|4 Esdras 8 |
1 And he answered me, saying, "The most High has made this world for many, but the world to come for few.
2 I will tell you an analogy, Esdras: As when you ask the earth, it shall say unto you, that it gives much clay from which earthen vessels are made, but little dust that gold comes of; even so is the course of this present world.
4 So answered I and said, "Swallow then down, O my soul, understanding, and devour wisdom.
5 For you have agreed to give ear, and are willing to prophesy for no longer do you have purpose than only to live.
6 O Lord, if you do not permit your servant, that we may pray before you, and you give us seed unto our heart, and culture to our understanding, that there may come fruit of it; how shall each corrupt man live, who bears the place of a man?
7 For you are alone, and we all one workmanship of your hands, as you have said.
8 For when the body is fashioned now in the mother's womb, and you gives it members, your creature is preserved in fire and water, and for nine months does your workmanship endure your creation that is created in her.
9 But that which keeps and is kept shall both be preserved; and when the time comes, the womb preserved delivers up the things that grew in it.
10 For you have commanded out of the parts of the body, that is to say, out of the breasts, milk to be given, which is the fruit of the breasts,
11 That the thing which is fashioned may be nourished for a time, till you dispose it to your mercy.
12 You brought it up with your righteousness, and nurtured it in your law, and reformed it with your judgment.
13 And you shall mortify it as your creature, and quicken it as your work.
14 If therefore you shall destroy him which with so great labor was fashioned, it is an easy thing to be ordained by your commandment, that the thing which was made might be preserved.
15 Now therefore, Lord, I will speak; touching man in general, you know best; but touching your people, for whose sake I am sorry;1
16 And for yours inheritance, for whose cause I mourn; and for Israel, for whom I am heavy; and for Jacob, for whose sake I am troubled;
17 Therefore will I begin to pray before you for myself and for them: for I see the failures of us that dwell in the land.
18 But I have heard the swiftness of the judge which is to come.
19 Therefore hear my voice, and understand my words, and I shall speak before you. This is the beginning of the words of Esdras, before he was taken up; and I said,
20 O Lord, you who dwell in everlastingness which behold from above things in the heaven and in the air;
21 Whose throne is inestimable; whose glory may not be comprehended; before whom the hosts of angels stand with trembling,
22 Whose service is conversant in wind and fire; whose word is true, and sayings constant; whose commandment is strong, and ordinance fearful;
23 Whose look dries up the depths, and indignation makes the mountains to melt away; which the truth witnesses:
24 O hear the prayer of your servant, and give ear to the petition of your creature.
25 For while I live I will speak, and so long as I have understanding I will answer.
26 O look not upon the sins of your people; but on them which serve you in truth.
27 Regard not the wicked inventions of the heathen, but the desire of those that keep your testimonies in afflictions.
28 Think not upon those that have walked feignedly before you; but remember them, which according to your will have known your fear.
29 Let it not be your will to destroy those who have lived like beasts; but to look upon them that have clearly taught your law.
30 Take you no indignation at those who are deemed worse than beasts; but love those who always put their trust in your righteousness and glory.
31 For we and our fathers do languish of such diseases, but because of us sinners you shall be called merciful.
32 For if you have a desire to have mercy upon us, you shall be called merciful, to us namely, that have no works of righteousness.
33 For the just, which have many good works laid up with you, shall out of their own deeds receive reward.
34 For what is man, that you should take displeasure at him? Or what is a corruptible generation, that you should be so bitter toward it?
35 For in truth there is no man among them that is born, but he has dealt wickedly; and among the faithful there is none which have not done amiss.
36 For in this, O Lord, your righteousness and your goodness shall be declared, if you are merciful unto them which have not the confidence of good works."
37 Then answered he me, and said, "Some things have you spoken aright, and according unto your words it shall be.
38 For indeed I will not think on the disposition of those who have sinned before death, before judgment, before destruction;
39 But I will rejoice over the disposition of the righteous, and I will remember also their pilgrimage, and the salvation, and the reward, that they shall have.
40 Like as I have spoken now, so shall it come to pass.
41 For as the husbandman sows much seed upon the ground, and plants many trees, and yet the thing that is sown good in his season does not come up, neither does all that is planted take root; even so is it of them that are sown in the world; they shall not all be saved."
42 I answered then and said, "If I have found grace, let me speak.
43 Like as the husbandman's seed perishes, if it does not come up, and does not receive your rain in due season; or if there comes too much rain to corrupt it.
44 Even so perishes man also, who is formed with your hands, and is called your own image, because you are like unto him, for whose sake you have made all things, and likened him unto the husbandman's seed.
45 Be not angry with us but spare your people, and have mercy upon your own inheritance for you are merciful unto your creature."
46 Then answered he me, and said, "Things present are for the present, and things to comes for such as be to come.
47 For you come far short that you should be able to love my creature more than I; but I have often drawn near unto you, and unto it, but never to the unrighteous.
48 In this also you are marvelous before the most High,
49 In that you have humbled yourself, as it becomes you, and have not judged yourself worthy to be much glorified among the righteous.
50 For many great miseries shall be done to them that in the latter time shall dwell in the world, because they have walked in great pride.
51 But understand you for yourself, and seek out the glory for such as are like you.
52 For unto you is paradise opened, the tree of life is planted, the time to come is prepared, plenteousness is made ready, a city is built, and rest is allowed — yes, perfect goodness and wisdom.
53 The root of evil is sealed up from you, weakness and the moth is hidden from you, and corruption is fled into Hell to be forgotten.
54 Sorrows are passed, and in the end is shown the treasure of immortality.
55 And therefore ask you no more questions concerning the multitude of those who perish.
56 For when they had taken liberty, they despised the most High, thought scorn of his law, and forsook his ways.
57 Moreover they have trodden down his righteous,
58 And said in their heart, that there is no God; yes, and that knowing they must die.
59 For as the things before said shall receive you, so thirst and pain are prepared for them; for it was not his will that men should come to nothing.
60 But those who were created have defiled the name of him that made them, and were unthankful unto him who prepared life for them.
61 And therefore is my judgment now at hand.
62 These things have I not shown unto all men, but unto you, and a few like you." Then answered I and said,
63 "Behold, O Lord, now have you shown me the multitude of the wonders, which you will begin to do in the last times; but at what time, you have not shown me."
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1 touching man in general, you know best; but touching your people, for whose sake I am sorry. Esdras allows God to judge the Gentiles, as God knows best; but Esdras cannot accept that a Jew will not receive mercy from God. Esdras seems to believe that the Jews deserve special treatment, more mercy than other men. Yet God in not partial to any man, as God makes clear by Ezekiel in response to the accusation that his ways are not fair and just:
"The soul that sins [until physical death], it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
But if the wicked man will turn from all his sins that he has committed and keep all my statutes and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
All his transgressions that he has committed, shall not be remembered against him; in his righteousness that he has done he shall live.
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
But if the righteous turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All his righteousness that he has done shall not be remembered. In his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them he shall die.
Yet you say, 'The way of the LORD is not fair and just.' Hear now, O house of Israel; are not my ways just? Are not your ways unjust?
When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and dies in it; he shall die for his iniquity that he has done.
Again, when the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
Because he considers and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the LORD is not just.' O house of Israel, are not my ways just? Are not your ways unjust?
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent! And turn from all your transgressions, so iniquity will not be your ruin.
Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed; and get a new heart and a new spirit. For why will you die, O house of Israel?
For I have no pleasure in the death of him who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn [from you evil ways] and live!" Ezek 18:20-32.
God has given every man the Light, which pleads with him throughout his life to turn from evil and follow good. Those who respond to his pleas are chosen by God; and if they seek him with all their heart, he will give them a new heart, mind, and spirit — he will perfect them. That is fair. It is man who rejects God, not God favoring one man over another; God would have all men to be saved.
Now those who call themselves Christians, but who are still slaves to sin (still sinning), want to think that because they "believe in Jesus" and go to their sect meetings, they will receive the mercy of God — but instead they will hear: "depart from me you workers of iniquity for I have never known you."
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