Today’s Reading: Ezra 7- 10, Psalm 25
Who is this Ezra? Here are a few of my thoughts on the lifestyle and essence of Ezra.
This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him…This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel (Ezra 7:6,10).
Ezra was a student of the word of God. He recognized that God had given the Law of Moses to the people of Israel for a reason and he was determined to STUDY it, KNOW it, and OBEY it in order to TEACH it. He saw the benefit of spending time studying God’s word in order to better UNDERSTAND God and His laws – to know God’s commands and obey them. He went beyond just being a hearer of the Word; he was a doer. He went past the purpose of learning for his own sake to becoming a conduit of God’s Word to others.
Because Ezra was dedicated to God and well versed in the Law, God blessed Ezra by giving him favor with the king for the benefit of all God’s people. Anything he asked for the king was prepared to give him BECAUSE the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. Ezra recognized that this favor was of God and not based on his own worth or merit.
When the king said, “If you need anything else for God’s Temple or for any similar needs, you may take it from the royal treasury,” Ezra’s response was to praise the Lord. When the king recognized Ezra’s wisdom as having come from God, Ezra praised God for demonstrating such unfailing love to him by honoring him before the king, his council, and all his mighty nobles! “I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me” (Ezra 7:28).
Ezra’s humility, knowledge and wisdom situated him to be used by God in leadership. Like Nehemiah and Esther, he was strategically positioned to be effective in God’s eternal plan. He gathered together some of the family leaders to return with him to Jerusalem. Before they began their journey, Ezra led the entire group in a time of fasting and humbling themselves before the Lord, praying that God would give them a safe journey and protect them, their children, and the goods they were bringing to Jerusalem.
Ezra could have asked the king for soldiers to escort them to Jerusalem with all of this silver and gold that would make them vulnerable against bandits and robbers on their four month journey. It would have been a reasonable request. But Ezra once again saw the importance of living out his faith in his actions. He had previously testified to the King, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him” (Ezra 8:22). Ezra knew that he needed to back these words up with faith in God so they fasted and earnestly prayed for God to take care of them, and God faithfully heard their prayer. At the end of the journey, Ezra was able to testify that God, rather than the king’s men, had protected them.
Just as Ezra was able to ask for provision and protection for his people, he was also willing to humble himself and confess on behalf of the people. When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, he found they had done exactly what God told them NOT to do – they had married women from other nations who served false gods. Ezra could have washed his hands of all this sin and stood back in self-righteousness for he had not disobeyed God. Instead he tore his clothes, fell to his knees and lifted his hands to the Lord praying:
“O my God, I am utterly ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you. For our sins are piled higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens…once again we have abandoned your commands!…O Lord, God of Israel, you are just. We come before you in our guilt as nothing but an escaped remnant, though in such a condition none of us can stand in your presence.” – Ezra 9:6,10b,15
Ezra led those around him in the study of God’s word.
Ezra led those around him in prayer and fasting.
Ezra led those around him in the journey God had called them to.
But here is where I am overwhelmed by the humble actions of this man of God:
Ezra led his nation and his people in confession of their sins. He took the sins of the nation upon himself, taking responsibility for their sins and stepping into God’s presence in repentance of such sin, even though he himself had not disobeyed God in this way.
This reminds me of how Jesus, who was without sin, was willing to die for our sins. Hebrews 4:14-16: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We sin as individuals and we go before God, humbly asking for His forgiveness. We sin as a family or as a church or group of people and we humbly pray for mercy. We sin as a nation and the appropriate thing to do is still to humble ourselves, fall on our knees in mourning and beg the Almighty God of Justice to have compassion on us and forgive us as a nation. Oh God, hear our prayer!!!
Lord, I want to be like Ezra. I want to be a student of your word, praying and fasting for Your guidance and protection. I want to live out my faith, not looking for human answers. I want to be an Ezra-like leader! Lord, forgive us for the many times we step out of your plan and disobey as individuals, as congregations and as a nation. Lord, give us mercy and grace in our time of need. Amen.