Summary: We see the unfolding of God's will and the outworking of God's works in fulfilling His will. God raised Ezra, the man of God's Law, to bring about the next phrase of restoration - spiritual reformation and renewal.
Finally, we have Ezra appearing in the book that bears his name. Chapter 7.
• We ended chapter 6 with the completion and the dedication of the Temple of God, led by Zerubbabel and Jeshua, under the reign of Darius.
• This was made possible because of the move of God (1) through the preaching of His prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and (2) also because of His sovereign control over the Persian kings.
We have been seeing the outworking of the will of God. God works to fulfil His will, right from the start with King Cyrus in chapter 1.
Chapter 7 begins with King Artaxerxes. 7:7 says Ezra and the second batch of returnees came to Jerusalem in the 7th year of Artaxerxes’ reign (458BC).
• In order words, from the end of chapter 6 (completion of the Temple of God in Darius 6th year, 515BC) to the start of chapter 7, 57 years have passed.
• After King Darius, we have King Xerxes and then King Artaxerxes. So the story of Esther comes between Ezra 6 and 7.
• Clearly God watches over His own, whether in Jerusalem or Susa in Persia.
We are now standing in between the completed Temple and the soon-to-happen rebuilding of the city walls under Nehemiah.
• God raised Ezra to meet a spiritual need for a generation that had spent 70 years in exile and restore them to the true worship of God.
• This man Ezra cannot be any ordinary leader but someone steeped in the understanding of the Law of Moses (the Law of God) and therefore the ways of God.
• That explains why Ezra was introduced to us in a very thorough way. Who is he? From 7:1-5. He is the son of… son of… son of… all the way to “son of Aaron the chief priest.”
It traces Ezra’s family lineage back through 16 forefathers to Aaron the chief priest, brother of Moses. We can sense the purpose for this – to authenticate Ezra’s credibility.
• There are some gaps in between but the point of the genealogy is to show that Ezra came from the priestly line, a direct descendant of Aaron.
Not only is he a priest, he is a teacher, skilled scribe (NKJV, ESV). 7:6b “He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given.”
• 7:10 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.
• 7:11 – “Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel.”
God raised this man to fulfil His purpose. He has been doing that all the time - with Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Haggai and Zechariah, with Ezra now, later with Nehemiah.
God works to fulfil His will. Ezra emphasizes this.
• 7:6 - The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
• 7:9 - 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.
• Having shared with us what the king’s letter said, Ezra says, 7:27-28 - Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king's heart to bring honour to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way 28and who has extended His good favour to me before the king and his advisers and all the king's powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
This phrase appeared 3 times in this chapter (7:6, 9, 28), and another 5 more times in the rest of this scroll – Ezra x 3/Nehemiah x 2 (8:18, 22, 31; Neh. 2:8, 18). 8 times in all.
• Just in case we are carried away with the thought that this success has to do with Zerubbabel or Ezra or Nehemiah, or for that matter, anyone who is serving God and experiencing success and thinks that it’s him…
• Ezra reminds his readers that it’s all of God! It’s the gracious hand of God that makes all of this possible.
Look at the letter and be amazed at what the King granted Ezra.
• The King did not become a worshipper of Israel’s God. He was just following the Persian’s policy (from Cyrus) of appeasing all foreign gods so that their Empire would be blessed.
• That’s politics but God works through politics. He works through kings and kingdoms. “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.” (Prov 21:11 ESV)