Monday, November 4, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Walking: By Faith

Ezra 8 is a pivotal chapter in this book, for it's where we see Ezra's heart as he narrates the remainder of the book.  At the end of Ezra 7,  Ezra gives thanks before embarking on this journey. Effusive in his thanks, he is grateful that God has placed the opportunity to beautify the temple on the king's heart and extend mercy to him. After giving thanks, he gathers chief men (i.e., leaders) to travel with him to Jerusalem.

Initially, his traveling companions did not include any priests (no one from the tribe of Levi) or Nethinim. It was a large contingent made up of leaders from various families, with 1,496 men in the group. Adding an estimated number of women and children (Ezra 8:21), we can surmise that the total number of the party coming with Ezra in the days of King Artaxerxes was between 6,000 to 7,000 people (enduringword.com). Curiously, no priests were in this group. In essence, besides Ezra,
this large group had no spiritual leaders or intercessors. For the task ahead, they were a necessity that Ezra recognized he needed. So Ezra sends for "men of understanding" to go back and recruit Levites and Nethinim. Because they had knowledge, they were able to speak to the right person - Iddo, the chief at the palace, conveying the need for Levites and Nethinim on this journey. Remember that the king had already exempted them from any toll, so they should have been part of the initial trip. The men of understanding recruited 18 Levites and 220 Nethinim (Ezra 8:15-20).

Once the Levites and Nethinim join Ezra and the others, Ezra proclaimed a fast for the Lord's protection as they travel.  Ezra knew that he needed extra protection for this journey as there was a constant threat of robbers and bandits, mainly because they were transporting so many valuables. So Ezra - a man of understanding takes nothing for granted and chooses to pray. Fasting elevates our prayers. The king had already provided resources, but he didn't want to go back and ask for an escort. The king had done enough, God could do the rest, so he fasted. "Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. (Ezra 8:20-23)" 

God answered their prayers!

Reflections -Can we recognize when we lack spiritual reinforcement? In Ezra's case, it was the Levites and the Nethinim. I love how the Nethinim are always included (it's one of my biggest takeaways from this book).  Ezra was a man of understanding - he recognized his need; he knew the ways of God, and he had other men of knowledge with him. Ezra relied on other men of understanding to speak to the correct person so that the Levites and Nethinim became part of the traveling contingent. With this large contingent, Ezra recognized another need for protection. Again, Ezra could have gone back to the king for additional help, but instead, he chose to pray and fast, believing that God would answer. This whole mission was God-ordained; he had seen God's hand at work so many times, especially with the generosity of King Artaxerxes. Ezra chose to fast for himself and those with him. In shame, he fasted. Our faith may stem from shame or pride, but the recognition of our limitations will force us to pray differently; Ezra fasted because the need was out of his control. Besides, he had already told the king that God's hand was with them. God wants us to exhibit faith, no matter how we get there. If we believe God, we're going to act like we do.

Prayer - Dear Lord, like Ezra, may we be men and women of understanding. Those that know and seek after you; those that exercise discernment; those that are wise; those that know how to interact with others and can bring out the best in others; those that have Godly confidence; those that are humble; those that are morally upright; those who exhibit self-control. You are our Priest and Intercessor, with us each step of our journey, providing protection, grace, mercy, and whatever we need. Give us discernment so that we know when to pray and when to fast. As you protect and provide, may we be careful to give you thanks like Ezra did. 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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9 comments:

  1. It's so easy to think we can go it alone--when we really need to focus on God and what he wants us to do--maybe he DOES want us to journey on alone, maybe he wants us to band together. But we won't know if we don't ask!

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  2. If we believe God we have to act like it, amen to that. Even if that is sometimes just being quiet and letting Him work.

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  3. I love that Ezra surrounded himself with other knowledgeable men. So many times leaders shy away from having smart people on their team—they want to be the smartest. Great leaders however, surround themselves with a team of people smarter and wiser than themselves.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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  4. Thanks for linking up with An Open Book!

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  5. Thank you so much for linking up @LiveLifeWell!! I will be featuring your post in tomorrows link up!!

    Blessings,

    Amy

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  6. Thank you so, so much for contributing to the Blogvember link up!

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  7. Every good teacher invokes a desire to know more. After reading your study today I had to find out more about these Nethinim people. I was intrigued to find after freedom from captivity they voluntarily served behind the scenes in the temple. Ezra calls for the volunteers, the willing workers. Interesting. Often we overlook the behind the scenes servants, yet they are the ones we need around us. They are tried and true, dedicated to the tasks. Lord help me be Nethinim.

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    1. Realtalk859, I appreciate your insight shared in this comment and your compliment made my day!!!

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  8. Yes, Lord Jesus, grant us discernment!

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