Monday, October 21, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Used: The Power of God


At the end of  Ezra 6, it was a time of joyful celebration. We see the first wave of exiles celebrating with joy all that God had done through them.

More than 50 years elapsed between the end of chapter 6 and the beginning of Ezra 7. During this timeframe, the events in Esther take place. The events in the book of Esther occurred from 483 BC to 473 BC, during the first half of the reign of King Xerxes, who chose Esther as his Queen. During this time, the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Judah struggled to reestablish temple worship according to the Law of Moses. But Esther and Mordecai, along with many other Jews, had chosen not to make the trek back to Judah. They seemed content to stay in Susa, the capital city of Persia, in which the story is set (Source: insight.org).  The sovereignty and faithfulness of God permeated each scene in the book of Esther; this pattern continues in the book of Ezra.



So now we're back in Ezra 7, where we discover the beginning of Ezra's ministry once the temple is rebuilt. Ezra will be instrumental in teaching the Israelites God's word, and King Artaxerxes will play a pivotal role in facilitating the call on Ezra's life. Ezra was living in Babylon when, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, king of Persia (c. 457 BCE), the king sent him to Jerusalem to teach the laws of God to any who did not know them. This will be the start of a spiritual revival for the Jews, commencing with the second wave of exiles. This chapter provides an overview of Artaxerxes' actions and Ezra's response.

Ezra is a scribe, a writer who is well versed in the Law of Moses; he is also a priest - a position of leadership for the Jews. His ancestry is described pointing all the way back to Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5), establishing his priestly lineage. As a priest, Ezra had access to the king and requested of him that he go to Jerusalem. What prompted this request? The first wave of exiles had rebuilt the temple but was not living according to God's laws. Ezra recognized the need for the returned Jews' understanding of their Godly heritage. So Ezra made a request of the King, and we see that King Artaxerxes granted all that Ezra asked. "For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel (Ezra 7:10 ESV)." We then see the letter that Artaxerxes wrote facilitating Ezra's journey back to Jerusalem:  King Artaxerxes threw all of his resources behind Ezra's cause...money, people, time - "And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king's treasury (Ezra 7:20 ESV)." Because he is the king, there was a consequence for those who disobeyed his decree. Once the letter is read, Ezra praises God:
"Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me (Ezra 7:27, 28 ESV)."

Reflections: Ezra had access to an earthly king, but he lived as a Child of the King. However, human power recognized heavenly power in the form of Ezra's life and calling.  King Artaxerxes acknowledged the will and wisdom of God in the person God used - Ezra. It would also appear that King Artaxerxes recognized the importance of following God's laws (Ezra 7:23), as he alludes to this several times in his letter. Artaxerxes commissioned Ezra's journey and provided all of the resources needed for the journey. All those that traveled with Ezra were exempt from payment (tribute, custom, or toll), including the  Nethinim - those who performed the mundane maintenance of the temple. King Artaxerxes' letter was well thought out and detailed, providing power and peace of mind for the road ahead. Ezra did not take these actions by King Artaxerxes for granted. Instead, he gave thanks, sincere heartfelt thanks.

Are you like Ezra, where God is using your writing and knowledge of his word to do amazing things through others? Is God's wisdom and calling evident in your life, spurring the unlikely to assist you? Who is the unlikely person that you have access to that facilitates God's call on your life? How has your calling impacted others?

Prayer - Heavenly Father, I am in awe of your sovereignty and the precepts in your Word. We see in Ezra how you used an unlikely king, a man of power, to facilitate your calling on Ezra's life. Over and over, it is noted that he was a scribe that was knowledgeable in your law. This knowledge was not merely head knowledge, it was practical. Ezra lived the law with conviction, being known as a pious, devout man. Understanding of your word will change each of us for the better. So may we take the time to get to know you through your Word. Then may we be men and women of conviction as we live out your word. May we know that your sovereignty controls our lives; may we know that your wisdom will guide us into all truth and that our gifts were meant to be used for your glory and honor like you used Ezra. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Resources:
Gotquestions.org
Logos Bible Software
Scofield Reference Bible
Bible Gateway
Bible Study Tools
Bible.org

--Nylse

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8 comments:

  1. Loving this series, Nylse. And isn't it amazing that the only reason for the Jews to return to Jerusalem was for the glory and worship of God? Life would have been much easier for them in Persia, but the priority was to rebuild the Temple!

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  2. I love seeing how God works through others for His purposes and glory. I'm reading through Esther right now and after reading this I may have to read Ezra next!

    I'm visiting from Kelly Balarie's link-up. : )

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  3. We are studying Nehemiah right now in my bible study class. Interesting how God moved on two different kings to fund rebuilding the temple AND the wall. God has got it all under control!

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  4. Nylse, I love your study of Ezra. I think it's one of the more overlooked books of the OT. You're covering it well. Thanks!

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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  5. Enjoying this series #alittlebitofeverything@_karendennis

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  6. Ezra had the king's attention, but more importantly the Lord's and so do we.

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  7. "Understanding of your word will change each of us for the better." I so agree with you. God's truths are the foundation of wisdom!

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