The Placebo Replacement
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek of him a straight way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to ask of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way, because we had spoken to the king, saying, The hand of our God is on all those who seek him, for good; but his power and his wrath is against all those who forsake him. So we fasted and begged our God for this: and he was entreated of us. Ezra 8:21 WEB
Ezra and Nehemiah lived as exiles during a dark time in the history of Israel. Their forefathers had forsaken the living God and replaced Him with something else, something more passive, a placebo god. It was a strange situation because even though they had originally built the altars and temples for God, and the priests continued their work just as usual, God was no longer there.
The priests continued their daily offerings, even though God was sick of them (Isaiah 1:14, Jeremiah 6:20, 7:21, Hosea 4:13). He had told them: 'Listen to My voice and I will be your God, and you shall be My people, and walk in the way that I command you' (Jeremiah 7:23), but they had turned that commandment into rote tradition. Keeping a long list of rules with no relationship at all, they were spiritually deaf and it became the blind leading the blind. Oddly enough, church life continues long after God has left the building.
A placebo is a harmless pill designed to merely calm, or please someone, and it has no therapeutic effect. It's Latin origin literally means 'I shall please.'
God sent Jeremiah to warn them and tell them the truth, but instead of listening, they became furious and wanted to kill him. 'The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of Yahweh. It happened, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that Yahweh had commanded him to speak to all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold on him, saying, 'You shall surely die'' (Jeremiah 26:7).
God's word was no longer welcome in His own house and they beat His prophets and put them in jail (Jeremiah 20:2). He sent many messengers to try and correct them, but they beat them, stoned them and refused to believe that God had sent them (1Kings 13:1). Amos was a shepherd and a farmer, but God gave him a message for Israel and sent him to them to try and wake His people up. God's priests were deaf and continuing on in their daily drudgery, stubbornly rejecting His correction, and leading the people into worshiping a fake placebo god. The priest told God's prophet to get out, and stay out.
'Amaziah also said to Amos, 'You seer, go, flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: but don't prophesy again any more at Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a royal house!' Then Amos answered Amaziah: 'I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was a herdsman, and a farmer of sycamore trees; and Yahweh took me from following the flock, and Yahweh said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' Now therefore listen to the word of Yahweh' (Amos 7:12).
Eventually God had enough of this and stirred up Assyria to destroy Israel and carry the people into exile, then Babylon to capture Judah. They burned the cities, destroyed the temples, and carried the people away into exile. God gave it a reboot and started over, much like the flood during Noah's day.
Jeremiah prophesied that after seventy years in exile, that God would visit them and bring them back (Jeremiah 29:10). When the seventy years were up, Daniel began praying, fasting and reminding God of His word to them (Daniel 9:2). Isaiah had prophesied 150 years before Cyrus became king, that he would be the one to rebuild the Lord's temple (Isaiah 44:28). God called King Cyrus by name 150 years before he came on the scene.
This is the time when Ezra and Nehemiah lived. The seventy years in exile were completed and King Cyrus, a pagan king used by God, gave an order to rebuild the temple of God at Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1) and the remnants of the Jewish people began returning home after spending seventy years in exile.
Ezra had gotten caught in his own words while speaking to King Cyrus. He had told the king how powerful God was and that He was good to those that sought Him, but His power and wrath is against those who forsake Him. The roads were very dangerous to travel during that time, and Ezra was now ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to protect them after his speech. So he proclaimed a corporate fast and they humbled themselves before God. They fasted and begged for God's favor, and He gave them His protection (Ezra 8:23).
God always has a redemption plan in place before His judgment comes. When the world was destroyed by a flood in Noah's time, God kept a remnant alive to rebuild it. When Israel was destroyed and taken into exile, God brought a remnant back safely to rebuild. Isaiah prophesying of Cyrus 150 years before, shows that God was already working on a way to restore a proper relationship with His people, before the fall began.
God always makes a way for the fallen to return to His family, not as an outcast, but as a fully accepted, loved person of status just as the prodigal son returned home to a feast, a signet ring, the finest robe, and sandals (Luke 15:22). You are a true son or daughter of the Most High God, with nothing to be ashamed of. No matter what you have done in your life, God wants you back with Him.
He was working out the way for you to return, before you ever left. He already set the time for you to go free, before you were taken captive. He knows you by name and even the hairs of your head are numbered (Luke 12:7). For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).Prayer: Heavenly Father I ask for and accept Your forgiveness for my sins. Help me return to You in every area of my life. Consume me with Your love Lord and let me see through Your eyes today, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.
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