Ezra Comes to Jerusalem
1-6Much later, when Artaxerxes was king of Persia, Ezra came to Jerusalem from Babylonia. Ezra was the son of Seraiah and the grandson of Azariah. His other ancestors were Hilkiah, Shallum, Zadok, Ahitub, Amariah, Azariah, Meraioth, Zerahiah, Uzzi, Bukki, Abishua, Phinehas, Eleazar, and Aaron, the high priest.
Ezra was an expert in the Law that the Lord God of Israel had given to Moses, and the Lord made sure that the king gave Ezra everything he asked for.
7Other Jews, including priests, Levites, musicians, the temple guards, and servants, came to Jerusalem with Ezra. This happened during the seventh year that Artaxerxes was king.
8-9God helped Ezra, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month of that seventh year, after leaving Babylonia on the first day of the first month. 10Ezra had spent his entire life studying and obeying the Law of the Lord and teaching it to others.
Artaxerxes Gives a Letter
11Ezra was a priest and an expert in the laws and commands that the Lord had given to Israel. One day King Artaxerxes gave Ezra a letter which said:
12 Greetings from the great King Artaxerxes to Ezra the priest and expert in the teachings of the God of heaven.
13-14Any of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom may go with you to Jerusalem if they want to. My seven advisors and I agree that you may go to Jerusalem and Judah to find out if the laws of your God are being obeyed.
15When you go, take the silver and gold that I and my advisors are freely giving to the God of Israel, whose temple is in Jerusalem. 16Take the silver and gold that you collect from everywhere in Babylonia. Also take the gifts that your own people and priests have so willingly contributed for the temple of your God in Jerusalem.
17Use the money carefully to buy the best bulls, rams, lambs, grain, and wine. Then sacrifice them on the altar at God's temple in Jerusalem. 18If any silver or gold is left, you and your people may use it for whatever pleases your God. 19Give your God the other articles that have been contributed for use in his temple. 20If you need to get anything else for the temple, you may have the money you need from the royal treasury.
21Ezra, you are a priest and an expert in the laws of the God of heaven, and I order all treasurers in Western Province to do their very best to help you. 22They will be allowed to give as much as 3.4 tons of silver, 10 tons of wheat, 2,000 liters of wine, 2,000 liters of olive oil, and all the salt you need.
23They must provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his temple, so that he won't be angry with me and with the kings who rule after me. 24We want you to know that no priests, Levites, musicians, guards, temple servants, or any other temple workers will have to pay any kind of taxes.
25Ezra, use the wisdom God has given you and choose officials and leaders to govern the people of Western Province. These leaders should know God's laws and have them taught to anyone who doesn't know them. 26Everyone who fails to obey God's Law or the king's law will be punished without pity. They will either be executed or put in prison or forced to leave their country, or have all they own taken away.
Ezra Praises God
27Because King Artaxerxes was so kind, Ezra said:
Praise the Lord God of our ancestors! He made sure that the king honored the Lord's temple in Jerusalem. 28God has told the king, his advisors, and his powerful officials to treat me with kindness. The Lord God has helped me, and I have been able to bring many Jewish leaders back to Jerusalem.
When I was younger in my faith I had a wayward outlook on ministry. I can remember thinking that when we had an opportunity to speak at a school or event that we were bringing Jesus to that place. I don’t think anyone necessarily brings Jesus in that sense as if Jesus has never worked in that place before!
On reflection, a lot of the fruit that we have seen in our ministry is because Jesus was already at work. It was a helpful shift for me in my thinking and also helped my prayer life, “Lord what are you doing in this place and how can I join you?”
Chapter 7 of Ezra shows God powerfully at work. As we have already seen in the first 7 chapters of Ezra, God is working in amazing ways, through people you could hardly believe. From King Cyrus to King Darius and now through King Artaxerxes (vv 1-6), God is softening the hearts of the world’s greatest emperors.
How encouraging for God’s people to see the work of God in this way. After 70 years of captivity the tide is turning. Their homeland and temple, with its artefacts (7:23), are being restored with extra benefits thrown in from King Artaxerxes for good measure (vv 16,17-20)!
Although this is nearly the end of this book we are now properly introduced to Ezra, the prophet. We are told he is devoted to studying and teaching God’s law (v 10). His identity also affirmed by King Artaxerxes himself (v 12).
Ezra’s credentials are laid out for his role in restoring God’s people to their true identity. God’s work through King Artaxerxes will allow the Jews home and God’s work through Ezra will remind them of their true calling: “God’s chosen and special people” (1 Peter 2:9).
Father, we are so grateful for all your work in our lives, even the details we will never know. We ask for insight into our own situations so we can join you in your work for the building of your kingdom.