Chapter 7:27-8:23 (ESV) - Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
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: Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush. Of the sons of Shecaniah, who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered 150 men. Of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men. Of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men. Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men. Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men. Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him 80 men. Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men. Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men. Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him 28 men. Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men. Of the sons of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men. Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.
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. 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, 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. 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; also Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons, 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.
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. 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.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Question to consider: Does Ezra’s journey seem very well planned to you? Why or why not?
It would not be a surprise if I were to find out that Ezra was still quite young when he ventured on this blessed quest to Jerusalem. He seems to express a youthful joy and enthusiasm for the journey despite the potential for danger, and he takes great pride in the group that he hand-selected for the task. Of course, his inexperience is exposed rather quickly when he reviewed the group that had come with him and discovered that there weren’t any Levites.
The work of the temple could not go on without them so they were forced to camp for three days while Ezra sent a group to the nearest Jewish settlements to see if they could spare a few Levites for the task.
Once Ezra had his crew, he decided they should probably fast and humbly ask for God’s protection. Again, Ezra seems to reveal his youth in their actions because even though he praised the Lord for giving them the freedom to leave Babylon for Jerusalem, he didn’t seek wisdom in planning the journey and securing protection from those who could mean them harm along the way.
After proclaiming to king Artaxerxes that God was on their side and would pour out His wrath upon anyone who opposed them, it would not have supported his claim to then turn around and ask the king for protection. Yet, instead of turning back, we can see the faith of Ezra to trust in God’s promise to restore the temple and the city and to return them to the land.
Deep down, Ezra knew that no army could rise up against them when the LORD Sabaoth was on their side. Still, without pride or presumption, he had the people fast and pray to seek the Lord’s protection knowing that in doing so, all were placing their faith and hope in God. This faith and hope were realized as God listened to their entreaty.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your promise to be with us until the end of the age and for sending Your promised Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. Give us the courage to venture into the unknown and make disciples so that we may see Your kingdom go throughout the earth. Amen.