Read Ezra 7
Ezra Comes to Jerusalem
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.
King Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra
11 This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord for Israel:
12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,
To Ezra the priest, teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:
13 Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. 14 You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand. 15 Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.
18 You and your fellow Israelites may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. 19 Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. 20 And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you are responsible to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.
21 Now I, King Artaxerxes, decree that all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates are to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you— 22 up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. 23 Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should his wrath fall on the realm of the king and of his sons? 24 You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.
25 And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. 26 Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
27 Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way 28 and who has extended his good favor 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 leaders from Israel to go up with me.
The events of today’s reading take place roughly 60 years after chapter six. We finally meet Ezra! King Artaxerxes commissions Ezra, who is estimated to be only 22 years old at this point, to lead any of the Israelites in exile who desire to go back to Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes is beyond generous. He entrusts Ezra with silver and gold for the temple, encourages offerings for the temple, and even offers “whatever else is required for the house of your God… you may provide it out of the king’s treasury” (v. 20). It doesn’t stop there. He appoints Ezra to select judges that will enforce God’s law. He encourages Ezra to teach the Scriptures to all the exiles in Jerusalem. Not only is this a huge responsibility and honor for Ezra, but also unheard of for the king to make these sorts of commands!
Immediately after reading the letter, Ezra responds by praising God for moving in the king’s heart. He knows God is working in every single detail of the king’s commissioning (Proverbs 21:1). Ezra proclaims in verse 28: “I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me!” He gives all credit to God! We see Ezra’s courage come not from his status as a gifted scribe, his approval from the king, or his age—but from the Lord.
Ezra sets an incredible example for believers. We see in verse 10 that “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statues and rules in Israel.” He was determined to know God’s Word, to do what it says, and to teach it to others. His time with the Father overflowed into all he did. Even King Artaxerxes noticed Ezra’s godly wisdom and entrusted the leadership and finances of Jerusalem into his hands. Today, may we be spurred on by Ezra’s faithfulness and devote ourselves to spending time with God in His Word, doing what He says, and teaching it to others. May our confidence and identity be rooted in Christ instead of our age, status, or circumstances. Finally, today may we take heart, because the same God who was working in all the details in Ezra 7 is on the move in our lives and world today!
- Ezra “had set his heart” to know God’s Word. What spiritual disciplines do you have in place to do the same?
- Not only was Ezra determined to study God’s Word, but to actively do what it said. James 1:22 states, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” In what ways are you practically living out the Scripture you are studying?
- “Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem!” (Ezra 7:27) – Throughout our reading today, we were able to see God working behind the decisions the king made. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8) He is actively working in our world today, too. How are you praying for our country’s leadership? Here is a great place to start: Government Officials Prayer Guide.
Did You Know?
Ezra and his traveling companions left Babylon during the Jewish month of Nisan. Nisan corresponds to our late March/early April. It took their group four months to cover the 900 mile journey.
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