Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
Ezr 1 — GOOD NEWS FROM PERSIA
"Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: 'All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and He has also charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.' " Ezra 1:2; 2 Chronicles 36:23
The books of Chronicles continue with the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The final word is not the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile but renewal and rebuilding. This was miraculously decreed by the pagan, King Cyrus of Persia.
Prayer: Father, instill in me so great a love for Your Church that I will lay down my life for her renewal (see Eph 5:25).
Promise: "Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem." 1:4
Ezr 2 — COUNTING SHEEP
"The entire assembly taken together came to forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, not counting their male and female slaves, who were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven." Ezra 2:64-65
The chronicler loves to count so much that he even records the pitifully low number of those who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
Prayer: Father, may I count four billion new people led into Your Kingdom.
Promise: "When they arrived at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family heads made free-will offerings for the house of God, to rebuild it in its place." 2:68
Ezr 3 — THE COURAGE TO BEGIN
"Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua, son of Jozadak, together with the rest of their brethren, the priests and Levites and all who had come from the captivity to Jerusalem, began." Ezra 3:8
Jeshua and Zerubbabel, "despite their fear of the peoples of the land...replaced the altar on its foundations and offered holocausts to the Lord on it, both morning and evening" (3:3). They even laid the foundation of the Temple and began rebuilding it. Compared to the glorious old Temple, the new foundation of the Temple looked pathetic; thus, many of the old-timers "cried out in sorrow" (3:12). "Many others, however, lifted up their voices in shouts of joy" (3:12).
Prayer: Father, today may I begin dealing with some of the monumental problems in our society.
Promise: "They alternated in songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, 'for He is good, for His kindness to Israel endures forever'; and all the people raised a great shout of joy, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord's house had been laid." 3:11
Ezr 4 — A FOUR-WAY STOP
"They went in all haste to the Jews in Jerusalem and stopped their work by force of arms. Thus it was that the work on the house of God in Jerusalem was halted." Ezra 4:23-24
Satan used jealousy, fear, and anything else he could concoct to stop the rebuilding of the Temple. "Thereupon the people of the land set out to intimidate and dishearten the people of Judah so as to keep them from building" (4:4).
Prayer: Father, may I stop the devil rather than be stopped by him.
Ezr 5 — STOP AND GO
"Thereupon Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua, son of Jozadak, began again to build the house of God in Jerusalem, with the prophets of God giving them support." Ezra 5:2
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah said to go on building the house of God. The local officials cried "Stop." As always, the prophets eventually had their way.
Prayer: Father, give me the power to prophesy to the dry bones and make them rattle (Ez 37:7).
Promise: "But their God watched over the elders of the Jews so that they were not hindered." 5:5
Ezr 6 — BACKFIRE
"They joyfully kept the feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days, for the Lord had filled them with joy by making the king of Assyria favorable to them, so that he gave them help in their work on the house of God, the God of Israel." Ezra 6:22
The opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple backfired when, at the opposition's request, King Darius searched the Persian archives for King Cyrus' memorandum authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. When Darius found it, he forbade any interference with the Temple's rebuilding and even subsidized the rebuilding. So the Temple was completed and dedicated, and the Passover was celebrated.
Prayer: "And may the God Who causes His name to dwell there overthrow every king or people who may undertake to alter this or to destroy this house of God" (6:12).
Promise: "The Israelites priests, Levites, and the other returned exiles celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy." 6:16
Ezr 7 — TEMPLE AND TORAH
"This Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses which was given by the Lord, the God of Israel. Because the hand of the Lord, his God, was upon him, the king granted him all that he requested." Ezra 7:6
King Artaxerxes sent a party led by Ezra "to supervise Judah and Jerusalem in respect of the law" (7:14). The exterior worship in the Temple must be accompanied by the interior commitment to live God's law.
Prayer: Father, may the depths of my heart be the same as my outward appearance.
Promise: "Ezra had set his heart on the study and practice of the law of the Lord and on teaching statutes and ordinances in Israel." 7:10
Ezr 8 — MOVING VAN
"Then I proclaimed a fast, there by the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to petition from Him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions." Ezra 8:21
The Lord granted Ezra and his companions a safe journey to Jerusalem. Also, "the silver and the gold and the utensils offered for the house of our God by the king" (8:25) were transported securely.
Prayer: Father, I praise You for protecting me for all these years.
Promise: "The favoring hand of our God is upon all who seek Him, but His mighty wrath is against all who forsake Him." 8:22
Ezr 9 — MIXED MARRIAGES
"They have desecrated the holy race with the peoples of the land." Ezra 9:2
When Ezra heard that many of the Israelite laymen, priests, and Levites had married pagan wives, he tore his cloak and mantle, plucked hair from his head and beard, and sat there stupefied. He remained motionless for several hours; finally, he fell on his knees and prayed.
Prayer: "O Lord, God of Israel, You are just; yet we have been spared, the remnant we are today. Here we are before You in our sins." 9:15
Ezr 10 — MARRIAGE AND RENEWAL
"Let us therefore enter into a covenant before our God to dismiss all our foreign wives and the children born of them, in keeping with what You, my Lord, advise, and those who fear the commandments of our God. Let the law be observed!" Ezra 10:3
The people repented of disobeying God's law forbidding marrying women from the pagan nations. Any authentic renewal must result in dramatically transformed marriages.
Prayer: Father, may husbands and wives cry tears of repentance and put themselves and their marriages under Your lordship.
Promise: "But now, give praise to the Lord, the God of your fathers, and do His will: separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from these foreign women." 10:11
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratsch, June 20, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 1996
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