Ezra, the Priest
JULY 23 - Nº 204 Ezra 7 – 10
There is a 58-year gap between chapter 6 (when the Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem—see #199 - The Temple Is Completed) and chapter 7 in the book of Ezra. It was during this time that Xerxes was the king of Persia and Esther became his queen (see #200 - Esther Becomes Queen of Persia). Although there was now a Temple in Jerusalem, there was no one equipped to teach God’s Law to the people. Ezra, a priest and an expert in the laws given to Moses, decided to leave Persia and travel to Jerusalem to explain God’s commandments. Artaxerxes (the new king of Persia) gave Ezra a large amount of gold and silver to pay for the journey, to re-supply the Temple treasury, and to help him establish a teaching program. About 2,000 people, including priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers and Temple servants, decided to join Ezra on the journey. They all gathered at the Ahava Canal just a short distance outside of Babylon. They stayed there for three days. During that time, they fasted and prayed for God’s protection on their journey. Although Ezra could have requested soldiers to accompany them, he chose not to. He wanted Artaxerxes to see that God was powerful and loving enough to take care of His own people. God did protect the Jews on their 900-mile journey. Not a single bandit or army attempted to ambush them along the way. They arrived safely in Jerusalem about four months after they left Ahava. When they did, the weary travelers rested for three days. On the fourth day, they delivered the gold and silver the king had given them to the priests at the Temple. Then they sacrificed burnt offerings to God. Ezra was shocked and disappointed to learn that many of the elders and priests who had previously returned to Jerusalem had married pagan women and were worshiping false gods! He went to the Temple, fell down on his knees, and prayed, “Oh God, You sent our forefathers into captivity because they had foreign wives and worshiped their idols. Now You are allowing us to return to the land, and we are doing exactly the same thing! We are not worthy of Your blessing. You have the right to totally destroy us.” Ezra continued to weep and pray and confess the sins of his people. As he did, others began to pray with him. Soon a large crowd of men, women, and children gathered around him. All of them were crying and confessing their sins. The Jews had spent so much time disregarding God’s laws that radical steps were needed to turn their lives around. They had to eradicate the source of their sin. No longer could foreign idols have any place in their homes or lives. This meant the Jewish men had to separate themselves from any wives who insisted on worshiping idols. That day the Israelites (as they were now called again) committed themselves and their families to worshiping only God and obeying all His commandments.
Is there something sinful that keeps contaminating your life? Do you have friends who continually lead you away from God? (Some of your “Christian” friends may be the worst offenders!) You may need to take radical steps to distance yourself from them. God will bless you if you put Him first.