Summary: This sermon is an overview of the qualities that helped Ezra succeed in his return to Israel along with 3000 other exiles to reestablish proper worship among the Jews.
Strength for the Journey - Ezra
Summer is almost here! How many of you have some sort of travel plans for this summer? Is anyone planning to join about 3,000 people for a 900 mile hike? That’s what we read about in the Book of Ezra. That would be like walking from San Antonio to Phoenix. (I’ve driven that many times --- It’s bad enough to drive; I wouldn’t want to walk it!) For Ezra it was hiking from Babylon to Jerusalem --- They were retracing the steps they had taken 70 years before when the Jews went into exile.
Ezra wrote the book that is named after him, but the first time we hear about him is in the 7th chapter. Between chapter 1 and 7 almost 60 years had gone by. In chapter 1, King Cyrus issued a decree that allowed Zerubbabel and 50,000 Jewish refugees to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was built, but the Jews in Jerusalem were having hard times.
In chapter 7, King Artexerxes, the new King of Persia, issues a similar decree. This time, a Jewish priest named Ezra would lead a 2nd group of Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem. Their purpose was to establish a settlement in Jerusalem and … even more important … to bring true worship back into the Temple of God.
Ezra was the perfect candidate for the job. Ezra 7:6 This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him.
That phrase, “the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him” is repeated 3 times in Chapter 7. Everything Ezra was able to accomplish was based on the fact that he received God’s Grace!
1. Receive God’s Grace
The grace of God is the only explanation for this obscure Jewish exile to be able to lead an amazing spiritual revival in Jerusalem. During the 70 terrible years of exile in Babylon, the Jewish people had NO reason to hope they would EVER return home again … no reason except one – God’s promise.
Jeremiah 29 records: This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to … the place from which I carried you into exile. Jeremiah 29: 10, 14
That’s exactly what happened. The gracious hand of God came upon Ezra and he led 3,000 exiles back across the exact same road they had traveled into Babylon 70 years before. What God accomplished in Ezra’s life is amazing… but it’s not unique.
God puts His hand on all kinds of people. It’s only when the gracious hand of God is upon us that we are able to live successful, meaningful lives. In fact, if the gracious hand of God is NOT on you, then nothing of lasting value can come from your life!
Ezra 7:9-10 says that He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the New Year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.
Where did Ezra get the strength for this 900 mile journey? Strength for the journey comes to those who study and obey the Law of the Lord.
2. Study God’s Word
Ezra grew up in the great city of Babylon where he had the opportunity to study any number of things: science, medicine, mathematics, astrology, magic arts, history, myths and legends. Out of all the thousands of books available to him, he chose to study the Old Testament scrolls which and been brought to Babylon over 100 years earlier. He set his heart to study the Law of the Lord.
We have a similar choice to make. All kinds of things are available for us to learn. Have you set your heart to study God’s Word? Maybe you aren’t attending a school that teaches God’s word, but you can study the Bible at church and at home.
I can remember the verses I memorized before I was 18 much better than I remember verses I memorized later. If you are a parent, don’t miss the opportunity to teach your children God’s Word now … while their brains are developing. It’s worth the trouble to bring children to church and AWANAS and Camp and VBS.
And speaking of that, I want to say thank you to all the dedicated teachers we have here at CHCC. I still remember the people who taught me in church when I was young. I grew up in a family that went to church 2 or 3 times a week. Besides that, I was a camper or worker in church camp each summer. Then I ended up going to Bible College for 4 years and several more years of graduate work after that.