There is an interesting story found at the end of 2 Chronicles and continues through Ezra and Nehemiah. The story centers on the Captivity of Israel by foreign empires because of their rebellion against the only true God. Seventy years of bondage has passed and some of these Israelites find special favor with the King they are serving and allowed to slowly start the rebuilding process of Jerusalem.
There are many key players in the historical rebuilding. Cyrus; the King of Persia opens the door for the captives to return to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls and gates, Zerubbabel’s construction and dedication of the temple, and Ezra bringing spiritual reform back to Judah all play very important roles.
Ezra is the focus of today. According to scripture and history, Ezra is a scribe and religious teacher. He is highly respected by his peers and those in authority over him. Depending on commentary, Ezra is credited with writing or co-writing book(s) of the Old Testament. “But the one thing we can say with absolute certainty about Ezra is that he loved God’s Word. We read in verse 10 (Chpt. 7), ‘For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.’ Notice the three things we are told here about Ezra’s attitude to God’s Word. He was prepared to seek it, to study it; he did it, he put it into practice; and he was concerned to teach it to others.”1 (Williams, P. (2006). Opening up Ezra , Leominster: Day One Publications.)
Ezra found favor with his king, Artaxerxes of Persia, and was granted permission and provisions to go and setup the spiritual renewal of Jerusalem through the teaching, translating and keeping of the Word of God. Scripture reflects that Ezra had made such an impact on the King about the power of the living God, even though the King served other Gods, he did not want to offend the God of Ezra so he blessed him abundantly to court the favor of God.
This is where it gets a little bit sticky. The track from captivity to Jerusalem was a dangerous one. The people that were following Ezra were primarily the Levites, the priests and spiritual leaders. These were newly released captives, not trained warriors armed with the latest warfare, traveling through perilous territories. Do you see a problem? Ezra did. Ezra saw two problems, in fact. Yes, Ezra saw the vulnerability of the delegation of those following him. The bigger problem, however, according to Ezra 7:22 was this, “I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.’” Now this was a problem for Ezra. Ezra, a man who had lived such a powerful, faithful life, studying God’s Word, knowing the truths of Scripture, influencing his peer and even the King of Persia was at the crossroad of fear and faith. Unfortunately, this crossroad is common to most of us. What did Ezra do? He proclaimed a fast so “we might humble ourselves before out God to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods... and [God] he listened to our entreaty.”
There are some important principles we can take away from Ezra’s role model. Seek out and study God’s Word faithfully. Pray. Humble yourself. Fast. Live out God’s Word and teach others to do the same. The God who never changes will take care of you as He did for Ezra.
Pastor Ruth Kaunley