23 Sep

Scroll to the bottom for thoughts/discussion questions!

One-sentence summary: The Lord gives the Jews favor from the king of Persia to return to Jerusalem and worship Him, and he gives them provisions for the house of the Lord in abundance; Ezra calls on the people to repent for intermarrying with the wicked people of the land, and the people repent and vow to obey the Lord and His commands. 

In the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra- a descendant of Aaron the chief priest- comes up from Babylon. He is a skilled scribe in the law of Moses, and the king grants all his request, because the Lord's hand is upon him. Some of Israel come up to Jerusalem in the king's seventh year, and Ezra goes as well. "He had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." The king gives Ezra, who is a the priest, scribe, and expert in the Lord's commandments, a letter. He issues a decree that all the people of Israel and all in his realm who volunteer shall go with him to Jerusalem. They are to carry the silver and gold freely offered by the king and his counselors, along with all the gold they find in Babylon and the freewill offering of the people and the priests. The king tells Ezra to buy sacrifices and offerings with the money to sacrifice to the Lord. With the rest of the treasure, he tells him to do what seems best according to the Lord's will. The articles for the service of the house of the Lord are to be delivered to His house. Whatever else they need, the king tells Ezra to pay for it from the king's treasury. He issues a decree to all the treasurers that whatever Ezra requires, to let it be done diligently, "whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done for the house of the God of heaven. For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?" Also, those who minister to the Lord should not pay taxes, it is decreed. He tells Ezra to set judges over the people and to teach those who do not know the law of his God. He says whoever will not obey the law of his God and the king, let judgment be executed speedily- death, banishment, imprisonment, or confiscation of goods. Ezra praises the Lord for putting these things into the king's heart, to beautiful the house of the Lord, and for giving mercy to him before the king. So Ezra is encouraged as God's hand is upon him, and he gathers leaders to go up with him to Jerusalem.

A genealogy is recorded of those who go up from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra gathers those who go with him by the river, and they camp for three days. He looks among the people and priests and does not find the sons of Levi, so he sends for the leaders and men of understanding and commands them to bring servants for the Lord's house. A man of understanding is brought, a son of Levi, and two others with their families to serve the Lord. Then, Ezra proclaims a fast at the river, that the people might "humble themselves before the Lord and seek from Him the right way for them, for their little ones, and all their possessions." He says he was ashamed to request of the king soldiers and horses to help them against the enemy on the road, since they had said the Lord's hand was upon them- and His wrath against His enemies- so they fast and ask the Lord's help, and He answers their prayer. Ezra separates twelve priests and gives them silver, gold, and articles for the house of God. He tells them they are holy to the Lord as are the articles, and the silver and gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, and they are to guard them. The priests and the Levites receive them to bring them to Jerusalem to the Lord's house, and then they depart for Jerusalem, and the Lord's hand is upon them; He delivers them from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road. Then, they arrive in Jerusalem and stay three days. On the fourth day, the silver, gold, and articles are weighed in the house of the Lord. The son of Uriah is there and Eleazar the son of Phineas with the Levites. And the children of the captivity offer burnt offerings to the Lord.

After this, the leaders come to Ezra and say that the people, priests, and Levites have not consecrated or separated themselves from the peoples of the land. They have intermarried with the people so that "the holy seed is mixed." He says the leaders have been the worst. Upon hearing this, Ezra tears his garment and robe and plucks out some of his hair and beard and sits down astonished. Then, those who fear the Lord assemble with him, and he sits astonished all day until the evening sacrifices. Then, he arises from his fasting, and he falls on his knees with his hands spread out to the Lord and cries out to Him. He says he is too ashamed and humiliated to lift up his face to the Lord, "for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens." He says this is why they were brought into captivity and have been until this day. Yet, he says, grace has been given for a little while from the Lord, who has left them a remnant to escape and has given them "a peg" in their place to "give them light and revival in their bondage." The Lord has not forsaken them, he says, but has given them mercy from the king to repair His house. He confesses their sins of partaking in the uncleanness of the land and the people. He says the people are not to intermarry so that they can leave the land to their children forever. He says the Lord has punished them less than their iniquities deserve, and are they again breaking His commandments and marrying with those committing abominations. He says if they persist in evil, the Lord may destroy them completely and not leave a remnant.

As Ezra is praying and confessing, weeping, and bowing before the Lord, a large assembly gather and weep bitterly, too. One of the sons of Elam speaks up and says to Ezra that they have sinned against the Lord in intermarrying. He asks if they can make a covenant with Him to put away the wives and children of the people so that they can obey the law. They say they are with him and tell him to be courageous. So Ezra arises and makes the leaders of the priest, Levites, and Israel to swear to do according to this word. Ezra is still mourning, and a proclamation is issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all to gather in Jerusalem, and that whoever does not come in three days, his property will be consecrated, and he will be separated from the assembly. All are gathered, and they sit in the open square of the house of God, "trembling because of the matter and also because of heavy rain." Ezra speaks and tells them their transgression and implores them to confess, do God's will, and separate themselves from the people and their pagan wives. The people answer in a loud voice that they will do it. They say it is the season of heavy rain, and that "this is the work of many days". They ask if the leaders and all those in the cities with pagan wives may come at appointed times with the elders and judges of the cities until the Lord's wrath is turned from them in the matter. Only two men oppose them, and they are given support. The people listen, and Ezra sets the people apart and question the men and priests who had taken pagan wives. They promise to turn away from their wives, and they give trespass offerings to the Lord. 

Thoughts/discussion questions:

When God ordains a work, He always provides for it- in abundance! We must search our hearts and repent for not listening to His voice.

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