Ezra comes on the page of Holy Scripture at a crucial time in the history of the nation of Israel. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin had remained in their land for many years after the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom had been carried away captive to Assyria (II Kings 17:6). However, before Ezra arrived on the scene, Judah and Benjamin were also taken captive to Babylon for 70 years because they disobeyed God’s Word. God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take Judah captive by invading Jerusalem and tearing down the walls of the city. While captive in Babylon, the people were not separate from the nations around them as God desired, but drifted far away from the holy standard of His law.
Under these circumstances, it would have been easy to get discouraged and think that things were beyond recovery. What could be done when the vast majority of Gods people were mixed with the surrounding nations and seemed to have little desire to turn back to their God and His Word? Let us take courage, for it is in conditions like these that our God always has His faithful remnant. Ezra was one of these faithful men. Along with Jeshua and Zerubbabel, he spread the matter before God, desiring to be used in the nations restoration by bringing them back to their own land, in order to function as Moses and Joshua had commanded (Deut 4:29-31; Joshua 24:14).
The first return of the faithful remnant from Babylon to the place of the name was under Jeshua and Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:1-2). This remnant was used by God to rebuild the altar and the temple, even though they experienced much opposition from their enemies. Later, King Artaxerxes granted Ezra’s request to return to his native land, and Ezra led a second expedition to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:6).
Ezra stood to teach and instruct the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem. Many of the remnant that had returned earlier to their land were still linked with the heathen. They had mingled together in marriage with those around them and were indulging in their abominations (Ezra 9:1-2). Ezra, deeply burdened about the intermingling with the ungodly, stood up to unfold God’s principles of separation. His message was plain, “Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God … and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.” Then the congregation answered and said, “As thou hast said so must we do” (Ezra 10:10-12).
Although Ezras task was very difficult, he was prepared to count the cost of being faithful to God and His commandments. He had prepared his heart to seek and do the Law of the Lord, and to teach statutes and judgments in Israel (Ezra 7:10). As a result of Ezra’s godly instruction, many were prepared to bow to the Laws demands; a register was made of those who severed their associations with the heathen to live separated lives unto the Lord.
Today we can emulate this Scriptural example and seek to live for the honor and glory of God. If we want this to be our happy experience, we must shun the world system that exists around us. The character of this world is so subtle that we can get entangled before we realize what is happening to our Christian values.
How important, then, to beware of:
The peril of the Possessions of the world (I Timothy 6:9, 17): Lot failed in this regard.
The peril of the Passions of the world (Colossians 3:5): Samson failed in this.
The peril of the Pleasures of the world (I Timothy 5:6): Moses turned his back on these.
The peril of the Partnerships of the world (II Corinthians 6:14): Paul exhorts us to turn away from such unequal yokes.
Finally, the third expedition of faithful Jews was led by Nehemiah. After many days of prayer and fasting, they began the journey to their own land. Once there, they would undertake the arduous task of building the wall of the city. As expected, they encountered tremendous opposition, criticism, and mockery from those looking on. However, having confidence that what they were doing was according to God’s commandment, they received strength and courage to press on. They used one hand to fight back the enemies of the Lord and the other to build the wall.
Many years have passed since Ezras time, but the tactics of the devil are still the same. He still seeks to hinder the work and testimony of God’s people in whatever way he can. He often uses the ungodly to do it, but, sadly, even some from the assembly can be used to accomplish his devastating work. Let us all take heed to ensure that we are among those who encourage and build up the things that remain for the glory of God.
After Nehemiah had finished building the wall around the city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 6:15), Ezra is again found standing, reading from the Book of the Law to the same people (Nehemiah 8:4-8). On this occasion, he stood up with Nehemiah the Governor, the Priests, and Levites in the sight of all the people. “They read in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense and caused the people to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). All the people wept when they heard the words of the Law. They confessed their sin and worshipped the Lord their God.
What joy and gladness came under Ezra’s leadership as the people learned the truth for themselves and put it into practice! No wonder they experienced days of heaven upon earth as they celebrated and engaged in some of the Feasts of Jehovah that had not been enjoyed for centuries (Nehemiah 8:17-18).
In our day, this story has its counterpart and application to us as Gods people. The same joy and gladness can be experienced in our souls when we adhere to the Scriptural pattern and demands of the Word of God.
As we close our meditations on Ezra the Priest and Scribe, may we be encouraged to follow his remarkable example. We see his confidence in God as he stands before the erring people and faithfully exhorts them, eventually bringing about their restoration.