Jun 28, 2023
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 (Ezra 7:10).
The book of Ezra began with God moving the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to made provision for Israel to return to Jerusalem. Once there, they began rebuilding the temple of God with finances from the royal treasury. Its curious that this book was given the name Ezra, since he doesn’t show up till this chapter.
The Bible’s main task is to tell us about God. Here, he comes across a bit mischievous, in the best sense of the word. Ezra is introduced this way: “Ezra came up from Babylon” (7:6).
What was Babylon? It was the city of the emperors who tried to eradicate Israel. The story of Esther and the stories in Daniel tell us just how strong the enmity towards the Jews was. It wasn’t just Israel, but Israel’s God, that was the issue. This God needed to be dethroned.
But now, out of this Babylon comes Ezra, who “had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel”. So, while Daniel and his friends were being persecuted by the establishment and while Haman was scheming genocide against the Jews, God had a secret agent studying his law in Babylon. And when the time was right, he emerges and travels to Jerusalem fully prepared to teach this law to the returned exiles.
And the story gets even better. He has a letter from King Artaxerxes in his back pocket which includes, “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” (Ezra 7:25-26).
From out of the city that tried to annihilate God’s people, thus, dethroning the Lord, the human king sends forth someone who has the capacity to teach the ways of God to this new community. Rather than being defeated, Israel’s god is re-establishing a people who will worship him.
What happens when Ezra arrives in Jerusalem? The people have been here for some years already. Will they accept this newcomer? The book of Nehemiah takes up the story.
“All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. So, on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:1-3).
From daybreak to noon, they stood and listened attentively. Well, that puts perspective to the words of Psalm 119: “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path” (105). The scriptures don’t become a lamp and light just because we want them to; we must make the commitment to know them.
Historians have noted that revival in the church includes a renewed commitment to studying the scriptures. Paul tells us that “these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did (1 Corinthians 10:6). He was referring to Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness with Moses, but I think the Babylonian exile counts as well. Summer is as good a time as any to renew our commitment to knowing the Word of God.
As you journey on, go with the blessing of God:
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever he may send you. May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May your day end with rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you. May you rest in his provision as he brings night, and then new dawn.