Read Ezra 8 -- 9
In Today's Reading:
Genealogy of Ezra's companions; Ezra proclaims a fast; treasures delivered to the priests; Ezra's prayer and confession
As a priest, Ezra knew the Scriptures and, therefore, he knew the proper place to worship God was in His Temple in Jerusalem. So, he decided to be responsible for leading as many as five thousand men, women, and children on the treacherous, possibly 800-mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. Added to this was the responsibility for carrying priceless treasures of silver . . gold, and the vessels . . . of the House of our God, which the king . . had offered (Ezra 8:25). Ezra was also aware of the danger of bandits who could murder and plunder. He knew the people would face physical and emotional hardships.
It would have been much easier to remain in Babylon and just pray for the people in Jerusalem. But Ezra decided to do what he could. He did not ask the king for a protective military guard; rather it is recorded that Ezra proclaimed a fast . . . that we might afflict (humble) ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way. . . . I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers . . . to help us against the enemy . . . because we had spoken to the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him (8:21-22).
Ezra and all his followers arrived safely in Jerusalem four months after leaving Babylon (see 7:8-9; 8:31). Upon arrival, Ezra was grief stricken upon hearing about the low moral and spiritual state of affairs in Jerusalem since the Temple had been rebuilt. He was told: The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations (detestable practices) (9:1). Again, he did not say: "It's not my problem, so I'll leave it up to someone else." Instead, he became involved and openly mourned over the sins of the people. Then were assembled to me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel (9:4). At the evening sacrifice, he fell on his knees and spread out his hands to the Lord, and cried out: O my God, I am ashamed . . . for our iniquities are increased . . . . for we have forsaken Your Commandments (9:6,10).
When the Word of God is neglected sin abounds; so we too need to be as concerned as Ezra for our nation. The Lord is faithful and He has promised: If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will I heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
By Ezra, who mourned over the sins of the people of Jerusalem (Ezra 9:5). Twice it is recorded that, when Jesus looked upon Jerusalem, He also mourned for the people. He beheld the city and wept over it (Luke 19:41; 13:34).
8:29 chambers = storerooms; 9:3 mantle = robe; 9:7 confusion of face = open shame; 9:8 a nail in His Holy Place = a secure hold on the promised land; 9:12 wealth = well-being.
Pray for Country: Benin (6 million) in western Africa · Major languages: French and tribal languages · Some hostility toward Christians · 59% animism and voodoo; 17% Muslim; 16% Roman Catholic; 3% Protestant · Prayer Suggestion: Pray that Christians would be united as Christ and God are one (John 17:11,21).
Optional Reading: II Corinthians 6
Memory Verse for the Week: II Timothy 4:4