In our study of Ezra chapter eight we will look at his journey to Jerusalem and how he walked by faith.
These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes: of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom; of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel; of the descendants of David, Hattush of the descendants of Shecaniah; of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men; of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men; of the descendants of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men; of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men; of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men; of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men; of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men; of the descendants of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men; of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men; of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men; of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men; of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.
Here, we see a list of the families that made the trip to Jerusalem with Ezra.
I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, and I sent them to Iddo, the leader in Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his kinsmen, the temple servants in Casiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God.
When Ezra surveyed the crowd, he found that they did not have any Levites who would be the temple servants. These were the ones that were trained to take care of the things of God and so, he sent for them. Most of us would have probably tried to go on with what we had but Ezra knew that God had set aside the Levites for that job and so he went about getting them.
Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah's sons and brothers, 18 men; and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 men. They also brought 220 of the temple servants - a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.
We see that the priests and temple servants were provided and we can thank God that we are all able to serve Him now. The only requirement for serving the Lord is a relationship with Him. Under the Mosaic Law, service was based on the relationship to family lines but Jesus fulfilled the Law and made a way for us to serve God.
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, 'The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.' So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
With all of the great wealth that they were carrying to Jerusalem, Ezra was concerned that they would be robbed on the road. In the face of this concern, he declared a fast and we are reminded that this speaks of the fact that they did not eat or drink. There are many, today, who want to declare a fast from sinful things and equate this with the biblical fast but it is not. A fast is giving up something that is good to focus on God not a temporary turning from sin. He goes on to explain that they had told the king of God's provision and protection and so he was ashamed to go back and ask for an escort. Today, most lack that same shame as they will proclaim the provision and protection of God in a Sunday service but come Monday morning it's every man for himself. Ezra goes on to tell us that God heard and answered their prayer. That same promise is for us if we are in Christ.
Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold.
After prayer, Ezra took action and twenty four priests and temple servants were to carry the valuables for the temple. We are reminded that the number twelve is associated with divine authority and these men were trusting God to protect them and the treasure on the way to Jerusalem.
I said to them, 'You as well as these articles are consecrated to the Lord. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your fathers. Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.' Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem.
Ezra gave the men their commission and reminded them that they were set aside for the use of God (consecrated). This was a reminder to them that God would take care of them on their journey. This same principle applies to us, if we are in Christ. The Holy Spirit consecrates us and we can trust that, since we are His, he will take care of us on our journey through this life and for eternity.
On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days.
What an uneventful trip but it is good to see that God takes care of His people. They made it to Jerusalem and rested. Like Ezra, when we pray and do what God shows us, we can trust Him and move out in safety.
On the fourth day, in the house of our God, we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles into the hands of Meremoth son of Uriah, the priest. Eleazer son of Phinehas was with him, and so were the Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time.
After their rest, they delivered the treasures to the temple and we notice that it was all there and handed over to the priest. In this we see that God completely protects as not a single piece was lost during the trip. We also see that those entrusted with it did not keep any for themselves but instead handed it all over for the service of the Lord. There are many who are entrusted with offerings for the work of God but somehow it doesn't all end up being delivered. We must remember that this is in fact robbing God and His work.
Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord. They also delivered the king's orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God.
The entire assembly then presented the sacrifices to God for their sins. The king's orders were passed on to the government leaders and they obeyed by assisting in the provision for the temple.