From Ezra 8-10
Ezra has a long and dangerous journey ahead of him. He is offered protection from the Persians, but he has told them the LORD is with those who seek him and is angry at those who reject him. Ezra prays and fast to the LORD for protection. He makes the journey in faith. Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the gospel of God’s kingdom. They also have a journey to make and are called to trust in him.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Ezra is introduced later into the book (Ezra 7.1) and he is still in Persia. He has to make the trip to Jerusalem to begin his ministry in the temple of the LORD. But the trip is dangerous. He intends to take gold and silver vessels to the temple. Along the way there are many who would attack him and those with him. Ezra gathers together his band of travellers at the river Ahava.
21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.
22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. (Ezra 8:21–23)
Ezra could have relied upon the Persian empire to protect him along the way. They were asked if they needed protection. What would that say of their God if they did?
Ezra replied, ‘the hand of our God is for good on all who seek him and the power of his wrath against all who forsake him’. The double message applied to Ezra, his people as well as the Persians. It also bound Ezra and the people to continue trusting in the LORD before their Persian witnesses.
Ezra would have brought shame upon himself and his people. Shamed because they are meant to be the people of God. Their God is mighty and they need to show the nations.
God’s people rely on the LORD, not on worldly powers.
Fearful of the danger in travelling and also not wanting to bring shame upon themselves they fast and pray to the LORD for protection along the way.
They also have something valuable to take along with them.
24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. 25 And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered. 26 I weighed out into their hand 650 talents of silver, and silver vessels worth 200 talents, and 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold worth 1,000 darics, and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold.
28 And I said to them, “You are holy to the LORD, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers.
29 Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the LORD.” 30 So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God. (Ezra 8:24-30)
The priests and the Levites are reminded they and their valuable luggage are holy to the LORD. Both are used in service to the LORD.
So they set off. Praying to the LORD he will protect them along the way.
31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. 32 We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days. (Ezra 8:31-32)
The hand of God was with them and they were delivered from their enemies. The text implies a perilous journey filled with potential dangers. Through it all the LORD protected them.
Once they get to Jerusalem they have work to do.
33 On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui. 34 The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded. (Ezra 8:33-34)
They account for all the silver and gold they took with them. A safeguard against potential theft and a reminder the LORD saved them from being attacked and plundered.
35 At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. 36 They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and they aided the people and the house of God. (Ezra 8:35–36)
In thanks and gratitude for the LORD’s protection they offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD. Then they set about their other work.
The point of the passage is God’s providence—that he gives his protection and blessing once again to his servants and those willing to trust him. Ezra does not call on military might; he does not ask for soldiers and cavalry. Rather, he fasts and prays. He does not entrust his seven and a half tons of silver and gold—the equivalent of several years’ tribute from the entire Persian province of Beyond-the-River, taking up the entire territory between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean—truly a king’s ransom—to a column of heavily armed troops. No, he turns it over to twelve priests. This is faith! (Grabbe, L.L., 2003. Ezra. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 318.)
Ezra had learned some lessons from Israel and Judah’s past. They do not need to rely on foreign powers for their salvation. God’s people rely on the LORD.
Jesus sent out his disciples on missionary journeys of their own, proclaiming the kingdom of God. Announcing Jesus as its king.
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.
4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.
5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.
8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Lk 10.1-12)
Their journey would be dangerous as well. They too had to trust in the LORD, relying on him and not the powers of the world. The blessing and curse of Ezra applies to all those they visited.
‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him and the power of his wrath against all who forsake him.’
We have our own journeys to take, remember to seek the LORD always.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.