Monday, November 18, 2019

Ezra Bible Study - Traveling: Weighty Matters

Early in his ministry in Montgomery, during the final difficult months of the bus boycott in 1956, Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon to encourage his congregation to live hopeful lives. "Lord, help me to accept my tools. However dull they are, help me to accept them. And then Lord, after I have accepted my tools, help me to set out and do what I can do with my tools.” -MLK  (Source: Michael Hyatt)

The priests were given some tools that were weighty as part of their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In Ezra 8, after Ezra prays for protection, he distributes the treasure from King Artaxerxes (Ezra 8: 24-30), Ezra and thousands of Jews arrive in Jerusalem safely (Ezra 8:31-32), they perform a delivery check (Ezra 8:33-34), then worship God (Ezra 8:35) and finally relay King Artaxerxes' orders to the local authorities (Ezra 8:36).

As Ezra begins the long, arduous journey to Jerusalem, he is traveling with weighty items - gold, silver, vessels, and sacred objects for the temple. Now that the priests are part of the entourage, Ezra entrusts these items to the priests. The treasures in silver and gold, according to the value of the Babylonian talent, amounted to over $3,000,000.00. Ezra told the priests to "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 (Ezra 8:29 ESV).” Here's the reason the sacred objects were entrusted to the priests on this arduous journey.  To paraphrase, Ezra said, "Ye are holy unto the Lord. The vessels are holy also; therefore, ye are the right persons to guard them (Ezra 8:28). It was appropriate that priests should carry the things that belonged to the Temple. No other hands but consecrated hands had a right to touch them. The only way to keep our treasure undiminished and untarnished is to keep ourselves pure and clean.

They departed on the twelfth day of the first month, for a journey that would take approximately four months. This was a large party carrying expensive items. For a large body, composed as that of Ezra—of some thousands of men, women, and children, unaccustomed to travel, and without military strength, and with so large an amount of treasure tempting the marauding, plundering tribes of the desert—to accomplish a journey so long and so arduous in perfect safety, is one of the most astonishing events recorded in history. God's hand was with them through this journey (Ezra 8:31). But remember, this was what Ezra prayed for, and he believed that God would safely carry them through.

After four months, when the items were weighed, it was the same as when they started. Possession involves responsibility; those priests took their responsibility seriously, guarding what was entrusted to them with their lives. The accomplishment of a God-given task usually leads to worship, which we see when the Israelites offered a sacrifice to God (v35). Recall the first group of exiles rebuilt the temple, but this rebuilt temple is a far cry from its former glory. This worship was in the form of an offering to God, an acknowledgment of God, and also a re-orientation of the Israelites' hearts.

This chapter ends with passing on King Artaxerxes' orders to the local authorities. This is important because it signifies acceptance of Ezra's plan and in turn, God's plan.

Reflections: What are our sacrificial treasures and sacred vessels that we are traveling with? Will we be found wanting when our treasures are counted? We are priests, journeying through the wilderness, with the treasures of the temple and the vessels of the sacrifice for a special deposit and charge. Therefore we are vigilant with what is entrusted to us.

We know Ezra's prayer was answered because we can read ahead, but Ezra did not know what his four-month journey would entail. The only precaution Ezra took was to lay hold of the priests in the little party, and to say: ‘Here! All through the march, do you stick by these precious things. Guard them with your life; be vigilant. Remember, I weighed them here before we start, and they will be all weighed again when we get there. So be alert.’  ‘God will bring us all safe out to the end there, and we shall carry every glittering piece of the precious things that we brought out of Babylon right into the Temple of Jerusalem.’ Yet he says, ‘Watch ye and keep them.’ (Source: Biblehub Commentary)

We are a royal priesthood entrusted with weighty matters for the Kingdom. For us, if we don't use what is entrusted to us, they won't weigh the same at the end. It will be like the servant in the parable of the talents who did not use his one talent, vexing the master. We have to be vigilant about what is given to us. Gifts that are used produce more fruit. Capacities that are strained to the uttermost increase. Service strengthens the power for service, and just as the reward for work is more work, the way for making ourselves fit for bigger things in the kingdom is to do the things that we are called to do. Ironically as we watch and keep, we use our gifts. Through faith, we persevere, submitting ourselves to His purpose. As we worship, we repent or re-orient our hearts so that we are more assured that without Him, we are undone. We remain in a humble posture even as we persevere.

Prayer - Dear Lord, prepare our hearts and minds for the journey we are on. You've entrusted us with precious items, so may we use them to your glory and not be found wanting on judgment day. Because when we use what you have given to us, you bless it. Keep us mindful so that we are always transforming and purging our hearts and minds to serve you in this world, making us fit for the Master's use (2 Timothy 2:20,21). May we know that you are the authorizer of the plans you have for us and, as such, will make way for your work to continue, for You hold all the power. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Logos Bible Software
Scofield Reference Bible
Bible Gateway
Bible Study Tools

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  1. Nylse, at first, when I read the title, "...Traveling: Weighty Matters" I read "traveling, weight matters." LOL My luggage is always pushing 50 lbs, and sometimes over.

    I love your study in Ezra! And THIS —> "We are a royal priesthood entrusted with weighty matters for the Kingdom. For us, if we don't use what is entrusted to us, they won't weigh the same at the end." That's what it's all about! :) GREAT POST!

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

  2. Thank you for this edifying post continuing in the study of Ezra. Indeed, it is so important to remember that we have a God-given call on our lives and we are to be good stewards of that call.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Yes, we are a royal priesthood! I think we all forget that at times! Thank you for the reminder.
    You're most welcome to join me in a cuppa at Tea With Jennifer,
    Bless you,

  4. Isn't it true that so much of the following life is made up of paying attention? We take what is given and we make the most prudent use of it as stewards.
    And I appreciate the list of resources you shared at the end of your post. I need to do more experimenting with sites that offer commentaries, etc.

  5. What a powerful post! May I continue to be alert and abiding in Him along this hard journey called life.

  6. What a beautiful prayer, Nylse. We are all on a journey, our life's journey. We should always grow and transform our hearts so that they fit God's purpose for each of us. I loved this little phrase you ticked into this post: "Possession involves responsibility". So good and so true!

  7. I always want to be growing and being transformed. Thank you for another great study.


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