FRIDAY, MAY 28
SCRIPTURE: Ezra chapters 7 and 8
Author: Jeremy Witt
We shift to phase 2. Does that sound familiar also? Since chapter 6, almost 60 years have passed. It has been 80 years since the first exiles returned back in 2:1. This is the second wave of exiles returning to Israel. The events of Esther took place near this time in the reign of Xerxes, who reigned 486-465 BC. Artaxerxes is Xerxes' son came into power in 465 BC, and Ezra returned to Jerusalem in 458 BC, which was the 7th year of Artaxerxes’ reign.
We read of Ezra’s purpose in returning to Israel in verse 10. Ezra was returning for studying and teaching of the Law once again in Israel. The Temple had been rebuilt for about 58 years to this point. In verse 11 and following, Ezra carried a copy of the letter from the king that enabled Ezra to get supplies to take with him back to Jerusalem along with any Jewish people who wished to return.* The letter was also important for Ezra to verify what he would later be claiming to do. Remember how enemies made accusations previously or questioned their authority to rebuild the Temple? By having this letter, Ezra would be able to prove why he was leading a return of exiles, but also had the blessing of the king.
*Not every one of the Jews wanted to return. Many of the Jewish exiles created new lives for themselves. Many had become wealthy, and children were born to them in these places. Those who were born in these places never knew Israel, the Temple, etc. so moving back was not an option for them.
Verses 27-28 are Ezra’s praise to the LORD for God’s working to allow Him and others to return. It was also for the king’s provisions that would make the return easier for all of the people.
Of course, we have to have a list that begins in 8:1 and ends in verse 14. After Ezra examined the list, he realized that he did not have any Levites which is critical for worship in the Temple. He makes a request, and some Levites show up. Verse 22 led Ezra to lead the people to a fast prior to their departure. Humanly speaking, going without military protection would be futile, but because of their trust in the LORD, they made the journey in 4 months which was very quick in those days with their numbers and supplies. The bottom line, God was their protector as well as the provider.
Upon their arrival to Jerusalem and gave their sacrifices and offering at the Temple, they showed the letter to the provincial leaders (verse 36) and finally, sacrifices were made on behalf of the returning exiles. I am certain that many of you had returned to a place from your childhood and began to look around. Things were different and not as you remembered. Maybe things were not as big as you recalled. Maybe things have worn out or just broke down, and it brought you sadness. Sure, there are things you expect, but some things are a bit shocking to see. This is what is coming for Ezra and the exiles.
There will be some things that will do the same for us as we return from the “stay at home” experience. We must be careful not to allow these things to cause us to lose hope, to take our eyes off of Jesus, or to take things out on those trying to reopen. I can tell you personally of this first week of reopening the LIFE Center that reopening is much more difficult than the closing was.