FIRST THINGS FIRST (EZRA 8)
There is an ancient Scottish legend that tells the story of a shepherd boy tending a few straggling sheep on the side of a mountain.
One day as he cared for his sheep he saw at his feet a beautiful flower -- one that was more beautiful than any he had ever seen in his life. He knelt down upon his knees and scooped the flower in his hands and held it close to his eyes, drinking in its beauty. As he held the flower close to his face, suddenly he heard a noise and looked up before him. There he saw a great stone mountain opening up right before his eyes. And as the sun began to shine on the inside of the mountain, he saw the sprinkling of the beautiful gems and precious metals that it contained.
With the flower in his hands, he walked inside. Laying the flower down, he began to gather all the gold and silver and precious gems in his arms. Finally with all that his arms could carry, he turned and began to walk out of that great cavern, and suddenly a voice said to him, “Don't forget the best.”
Thinking that perhaps he had overlooked some choice piece of treasure, he turned around again and picked up additional pieces of priceless treasure. And with his arms literally overflowing with wealth, he turned to walk back out of the great mountainous vault.
And again the voice said, “Don't forget the best.”
But by this time his arms were filled and he walked on outside, and all of a sudden, the precious metals and stones turned to dust. And he looked around in time to see the great stone mountain closing its doors again. A third time he heard the voice, and this time the voice said, “You forgot the best. For the beautiful flower is the key to the vault of the mountain.”
Ezra’s return to Israel was a commission, a commitment and a challenge for himself as well as to others. With much time together – some as long as five months together (Ezra 7:9) – the new community could see one another up-close, especially her leaders. The tests in the long run would focus more on Ezra’s character than his charm, his responsibility than the resources, his transparency than his training.
What kind of a leader do people follow? How are you an example to believers and unbelievers? Why is leadership a referendum on the person rather than his personality?
See the Scope
1 These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes: 2 of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom; of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel; of the descendants of David, Hattush 3 of the descendants of Shekaniah; of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men; 4 of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men; 5 of the descendants of Zattu, Shekaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men; 6 of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men; 7 of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men; 8 of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men; 9 of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men; 10 of the descendants of Bani,[b] Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men; 11 of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men; 12 of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men; 13 of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men; 14 of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zakkur, and with them 70 men. 15 I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. 16 So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, 17 and I ordered them to go to Iddo, the leader in Kasiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his fellow Levites, the temple servants in Kasiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God. 18 Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah’s sons and brothers, 18 in all; 19 and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 in all. 20 They also brought 220 of the temple servants—a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.