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July 22, 2015

memoirs of Ezra (Sword of the Spirit)

This watchman posted on 24/02/2015 the memoirs of Nehemiah. Today I am led to write about another crucial historical person, Ezra the priest-teacher-scribe. Ezra was a scribe, someone who was conversant with the words of God, teaching and writing them down. In many ways I like to identify with Ezra. We share common interests in our love for the words of God: reading, writing and teaching them.
The Book of Ezra recorded the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem by the remnants of Israel who returned from exiles. “The Temple was finally finished, as had been commanded by the God of Israel and decreed by Cyrus, ...” (Ezra 6:14b-15) Many years later, Ezra was called to return to Jerusalem.

But there is more about Ezra. His accomplishment was unique and was demonstrated in an amazing journey. He was a well trusted and authoritative Bible scholar and teacher while in exile in Persia. The King of Persia respected him and appointed him to go to Jerusalem to teach and implement the Laws of the God of Israel. He was entrusted with leading a group of leading priests and Levites, ministers for the Temple of God at Jerusalem and they in turn were entrusted to carry the gold, silver and precious things for the Temple. Ezra did not ask for military protection from the alien king. Instead, he witnessed to the king that God would protect them. The dangerous journey took four months and all lives and possessions were intact.
The Holy Spirit recorded and described Ezra in this amazing journey of faith in action in the following memoirs quoted in brackets:
[ “This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. 8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August[e] of that year. He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year,[f] and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4,[g] for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” ] (Ezra 7:6,8-10)

The Persian king wrote Ezra a letter commissioning him with authority and resources giving him all he needed for his task in Jerusalem. The king) addressed Ezra as follows:
[ 12 “Ezra the priest, the teacher of the law of the God of heaven.
25 “And you, Ezra, are to use the wisdom your God has given you to appoint magistrates and judges who know your God’s laws to govern all the people in the province west of the Euphrates River. Teach the law to anyone who does not know it. 26 Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.”]
Ezra’s response to the king’s commission was spoken as follows. He was entirely God-focused:
[ 27 Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem! 28 And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty nobles! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.]
Instead of getting military help, he took spiritual action (fast and pray) to prepare himself and his fellow travelers.
[ 21 And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen[r] to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” 23 So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.]
Safe conduct was of utmost importance as they traveled with families and money (gold and silver and precious things for the Temple of God). Ezra and his companions arrived safely under the protection of God.
[ 31 We broke camp at the Ahava Canal on April 19[v] and started off to Jerusalem. And the gracious hand of our God protected us and saved us from enemies and bandits along the way. 32 So we arrived safely in Jerusalem, where we rested for three days.
33 On the fourth day after our arrival, the silver, gold, and other valuables were weighed at the Temple of our God…34 Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the total weight was officially recorded.]
To those who are not used to the spiritual reality of life, Ezra’s decision may be deemed as foolish. He risked his own life and the lives of others. But Ezra was full of the Spirit. He knew His God. He knew the enemies (physical and spiritual) could not do anything to them. The word of God is the Sword of the Spirit. Ezra was full of God’s words.

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