Scripture reading – Esther 10; Ezra 7

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Today’s Scripture reading (Esther 10) concludes our study of the Book of Esther. We also return to our study of the Book of Ezra, which records the trials and hardships the Jews encountered while rebuilding the Temple. We will complete our study of Esther and then continue focusing on the Book of Ezra.

Esther 10

Esther is the heroine of our study in this book that bears her name. Her godly character and influence in Persia were indisputable. Her faith in the LORD and humility as the vessel He chose to serve Him “for such a time” (Esther 4:14) was the backdrop upon which God’s sovereignty has been displayed. The LORD wonderfully and providentially used her life and promotion to save His people in Persia.

Nevertheless, we dare not dismiss Mordecai’s role and influence in Esther’s life. He adopted her following the premature deaths of her parents and loved her as his daughter. Esther’s submission to Mordecai’s godly wisdom and discernment shadowed her life from childhood to her ascendancy to the throne of Persia.

Mordecai’s integrity and devotion

The closing verses of the Book of Esther focused primarily on Mordecai and not Esther (10:1-3). The final verses remind me of Benjamin Franklin’s words after the Constitution of the United States was ratified. Franklin said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” So, we read, “And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute [tax] upon the land, and upon the isles [islands] of the sea” (Esther 10:1).

In contrast to the wicked, self-centered ways of Haman, whose focus was his self-promotion, we find Mordecai faithfully serving “next unto king Ahasuerus…[and] seeking the wealth [well-being; welfare] of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed [offspring; children]” (10:3).

Every believer should be inspired by Mordecai’s integrity and devotion to the LORD and his people.

Ezra: A Ready Servant (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 context, please allow me to paint the historical landscape of Ezra 7.

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 when Xerxes I [Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther] was king of Persia (485-465 BC). King Xerxes I was followed by his son, Artaxerxes I, the king of Persia in today’s study (465-425 BC).

We have identified Ezra as the author of this 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’s Priestly Genealogy

Ezra’s Priestly Genealogy (Ezra 7:1-5)

Ezra had been a mere historian and was tasked with 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. He took his place among the giants of the Scriptures. Like Mordecai, who faithfully served the LORD before Ezra, God called Ezra. He proved faithful and willing to lead a second group of Jewish exiles to their homeland.

Ezra’s lineage was traced to “Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest” (Ezra 7:5). He wrote of himself: “This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given” (Ezra 7:6a). He was a disciplined student of God’s Word and a skilled and experienced teacher of the Law and Commandments. Artaxerxes knew and respected him, for the king of Persia not only received him but “granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him” (Ezra 7:6).


Ezra’s Spiritual Character (Ezra 7:6-10) 

What manner of man does God use? I suggest three spiritual attributes found in Ezra’s personal life. First, he had a passion for studying God’s Word (Ezra 7:6; 2 Timothy 2:15). Secondly, he “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord” (he had a right heart attitude and the proper focus, Ezra 7:10). Lastly, he obeyed “the law of the LORD” (Ezra 7:10b), and proclaimed it (“to teach in Israel statutes and judgments,” Ezra 7:10c).

Ezra’s Commission and the Sovereignty of God

Ezra’s Commission and the Sovereignty of God (Ezra 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 King Artaxerxes to assign to Ezra the authority to lead a second delegation of Jewish exiles to Judah and Jerusalem (Ezra 7:11-13).

The king and his counselors also sent silver and gold to finance sacrificial offerings at the Temple (Ezra 7:14-20). Evidencing his confidence in Ezra, the king declared, “Whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your GodWhatsoever 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?” (Ezra 7:18, 23)

Furthermore, the Temple workers and ministers were to be exempt from taxes (Ezra 7:24). The king also empowered Ezra to teach and enforce “the laws of thy God” (Ezra 7:25) and directed him to exercise the law speedily, including capital punishment, banishment, confiscation of personal goods, or imprisonment (Ezra 7:26).


Ezra’s Doxology (Ezra 7:27-28) 

Our devotional concludes with Ezra boasting in the LORD, for he had witnessed Him move the heart of a heathen king “to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 7:27). He understood the favor he enjoyed with the king was the working of God (Ezra 7:28a). Strengthened by his faith, and confident in the LORD, Ezra gathered the leaders of Israel who resided in Babylon, and told them how the LORD’s favor rested upon him and invited them to go up with him to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:28b).

Closing thought –

Ezra’s testimony and example remind us that the LORD is sovereign and the source of our strength (Ezra 7:28b). Confident that the LORD was with him, Ezra set himself to do the work and invited others to join him.

Since 1799, the United States Marine Corps has recruited men to serve with the slogan, “The Marines are looking for a few good men.” The same is true for those the LORD calls to serve Him.

What character traits qualified Ezra to be called to serve the LORD? (Ezra 7:6-10)

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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