Ezra -
According to the Good Hand of God

Read Time: 6 Minutes

    When you work for God, God works for you. Ezra was a descendant of Aaron, a priest and scribe and prepared his heart to seek the Lord (Ezra 7:1-10). For his diligence God took care of him and entrusted him with the great treasure that was sent from the kingdom of Persia to Jerusalem.

Ezra 7
:6 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses,
        which the LORD God of Israel had given:
    and the king granted him all his request,
        according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.

This king is called Artaxerxes, an appellative meaning 'the great king' and it is used here of Darius Hystaspis a successor of Cyrus the son of Esther and Darius the Mede, Astyages. Hystaspis was the king that gave the priests in Jerusalem the approval and funds to finish building the temple. We will see here again that he is very generous toward God's people. God worked in Hystaspis to grant Ezra his requests.

:7 And there went up some of the children of Israel,
        and of the priests,
        and the Levites,
        and the singers,
        and the porters,
        and the Nethinims,
    unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. [404 B.C.]
:8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month,
        which was in the seventh year of the king.
:9 For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon,
    and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem,
        according to the good hand of his God upon him.
:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD,
    and to do it,
    and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

This is no stroll in the park. They didn't have a car or a jet or train to ride. These people left Babylon on foot and on beasts and traveled in a caravan from Babylon to Jerusalem. This journey takes them through the fertile crescent; north from Mesopotamia/Chaldea/Babylon, west through Haran and then south to Jerusalem. This is a similar journey that Abraham took; see the map Abraham's Journey. This journey is long and dangerous, dangerous from animals and robbers. They were loaded with a great deal of treasure according the verses 7:11-26. It also took them four months to make the trek. They left the first day of the first month and arrived the first day of the fifth month. How was he able to do this? He was able because he had prepared his heart to seek the Lord and do it and teach in Israel the statutes and judgments (which was also his responsibility as a priest and scribe).

:11 Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest,
        the scribe,
        even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD,
        and of his statutes to Israel.
:12   Artaxerxes, ['the great king' Darius Hystaspis]
            king of kings,
        unto Ezra the priest,
            a scribe of the law of the God of heaven,
        perfect peace, and at such a time.
:13   I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel,
            and of his priests
            and Levites,
        in my realm,
            which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem,
        go with thee.
:14   Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king,
            and of his seven counsellors,
        to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem,
        according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;
:15   And to carry the silver and gold,
            which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel,
                whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
:16   And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon,
        with the freewill offering of the people,
            and of the priests,
        offering willingly for the house of their God
            which is in Jerusalem:
:17   That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks,
            with their meat offerings
            and their drink offerings,
            and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God
                which is in Jerusalem.
:18   And whatsoever shall seem good to thee,
            and to thy brethren,
        to do with the rest of the silver and the gold,
        that do after the will of your God.
:19   The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God,
        those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.
:20   And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God,
            which thou shalt have occasion to bestow,
        bestow it out of the king's treasure house.
:21   And I,
            even I Artaxerxes the king,
        do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river,
        that whatsoever Ezra the priest,
            the scribe of the law of the God of heaven,
        shall require of you, it be done speedily,
:22   Unto an hundred talents of silver,
            and to an hundred measures of wheat,
            and to an hundred baths of wine,
            and to an hundred baths of oil,
            and salt without prescribing how much.
:23   Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven,
        let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven:
        for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?

This is quite impressive. Compare this to the Exodus from Egypt. The Pharaoh didn't want to let them go, they were valuable servants. The Children of Israel were servants in Persia also and the cream of the crop from Judah. They would be sorely missed yet the king tells them to go if they want and don't leave empty handed. When they left Egypt the people gave them gold and silver and jewels so they would leave because of the destruction that had been brought upon Egypt because of Pharaoh's disobedience. Here Hystaspis (and the counselors which is unusual) allows the people to leave freely and gives them gold and silver and anything they need plus collecting an offering for God so God will bless his empire. I perceive that Hystaspis recognized the power of God and His mercy.

Ezra's reaction is one of praise to God, thankfulness and he prays for the king and his counselors.

:27   Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers,
            which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart,
        to beautify the house of the LORD 
            which is in Jerusalem:
:28   And hath extended mercy unto me before the king,
            and his counsellors,
        and before all the king's mighty princes.
    And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me,
    and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.

Because Ezra was doing the will of the Lord he was strengthened. Would you like to be stronger? I always want to be stronger than I am; not just mentally but spiritually. Just as it is necessary to engage in physical exercise to become stronger physically it is necessary put effort into becoming mentally and spiritually stronger. Put on the mind of Christ, read the Word daily, hide it in your hearts, do the will of God and you will be strengthened by God.

Ezra chapter eight tells us a little more about this four-month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. God tells of the heads of the households that go with Ezra and among them are no Levites. However there are Nethinims' ministers of the Levites, originally Gibeonites' who Ezra needed to minister the house of God on their journey. (8:15-20).

Ezra didn't try to figure out how he was going to get all of the treasure to Jerusalem safely. He looked to God for protection.

Ezra 8
:21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, [in Babylon]
    that we might afflict [humble] ourselves before our God,
    to seek of him a right way for us,
        and for our little ones,
        and for all our substance.
:22 For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers
        and horsemen
    to help us against the enemy in the way:
    because we had spoken unto the king, saying,
        The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him;
        but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
:23 So we fasted
    and besought our God for this:
    and he was intreated of us.

Because Ezra had told Hystaspis that God would convey them to Jerusalem safely he didn't ask for an escort. So they asked God for protection on their journey before they began (always a good idea regardless of the size of the journey) and God entreated them, or heard them and kept the adversary at bay.

Ezra was able to travel four months with great treasure without incident because the hand of God was upon him. He dedicated his life to doing God's will and to teach the people and God took care of him and all those that came with him to Jerusalem from their captivity.

There is still more housekeeping that needs to be done in order to be right according the commandments of God. Since they were scattered throughout Babylon their beliefs were corrupted. Not everyone had a fellowship to go to where they taught the word of God and so His laws were compromised. Next week is the culmination of the Old Testament chronologically. We will see the last attempt of the Children of Israel to set themselves right before God.