7 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. 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, musicians, 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.
(Ezra 7:1-10 NIV)
As we ended chapter 6, Ezra was writing from a historical perspective. Tattenai, the regional governor in Judah, had tried to stop Zerubbabel and the other Jewish returning exiles from rebuilding the Temple. Tattenai wrote a letter to King Darius in hopes of stopping the effort. God intervened as King Darius wrote back and gave his full support to the project, ordering Tattenai to give his full support and pay for the project with regional tax dollars and treasury funds.
The Temple rebuilding was finished, and regular services resumed with Temple staff in place. The Jewish people held a large celebration to dedicate the Temple to the Lord. Later that year, the people held the first Passover in the rebuilt Temple with a week-long celebration.
As we begin chapter 7, we fast-forward roughly sixty years from the end of chapter 6. Ezra is now writing in his present time, in the days of King Artaxerxes.
Ezra introduces himself (in the third person narrative) by tracing his ancestry back to Aaron the high priest (who served alongside Moses), his training as a scribe well-trained in God’s Law, and his implied role (a servant of King Artaxerxes, likely a government official in charge of Jewish affairs).
King Artaxerxes allowed Ezra and other Jewish exiles to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem to attend to the affairs of the Temple and of the Jewish people. Ezra’s traveling companions all had official ties to Temple worship: priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, and temple servants are specifically named.
The trip from Babylon took four months; the journey was successful because God’s hand was upon the travelers. This was the hottest part of the year; this was also a very dangerous journey, with many bandits, raiders, and marauders lurking along the way.
In verse 10, we see Ezra’s heart of discipleship expressed:
- to study God’s Law himself
- to practice (obey) God’s Law in his own life
- to teach others God’s Law so they can obey and teach others to do the same
As we observe this passage, we see a phrase repeated in both verses 6 and 9, that God’s hand was upon Ezra. Verse 10 begins with “For”, linking God’s blessing with Ezra’s obedience to the Lord. Ezra “dedicated” himself to the studying, observing (obeying) and teaching God’s Law. This dedication involved his entire being, not just a portion of his time or energies. For Ezra, this meant he was “all in”, wholeheartedly serving the Lord. Verse 10 sets the standard for the rest of the book of Ezra.
What is our dedication to the Lord?
- Are we regularly reading and studying God’s Word?
- Are we obeying what we read and study in God’s Word, becoming more like Christ?
- Are we investing in the lives of others, that they might become more like Christ?
The Christian life was never meant to be hoarded, but to be lived out in our lives so that Christ’s love pours out from us to others, given away freely, just as He gave His life for us.
May we walk in dedication to the Lord, encouraged by Ezra’s example, living out our lives in obedience to the Lord and experiencing the joy of our salvation for His glory and the love and encouragement of others.