Ezra 7 – The Hand of God
It is clear that both kings Darius and Artaxerxes understood the Lord as “the God of heaven” (Ezra 7:12). They recognized His authority there, as well as over Israel and Jerusalem. The fear of the Lord was on these rulers as they handed permission and provision to the Israelites to return to their country and serve their God. There are a number of ways that the LORD showed Himself as sovereign and present in this chapter:
- Anyone who wanted to return to Jerusalem could go. The king didn’t have any restraints against the Israelites and offered them a free pass. This was the hand of God because why would a prominent king let his slaves willingly go free?
“I issue a decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who want to go to Jerusalem, may go with you (Ezra). You are sent by the king and his seven counselors to evaluate Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your possession.” Ezra 7:13-14
- Ezra was sent by the king to lead the Israelites because the king saw that he had God’s wisdom in him. Ezra studied and was dedicated to the Law given by God and written by Moses. He grew up in Babylon. Ezra could have been prosperous there to a certain extent and should have been studying that culture and their gods (See the story of Daniel for better cultural context). But he chose to take the risk and study the Law of the God of Israel instead. God honoured him for that choice and it was clearly evident by the king as well.
“After these events, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra – …(gives list of his Levitical heritage) – came up from Babylon. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him.” Ezra 7:1,6
- The Lord stirred His assignment for Ezra in his heart long before it came to be.
“[Ezra] began the journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month and arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month since the gracious hand of his God was on him. Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the LORD, obey it, and teach its statutes and commands in Israel.” Ezra 7:9-10 (bold added)
Ezra was studying the Law of the Lord in Babylon with the plan to teach it in Israel. That means that he was trusting in the Lord’s prophetic words to the exiles during their deportation. He held onto hope that the Lord would return them to Israel after the 70 years of exile were completed. So, Ezra was preparing the meantime to study and understand the Law as best he could in order to prepared for the time he could travel to Israel and teach his people there.
Has God given you an assignment you’re waiting to enact upon? What are you doing to prepare yourself while you wait?
- The Lord “rolled out the red carpet” of provision for Ezra and all who returned with him. Anything they needed was handed to them, just like it was for the first group during King Cyrus’ reign. This wasn’t for their own selfish gain, but for the cause of Yahweh. Still, they were trusted with integrity to use whatever silver and gold was left over for their own needs.
“You are also to bring the silver and gold the king and his counselors have willingly given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, and all the silver and gold you receive throughout the province of Babylon, together with the freewill offerings given by the people and the priests to the house of their God in Jerusalem. Then you are to buy with this money as many bulls, rams, and lambs as needed, along with their grain and drink offerings, and offer them on the altar at the house of your God in Jerusalem. You may do whatever seems best to you and your brothers with the rest of the silver and gold, according to the will of your God.
You must deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles given to you for the service of the house of your God. You may use the royal treasury to pay for anything else needed for the house of your God.” Ezra 7:15-20
- The Levites were exempt again from all taxes. This was huge because it was the LORD lifting these burdens from them so that they could return to serving Him full-time, unhindered by needing other work in order to provide for themselves.
“Be advised that tribute, duty, and land tax must not be imposed on any priests, Levites, singers, doorkeepers, temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.” Ezra 7:24
- Ezra was put in authority as governor over the land of Israel for all the Jews and was told to teach those who didn’t know Yahweh about Him, His statutes, and commands. You can see that the king wanted to appease this God of Israel and heaven, and to win over His favour by blessing His people with the right to serve their God as He commanded.
“And you, Ezra, according to God’s wisdom that you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to judge all the people in the region west of the Euphrates who know the laws of your God and to teach anyone who does not know them. Anyone who does not keep the law of your God and the law of the king, let a fair judgement be executed against him, whether death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.” Ezra 7:25-26
- The Lord’s strength and favour was clearly evident throughout this whole chapter as well. By God’s provision, protection, and leading, this resulted in praise and thanksgiving from Ezra!
“Praise Yahweh the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s mind to glorify the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and who has shown favour to me before the king, his counselors, and all his powerful officers. So I took courage because I was strengthened by Yahweh my God, and I gathered Israelite leaders to return with me.” Ezra 7:27-28
God can use anyone to fulfill His purposes and will provide all necessary provisions to do so. He will equip you to do whatever He’s called you to. “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Praise the God in His sanctuary.
Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Praise Him for His powerful acts;
Praise Him for His abundant greatness.
…Let everything that breathes praise the LORD.
Hallelujah!” – Psalm 150:1-2,6
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