In our study of Ezra chapter seven, we will look at the man, his faithful preparation, and the favor of God that was upon him. We will apply this to our Christian walk.
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After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phineas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest - this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.
The phrase "After these things" speaks of the rebuilding of the temple that we saw in chapter 6. We are introduced to Ezra and his heritage as a priest as his family tree is traced back to Aaron who (along with Moses) had led God's people out of captivity in Egypt. Before the temple was rebuilt, there would not have been a place for the priest to perform the sacrifices and so he stayed behind in Babylon teaching the people the Law of Moses. Finally, we are told that the favor of God was upon him and this caused the king to give him all that was needed for his work.
Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.
We see that the workers for the new temple returned to Jerusalem. This trip took four months of walking but God was with them.
For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
Why was God's favor upon Ezra? The simple fact of the matter is that he had faith in God and knew that He was going to restore His people and the temple in Jerusalem. He not only knew this but he also put in the work to prepare for the day that it would happen. We may ask ourselves what this has to do with us and our daily walk with the Lord. If we want the favor of the Lord to be upon us, we need to put our faith into action. Just as Ezra knew God was going to restore Jerusalem, we know that Jesus is returning to judge the world and all who are in it. Do we sit back and wait or do we prepare for the day of the return like Ezra did?
This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord for Israel: Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven: Greetings.
Ezra had a reputation of being an expert in the word of God. Therefore, when God moved in Artaxerxes, he called on Ezra to lead the return to Jerusalem because he had prepared his heart, studied the law, and was known for putting it into action. Although we are not under the Law, we have to ask ourselves if we have the reputation of being men/women of God. A good way to measure this is to ask ourselves if we have people coming to us with questions about the Bible and for prayer. I am not talking about "religious" people but ordinary hurting people. When the chips are down, do people come to you for prayer, comfort, and wisdom from God?
Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand.
We see that God's favor upon Ezra led to a blessing for the other servants of God. They were all given permission to return to Jerusalem and he was given the job of seeing if those who had returned before were keeping the Law. This same type of thing happened with the apostles as many were blessed because of the favor of God upon their lives. It happens today as well when Christians are walking in the will of God for their lives.
Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and the gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem.
The king not only gave Ezra the authority to go and to take the people with him but also to raise money. The king contributed his own treasure to the offering although he only acknowledged God as the God of Israel.
With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.
He told Ezra to use his money to buy the things required for the offerings in the temple. He hoped to gain the favor of God because of his treatment of God's people and he was right in principle because God does bless those who bless His people.
You and your brother Jews may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you may have occasion to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.
The king was very generous and pledged all the royal funds necessary to purchase things used for worship in the temple. He repeatedly identified God as "your God" and so we know that this was not done by the king as an act of worship.
Now I, King Artaxerxes, order all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you - up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and of his sons.
The king gave orders for the local provinces to provide the things for the temple. We finally get to see the reason for this generosity and it was simply fear. Artaxerexes feared the wrath of a God that he did not even personally know. As it says in Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" and so the king is making some wise decisions based on his fear. It seems that this a forgotten aspect of our coming to faith in God. We hear much today about the love of God but we do not hear much about fearing His wrath if we don't turn to Jesus. Without fear of the consequences of sin and God's coming judgment, we will not repent and accept Jesus' payment for our sins.
You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.
We see how afraid the king was of God's wrath in the fact that he basically allowed the temple workers independence from the other authorities.
And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates - all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
The king also gave Ezra the authority to appoint leaders and to have them administer the law. Once again, we see that the king had seen the fact that Ezra was a man of God and so by extension was kind of afraid of Ezra as well.
Praise be to the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king's heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king's powerful officials. Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
We once again see Ezra's faithfulness as he gives praise to God for all that has happened with the king. He recognized the hand of God upon the situation as well as the favor that was upon him and gave the glory to God. We also see that the focus of his heart was honoring God and His house in Jerusalem.