Summary: In this sermon, we see that Ezra had an impact on others because he was devoted to the Word of God, he was devoted to prayer and fasting, and he was dependent on the hand of God.
A. I like the story told of a preacher and a NYC taxi driver who both died and went to heaven.
1. The apostle Peter was at the Pearly gates waiting for them.
2. “Come with me,” said Peter to the taxi driver.
3. The taxi driver did as he was told and followed Peter to a mansion. It had anything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool.
4. “Wow, thank you,” said the taxi driver.
5. Next, Peter led the preacher to a rugged old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set.
6. “Wait, Peter, I think you are a little mixed up,” said the preacher. “Shouldn't I be the one who gets the mansion, not the taxi driver? After all I was a preacher who served God every day, and I preached God's word.”
7. Peter said, “Yes, that's true, you served God and preached the Word, but during your sermons people slept. However, the way that NYC taxi driver drove, people thought they were going to die, so they prayed and made all kinds of commitments to God.”
B. Today I want us to ask ourselves: “What kind of impact do I have on others? What influence do my words, and my example, and my service have on others?”
C. As we move into our story today in our sermon series on Ezra and Nehemiah, we are finally going to be introduced to a man named Ezra and were going to see the kind of impact he had on God’s people.
1. What was it about his words, his example, and his service that made him so impactful?
2. Let’s take a look and see.
I. The Story
A. So far in our series on the book of Ezra, we have examined the exciting story of the return of God’s people to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile.
1. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, in 538 B.C. about 50,000 Jews left Babylon, returned to Judea, and began to rebuild the temple of God.
2. As you recall, once the foundation was completed, opposition caused the construction to be stopped.
3. Then 16 years later, under the preaching and example of Haggai and Zechariah the prophets, the construction was resumed and completed in 4 ½ years in 515 B.C.
B. So the first 6 chapters of the book of Ezra are all about the first group who returned and rebuilt.
1. Ezra isn’t even mentioned in those chapters, because everything we have seen so far took place before Ezra was even alive.
C. Our story resumes in chapter 7: 1 After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, 2 the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, 3 the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, 4 the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, 5 the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest - 6 this Ezra came up from Babylon.
1. The phrase “after these things” allows Ezra, the story teller, to skip about 60 years.
a. We are told that this occurred during the reign of Artaxerxes.
b. In a previous sermon, we examined a time line of the different kings reigning during the story found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
c. We learned that king Artaxerxes reigned from 464 BC to 423 BC and that he is the king who was reigning at the end of Ezra and through the book of Nehemiah.
d. We date Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem at 458 B.C.
2. So, now at last we meet the man from whom the whole book has taken its name.
a. This chapter and the next will introduce the scholar-priest, named Ezra.
b. We will be told about his expedition and his efforts.
c. Lord willing, next week we will examine the remaining 2 chapters of Ezra, where we will witness how Ezra addressed the moral disarray he encountered when he arrived at Jerusalem.
3. It takes most of six verses to delineate Ezra’s lineage.
a. Of most importance, he can trace his lineage all the way back to Aaron, Moses’ brother and the first high priest of Israel.
b. Someone wanting to be a scholar-priest in the Jewish religion could not have a better pedigree!
4. So it wasn’t just any old Ezra who came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, but the Ezra who was a descendent of Aaron.
5. Let’s see what else we are told about this Ezra.
D. The story continues: He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. 7 Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. 8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.