Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
The first six chapters of Ezra record the rebuilding of the temple under Zerubbabel's leadership over a period of some 22 years. The record ends on a joyful note and some 57 years pass, during which time the events recorded in the book of Esther take place. Then God sends Ezra the scribe and priest.
Care is taken to trace Ezra's genealogy back to Aaron, the chief priest during the time of Moses (Ezra 7:1-5). Why does God send Ezra to Jerusalem? While Zerubbabel and Nehemiah are governors, Ezra is a learned teacher of the law (v. 6). When God led His people to build the new temple, the focus of His actions was on the proper worship of Him. Now, in sending Ezra, God is bringing another focus-His Word. His people need to be taught His Word so that they can know Him and live faithfully.
Ezra is eminently equipped by God for the task. Verse 10 is a significant description of this man, for it shows him devoting himself to doing three things. First, the study of God's law. Here is a man who soaks himself in God's Word, examining its details and understanding its message. It is not only an intellectual exercise but also a deeply spiritual quest to know God intimately. This is shown in Ezra's second task, which is observing the law. He seeks to be obedient; he is a practising student of God's Word (see James 1:22; Matthew 7:24). Third, he is committed to teaching God's Word, an activity he is greatly skilled at. Ezra is a careful scholar, a committed disciple, and a gifted teacher. He is said to ″have stamped Israel with its lasting character as the people of a book.″7
Ezra and his company are the second significant group to return to Judea. After the first group of Jews return in 538 BC, King Artaxerxes, the successor to Xerxes (Ahasuerus) who had married Esther (Esther 2), gives Ezra permission to lead this second group back to Judea (Ezra 7:6-7). The journey, which is about 1,600 km long, takes four months (v. 9; 7:11-8:36 gives further details about this journey). A recurring phrase is ″the gracious hand of his God was on him″ (7:9; see also 7:6, 28; 8:18, 22, 31). Ezra, God's man of the hour, arrives in Jerusalem in 458 BC, full of God's favour and strength.
God prepares His many servants for the tasks He has for them, according to His eternal purposes and plans. It is good to remember that not only does God call us for specific tasks and roles, but He also equips us for these. Perhaps you can reflect on how God has been guiding, preparing, and using you. You will find that there is a common thread that runs through these things-God's sovereign choice and grace. You may also recognise this in the lives of those around you.
What is the relationship between worship and the Word? Which of these need strengthening in your life?
What can we learn from Ezra about how God prepares His instruments? Christ referred to Paul as ″my chosen instrument″ (Acts 9:15). How do you think God had trained Paul? Consider your own spiritual training.