 
     Here’s how Ezra 7 begins:
      Ezra 7.1-6
 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah… this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.
 
     Ezra, like Nehemiah, came from the land of captivity and was released to return to Jerusalem by the current kings. You and I know that it was the Lord who released them all. Government is subject to the Lord.
 
     Ezra 7.9-10
      On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.
 
     Yes, Ezra left captivity headed for Jerusalem and revival, on New Year’s Day.
 
     What are your expectations of 2019?
      The same old same old? We start the New Year with hopes and dreams or maybe just the thought that we’ll continue what we’ve been doing with no new hopes. Maybe because our hopes were dashed before. The new gym membership ended up with a binge on birthday cake. The relationship we thought had such hope didn’t work out so well. And on it goes. 
 
      But that’s not what God has for us. He has new hope for us in every new day and every new year. I love how God uses the calendar. So let’s find out what went into Ezra’s successful transition to a new life.
 
    1. Ezra was a man prepared.
     
       a. He had a clear relationship to the High (Chief) Priest.
That is what all those names in the beginning of the chapter tell us. Ezra had descended from Aaron, the first High Priest and the brother of Moses. For us, we also need a clear relationship to the Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Is your relationship with Him clear?
       b. He had studied and understood and applied the Scriptures, the Word of God.
We need, if we’re going to get to where we’re hoping, to be regularly in God’s Word individually and corporately.
       c. Ezra had a good reputation. Hey, the King let him go! Reputation is built on the structure of day after day integrity. Truth telling and promise keeping. That accumulates over time and can be tarnished or ruined in one act of unfaithfulness.
 
     Your future is linked to your everyday life habits. You build them over time.
 
      2. Ezra took the next steps purposely and prayerfully.
 
     He took the initial group, on New Year’s Day, and traveled a few days out, to a place called Ahava. But he was aware that the group wasn’t complete. 
      Ezra 8.15, 17-18
      Now I gathered them by the river that flows to Ahava, and we camped there three days. And I looked among the people and the priests, and found none of the sons of Levi there. 
       And I gave them a command for Iddo the chief man at the place Casiphia, 
 and I told them what they should say to Iddo and his brethren the Nethinim at the place Casiphia—that they should bring us servants for the house of our God. 18 Then, by the good hand of our God upon us, they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, the son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, with his sons and brothers, eighteen men;
 
     Next steps:
     a. Join with others whose gifts are critical.
Who you major in, relationship wise, will have an effect on the next destination.
      b.  Pray, fast and trust
      Ezra 8.21,23
      Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.
 So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. 
     c. Move ahead with courage and wisdom
     They had a four month journey ahead of them. That’s a long time to be carrying riches and not have them robbed along the way. Are there dangers out ahead of you? Are you afraid of what could transpire? If God has called you, move ahead into whatever He has shown you, no matter how scary. But be wise. And then actually follow through.
     Ezra 8.31-32
 Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road. 32 So we came to Jerusalem, and stayed there three days.
 
     Yes, they actually followed through. And they more than made it, they accomplished what they set out to do. 
     The pattern is the same for us.
Prepare.
Join with others.
Pray, fast and trust.
Move ahead with courage and wisdom.
     Actually accomplish your God given future.
 
     You won’t get there by just watching the calendar go by. You need much more!