Archive for February 8th, 2018

Ezra covers, with the book of Nehemiah, about 100 years from 538BC when Cyrus sent the exiles home to around 430, although this dating is open to debate. We have followed the rebuilding of the temple in the days of Zerubbabel which had held our attention through the first six chapters of Ezra. Now, more than 60 years later, we have Ezra setting out from Babylonia, probably in 458BC, to establish law and order through observance of the Torah.  Like his predecessors, King Artaxerxes is concerned to ensure that the indigenous religions of his occupied territories are correctly observed – keeping ‘the gods’ happy was considered essential not just in keeping the people happy but in invoking the blessing of other ‘gods’ upon the ‘gods’ who were thought to control the life of the king. This policy approach led to the kind of privileges enjoyed by Ezra.

 

Nonetheless there are some distinctives that even Artaxerxes observes about the God of Israel. He describes him as the God of heaven (v.23) which implies a primary position above the ‘gods’; he considers the Law to be the ‘wisdom’ of God (v.25). But his main contribution to history is his willingness to grant favour to Ezra – which Ezra attributes to the Lord (v.27). This is not only seen in permission to set out to Jerusalem, but in provision of resources, the temple vessels, tax exemption and authority to demand other resources locally and to establish a judicial system.

 

The hand of the Lord, the gracious hand of his God (v.9), a favourite phrase of Ezra, is the power behind the throne. But this favour – or intervention of God – didn’t just happen. Ezra had a part to play. He was no doubt courageous in asking the king for all that he needed (v.6), the journey to Jerusalem required perseverance over 4 months and the overcoming of disappointments and obstacles. This didn’t just happen either. Ezra’s courage and indeed his whole life and teaching ministry flowed out of his devotion to the Scriptures and the integrity of his life proved through personal application.

 

Ezra reminded me of the primary call that Paul issues to the people of Colossae to devote themselves to prayer and to let the word of God dwell in them richly or abundantly. Ezra is a man who pursues that call.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ezra partnered with God. He prayed as if it all depended on God and worked as if it all depended upon Ezra. Pray: Lord would you order my day, today. Act as if He has answered that prayer.

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