Ezra discovered this truth about God, even though it took a long while to finish what he was called to do. In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, a proclamation was put in writing to rebuild the house of God. An offering was made. All those carried away as captives into Babylon were numbered. There was 42,360 remaining who could prove their lineage.
Adversaries arose to frustrate the plans to build God’s house. These enemies were able to cause the building to cease until the 2nd year of King Darius. But God made King Darius search the archives for King Cyrus’ decree. Once he found it, he too allowed the building to continue.
The temple was finished in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. The children of Israel, the priests, Levites, and the rest of the descendants of captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.
Getting to this milestone took time. How long we don’t know exactly. But we do know it took all of King Cyrus’ reign and six years of Kind Darius’ reign. This was only the first part of Ezra’s calling to fulfill God’s purposes.
As the children of Israel began following God’s laws once again, we see them offering sacrifices. The priests purified themselves and prepared the Passover Lambs. The people who returned from captivity separated themselves from the filth of the nations in order to seek the Lord God of Israel. They kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with joy. The Lord strengthened their hands in the work of the house of the God.
Seven years later Ezra came to Jerusalem. Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. King Artaxeres says to Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges to judge the people who know the law of God and teach those who don’t know. Whoever won’t observe God’s law, let judgment be executed speedily. This judgment could be death, banishment, or confiscation of property or imprisonment.
Ezra took 1,754 people and priests with him. He proclaimed a fast to humble themselves before God, to seek from Him the right way for them to go. God answered his prayer.
When the Levites came to Ezra, they had not separated themselves from the land. They had married pagan women and had children born to them. To understand why this was such a big deal, we need to journey back to discover what the Levites God-given role was in the beginning. We are not going to recount everything from the book of Leviticus, as there are twenty-seven chapters! The Levites were God’s chosen priests who were responsible to carry out the offerings; peace offering, sin offering, trespass offering. They were to be consecrated to God for this service.
The Levites who came to Ezra had defiled their God-appointed office! Ezra tore his garment, sat astonished and fasted. After a time of reflection Ezra fell on his knees and spread out his hands to God in prayer. He confessed the sins of the people. He praised God for not punishing them as they deserved. He wept bitterly.
The sons of priests came and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God and taken pagan wives. Now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and children born to them, according to the commandment of God.” Ezra made the priests, Levites and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word.
After several days, the people came, the proclamation went out. The people came in great assembly. Ezra preached to make confession to the Lord to call the people to separate themselves from the people of this land and from the pagan wives. All the assembly answer, “Yes as you have said, so we must do!”
Ezra’s role was to remind the people of God’s ways and teach those who don’t know it yet. God used Ezra to not only rebuild the house of God, but also to restore the people’s hearts to God. The later part of Ezra’s calling is the same for us in our age. If we know God and His words we need to share it with others that they might turn their hearts to God and be saved in Jesus’ name!
Lord, you have a plan and purpose for each of us. Help us to see it, and work with you to complete it no matter how long it takes. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
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