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Ezra 8: 1-36. EZRA’S RETURN TO JERUSALEM-11-1-19 Devotional

Ezra 8: 1-36. EZRA’S RETURN TO JERUSALEM-11-1-19 Devotional

Ezra 8:(1-14),15-36                                          Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 8:22                                                11-1-19

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.” (ESV)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father, thank you for helping us to sense your leading and showing us open doors through which we can do your will. You have led our church through an open door this past Parade event. You have helped Julie and I go though an open door by helping a young missionary get funding to live as a full time missionary. Continue to open our eyes to see your leading so that you work through us. Help me to accept your word into my heart today. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: A People With A Strong Spiritual Identity And United In Purpose (1-14)

Verses 1-14, “These are the heads of their fathers’ houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king: 2 Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush. 3 Of the sons of Shecaniah, who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered 150 men. 4 Of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men. 5 Of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men. 6 Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men. 7 Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men. 8 Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him 80 men. 9 Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men. 10 Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men. 11 Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him 28 men. 12 Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men. 13 Of the sons of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men. 14 Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.”

These people were full of faith. They left their lives in in Babylon. They probably gave up small businesses and family and friends to travel to an underdeveloped region. They were facing hardships and difficulties. There was racism and prejudice and religious persecution awaiting them. There was no such thing as social security and government benefits. They were going to have to work hard and rebuild their lives. But they were very happy to do so, for they knew they were following the will of God upon their lives. They were making history. They were involved in frontier efforts to make the Name of the Lord known.

   These people had a strong identity of who they were. They knew exactly who the founding person of their clan was. They knew where they fit into God’s scheme of things. They were carrying on with the vision that their forefathers had. They had a deep sense of history about the work of God among them and through them.

How different it is today. Some people do not even know who their fathers are. They have no knowledge about their grandparents. They don’t know their identity. And most young people don’t seem to care. Most people who go to church don’t know about the history of their church and the vision of the founders of their church.

I think that some Christian families may have a sense of their spiritual identity. I have heard of people who have accepted Christ because they had a handwritten letter from their grandparent urging them to accept the Lord. They are carrying on their grandparent’s spiritual legacy. I pray that I could have a long line of believers emanating from my family, and that there may be some unity among them as they serve the Lord Jesus together. I also pray that the vision of the founding families of our church may be carried on by the current member, that KBC may be a Bible teaching church with Reformed theology.

Part 2: Ministers for the Temple of God Must Go (15-20)

Verses 15-20, “15 I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi. 16 Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, leading men, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of insight, 17 and sent them to Iddo, the leading man at the place Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his brothers and the temple servants at the place Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. 18 And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18; 19 also Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons, 20; 20 besides 220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.”

God provided his servants to serve together in the temple. Look at verse 15. Ezra looked over the list of those going with him to Jerusalem and realized that he needed more Levites to help people worship the Lord at the temple. Levites were lay servants of God who did the real work in the temple and in temple worship. He insisted that men who could serve at the temple must go with him. Ezra thought about the spiritual condition of the fledging community. He knew what was the most important.

The gracious hand of God was on him to supply faithful and capable servants of the Lord. God is faithful. He sees the need and he supplies the need, especially when the need is for servants of the Lord to help minister to the people. Matthew 9:37-38 read, “37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” God desires to and is able to send out workers into his harvest field. Our role is to ask the Lord in prayer. And as part of our prayer, we can take practical steps, like Ezra did, to get qualified people to come.

I can see that Ezra had a spiritual priority to have servants of God with him and his was intent on helping the people worship of the Lord right from the beginning. How easy it would be to just consider the essential people, like engineers, architects, stone carvers, carpenters etc. Most people starting up a new community think only about the practical matters. After the community is built, then they may think about building a church and bringing a pastor and an assistant pastor.

All of the people were important and useful to God. Some people think that only the pastors and the people who run the church are those who are useful to the Lord. But where would the pastors be without their congregation? What would they worship in if someone had not built their church? We are all in this boat together. Together we build up the community of believers. But, for certain, Pastors and spiritual leaders and the church is vitally important and must be at the forefront of all of our plans. It is a way to practically obey Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Can we put a priority on spiritual things in all of our ventures of life? What about students who go to college? How long does it take to find a church to worship the Lord? What about when a family moves to another city? How long does it take to find a home church? Is it a priority? How about making time during your busy days to have devotions to the Lord? Let’s make worship of the Lord a top priority in our lives. God will surely bless us when we do.

Part 3. Utter Dependence on God (21-36)

Verses 21-36, “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. 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.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. 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. 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 was a man of prayer. Look at verse 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.” Proclaiming a fast meant sincere and honest prayer. They were sincerely seeking the Lord and imploring him to help them on their journey. It was a dangerous journey, 900 miles on foot. He and the twelve leading priests were carrying great treasures of gold and silver for the temple, and the journey was through bandit-filled territory. It was about 25 tons of precious metals. He and the people humbled themselves before God in fasting and prayer, and asked for a safe journey. They carried on with journey full of faith in God. They were prepared and strengthened in their faith through prayer. The hand of God was with them and they arrived safely in Jerusalem.

This example challenges me. Do I every seek the Lord in prayer this intensely? Never, to be honest. I am basically depending on my human strength and in keeping my own regular schedule. I pray to be a Christian with intense prayer, who seeks the Lord’s favor in all lengths of my pilgrimage here on earth.

God got Ezra and his company safe to Jerusalem. They were not robbed. They were even helped by the people of the land instead of being persecuted. God is so great. He guides, protects and provides for his people who are intent on doing his will. I pray that God may continue to provide for our needs so that we can serve him in DeKalb, but also serve him among the First Nations people in NW Ontario.

Ezra cared about the glory of God among the people of the world. Look at verse 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.” Ezra had told the king that God is with everyone who looks to him for help. So, he was ashamed to ask for a military escort. He did not want, in any way, shape or form, to dishonor the name of the Lord in the eyes of worldly people. This is important for all believers. Our daily lives must glorify Jesus and honor his holy name. Then we can be used by God proclaim his Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Prayer:Lord, thank you for answering the prayers of your people. Help is to humble ourselves before you in fasting and prayer. Teach us that type of intensity.”

One Word: The gracious hand of our God is upon us.