THE PURSUIT OF SPIRITUAL RESTORATION
ďLiving in Godís FavorĒ Ezra 7
††††††††††††††† Have you ever testified of the good hand of God at work in all that is taking place in your life? Ever sit back and revel in the idea that God is working in your life in a good way. That His favor is yours to enjoy while you live? We admit hopefully often that God is doing good things in our lives. Ezra testifies of the goodness of the lord upon him demonstrate throughout all of the circumstances collating toward his arrival in Jerusalem. God has taken care of everythingóremoved obstacles, provided necessities, garnished support, and set all in motion. God is doing the same in your life right now, today, through the circumstances of your life. By faith, you can trust that and testify even now of his goodness to you as you look back at his guiding caring protective loving and challenging ways in your life. Oh, the goodness of the Lord!
††††††††††††††† Chapters 7 and 8 treat the return under Artaxerxes in two phases. The first introduces Ezra, his mission, and the decree with which Artaxerxes commissioned him. The second phase recounts the preparations Ezra made for the journey and the events that took place immediately after the Returneeís arrival.
GODíS GOODNESS IS DISPLAYED TO DEVOTED SERVANTS 1-10
††††††††††††††† We may be tempted to shelve aspects of Godís character into theological systems, creeds, and statements. But His character and ways are expressed in the real stuff of life. We enjoy His goodness and favor everyday.
1. Verses 1-5 delineate the priestly genealogy of Ezra. He is the main character of the entire plot. His lineage is traced all the way back to Aaron v 5 and that is significant because it qualifies him for the priesthood. We know at the outset that he meets the criteria established by the law to be a priest and also contributes to the narratives emphasis on continuity with the law.
2. Verses 6-10 continues the introduction of Ezra and briefly recounts some details of the return trip. We do have some key observation form these verses. (1) Ezra is described as a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses, which God gave to him. This reveals a couple of thing to us: first, it exposes the writerís view of the origin and authority of the law. God had given it to Moses therefore it had divine authority! Allegiance to the law was allegiance to the lawgiver. Ezra had this. Second, it informs us that Ezra was an expert in the law. He had a handle on it. This prepares us to accept Ezraís interpretation of the law in chapter ten which is a big issue for the returnees.
Then we have an explanation as to why the king gave Ezra all he requested for this return trip. The hand of his God was upon him! This is repeated 5 times in 7 and 8 and emphasizes the goodness and favor of God upon Ezra in this endeavor. God supplies his gracious goodness and this is the theme behind all that is happening. Then vv 7-9 break away to inform us of the journeyís end before telling of its beginning. This eliminates any suspense the story may have created and increases instead our awareness of Godís gracious goodness at work on behalf of his people. The section concludes in vv 9-10 with a key theological insightóEzra had set his heart to study the law of God and do it and to teach Israel to do it too! Ezra is on the same page God is. There is a reason why Ezra knows of Godís gracious goodness. It is not arbitrary but connected to Ezraís heart and ambition. So he becomes a model for us of holiness, a recipient of Godís gracious goodness and favor
If you want to know of Godís gracious goodness in your life then have the same kind of desires God does. Pursue with a passion what God pursues. Seek His heart by means of His Word and see how close you can get to that. The difficulty is wanting that. Ezra can be our example today.
DEVOTED SERVANTS CAN EXPECT GODíS GOOD HAND AT WORK IN THEIR LIVES
††††††††††††††† There are not many people in the Bible who make the claim that Godís good hand was upon them. Only two are called friends of God and devoted servants can expect Godís good hand at work in their lives. Artexerxes decree v 11 & 13 contributes several things:
1. It is an external testimony to the character of Ezra. The authority king Artaxerxes invests in Ezra testifies to Ezraís integrity. First, he permits Ezra to lead the return v 14. Second, he trusts him to handle all the money properly vv 15, 17, 18, 20. Third, he commissions Ezra to appoint judges to execute judgment in the land v 25-26. So Ezra character is impacting.
2. It generosity of the decree magnifies Godís goodness and benevolence toward Ezra. The offer of gold and silver for maintaining the temple; access to the royal treasury; authorizing resources beyond the river; exempting the temple personnel from any taxes are all gracious extensions of Gods goodness displayed in Ezraís personal circumstance.
It is no wonder that Ezra bursts forth in praise in vs 27! Ezraís doxology exalts Godís sovereignty, faithfulness, and goodness. In case we missed itóthat Artaxerxes commissioning of Ezra was granted according to the hand of his Godówe couldnít possibly miss it here. The sovereignty of God shines through in His control of the kingís heart as Ezra testified in vs 28. Once again, Ezra testifies, to the hand of the Lord upon Him as he gathered the people for the return tripóone in which God had already orchestrated his plan by his good hand on Ezra!
1. Ezraís God is your God. You can already testify of the good hand of the Lord being upon you in so many ways. God wants to be favorable toward you. He is generous, benevolent, gracious, and magnanimous.
2. There is a linkage between the recipient of Godís favor and the actual favor. That is a heart that desires the same things God does. That is a spirit devoted to the word of God. That is where we discover Godís heart and nourish our own.
3. There should be tangible displays of bursts of praise toward our God as we recount his goodness and favor and are motivated even more by it. I can only hope to be called a friend of God. Ezra is a person we can emulate as we live our own lives longing for the goodness of our God to follow us all the days of our lives.