Scripture reading – Ezra 7
Having concluded our study of the Book of Esther, our chronological study of the Scriptures returns to the Book of Ezra, chapter 7. For the sake of context, I will take the liberty of painting the historical landscape of today’s Scripture reading.
There is a 60-year gap between Ezra 6:22 (when the Temple was rebuilt and dedicated) and Ezra 7:1. The story of Esther and Mordecai (Esther 1-10) occurred during this time (485-465 BC), when Xerxes I was king of Persia (identified in the Book of Esther as Ahasuerus). Xerxes I was followed by Artaxerxes I, who was king of Persia in today’s study (465-425 BC).
We have identified Ezra as the author of the book that bears his name; however, he was not mentioned by name until Ezra 7:1 when we read, “Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah… went up from Babylon” (7:1, 6). Jewish tradition also credits Ezra as the author of 1 & 2 Chronicles (the history of Israel’s kings), the Book of Nehemiah, and Psalm 119.
Ezra 7 – Who was Ezra?
Ezra had been a mere historian, and was tasked with the responsibility of giving a record of the return of the first exiles to Jerusalem, and the building of a new Temple (Esther 1-6). Eighty years after the first group of exiles returned to Israel under Zerubbabel (Ezra 1-2), and 60 years after the Temple was completed (Ezra 6:22), Ezra stepped from the anonymity of a priest, and took his place among the giants of the Scriptures. Like Mordecai before him, God called a faithful and willing man to lead a second group of Jewish exiles to their homeland.
Ezra’s Priestly Genealogy (7:1-5)
Ezra’s lineage was traced to “Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest” (7:5). He wrote that he was “a ready scribe in the law of Moses” (7:6). A disciplined student of God’s Word, Ezra was a skilled and experienced teacher of the Law and Commandments. He was apparently known and respected by Artaxerxes, for the king of Persia not only received him, but “granted him [Ezra] all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him” (7:6).
The Qualities of a Man of Faith (7:6-10)
What manner of man does God use? Consider three spiritual attributes found in Ezra’s personal life: He had a passion for studying God’s Word (7:6; 2 Timothy 2:15). He “had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord” (he had a right heart attitude, and the right focus, 7:10). He obeyed “the law of the LORD” (7:10b), and proclaimed it (“to teach in Israel statutes and judgments,” 7:10c).
The Sovereignty of God (7:11-26)
In the same way God moved the heart of king Cyrus to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem and set the Jews free (Ezra 1), He moved the heart of Artaxerxes to assign to Ezra the authority to lead a second delegation of Jewish exiles to Judah and Jerusalem (7:11-13). Artaxerxes also sent silver and gold from his treasuries to finance sacrificial offerings at the Temple (7:14-20). Evidencing his confidence in Ezra, the king declared, “Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?” (7:23)
The workers and ministers of the Temple were to be exempt from taxes (7:24). Ezra was also empowered by the king to teach and enforce “the laws of thy God” (7:25), directing him to exercise the law speedily, including capital punishment (7:26).
Ezra’s Doxology (7:27-28)
Today’s devotional concludes with Ezra boasting in the LORD, for he had witnessed God move the heart of a heathen king to “to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem” (7:27). He realized the favor he enjoyed with the king was the working of God (7:28a). Strengthened by his faith, and confident in the LORD, Ezra gathered the leaders of Israel residing in Babylon, and told them the favor God had given him before the king (7:28b).
Ezra’s testimony and example serve as a reminder that the LORD is the source of our strength (7:28b). Confident the LORD was with him, Ezra immediately set himself to do the work.
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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