Ezra 7

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We return this week to the Old Testament Book of Ezra. As you may recall, the reason we took a brief break from the Book of Ezra to go through the Book of Esther is because Esther fits historically between chapters 6 & 7 in Ezra. Before we start the last 4 chapters, lets to a quick review of the first 6 chapters.
To begin with we looked at the reason they were taken captive. The Nation of Israel as well as the southern Kingdom of Judah had completely disregarded very specific Laws God had established for them when they were being miraculously freed from their 400 years in slavery in Egypt. God gave them specific directives and made it very clear that if they ignored his commands He would deliver them into the hands of their enemies. They ignored His commands and He made good on His promise. This brought us to the 1st very important truth in our study of the Book of Ezra:
Often times God withdraws His Hand of blessing on us, and even brings calamity on us because of sin in our lives. This is not to say that every adverse circumstance we face is the result of sin, but often times it is. I believe generally that when problems come as a result of sin in our lives, as we seek the face of God, He opens our eyes to the specific sin. Kind of like He did to Joshua when Akin disobeyed God and kept some of the valuable items he found after the walls of Jericho fell. God then brought defeat on the Nation of Israel and when Joshua sought the Face of God, God led him directly to the sin in the camp. I believe He does that to us as well. I was trying to think of another way to explain how this works. The Colts opened their training camp this week. Now a good training camp does not guarantee a trip to the SuperBowl, but I can tell you one thing, no training or a bad training camp all but assures a disappointing season. The point is this, obedience to God greatly enhances our chance at experiencing God’s blessing on our life. Adversely, disobedience to God greatly enhances our chance at experiencing God’s judgment.
After this we looked at how God, in Isaiah 44, literally named the king He would use to free them 150 years before he was even born. Not only did God name King Cyrus by name, He also gave specific details about how he would be used to free them from captivity. The lesson for us is very clear:
God is in complete control, even of pagan rulers, and He uses them as He sees fit to bring glory to His name. This important truth should be a great source of encouragement to us as this truth rings as true today as it did in the days Ezra penned the Words.
In chapter 3 we see the returning exiles Return to The Heart of Worship. It was a no frills worship at the foot of a rustic makeshift altar, at a time they were experiencing great fear of the current inhabitants of the land. That Return to the Heart of Worship, removed all of their fears. We were reminded of the fact that we have those same tendencies. We start out worshipping with the right intentions, but some how loose sight of the fact that the only worship God desires from us, is worship that comes from a heart of love for Him and a sense of deep devotion to Him.
Please don’t miss this lesson. So many of us have huge struggles with fear and anxiety, and our tendency is to look for solutions through counseling, through medications, through alcohol, through our friendships, even through our church....now don’t get me wrong here, not all of these are bad things and some can provide some help against fear and anxiety, but Ultimately, Victory over Fear and Anxiety Come from Hearts Completely Dependent Upon God .
For the Nation of Judah, their fear left them when they began to truly worship God. Right now we are going to play a video for you that I think gives us an idea of how worship dissipated their fear of the in habitants of the land.
Imperials “Praise the Lord”: 3:43
In chapters 4-6 we saw how Satan changed the attack, his outward attack through the current inhabitants of the land failed, so he shifted to a more subtle attack, and while it didn’t work initially, when he moved to bribing some corrupt government officials, the returning exiles forgot all about how God moved the heart of King Cyrus, and stopped working on the Temple of God until He sent a wakeup call 15 years later through 2 prophets who reminded them that God had not told them to stop building His Temple.
The lesson there for us was that if we are living for the Lord, the enemy will attack, and he doesn’t call off the attack if his first attempt is unsuccessful, he keeps on attacking. The key for us is the understanding that if God has given us a job to do, He has also given us everything we need to accomplish His will. Our job is to trust Him and keep on working, He will take care of the rest.
This moves us to chapter Seven. 58 years passed between chapter 6 & 7 and as was already mentioned, the book of Esther took place during that time. When we were last in Ezra, Darius was the king, now his grandson, Artaxerxes has assumed power. Artaxerxes became the king after his father Xerxes and his older brother were both assassinated. The man who planned and carried out the assassinations had seven sons and his plan was to overthrow the kings family and take over the thrown. Once Artexerxes discovered what he had done, he had the culprit and his seven sons killed. Here we are in the 7th year of the reign of Artexerxes.
If you haven’t already, turn in your Bibles to Ezra 7, page 498 in the pew Bibles.
We start off by seeing: Next Slides
Ezra’s Genealogy and Credentials.
Read Ezra 7:1-5; “Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest
Next Slides
Ezra-A descendant of Aaron, the Chief Priest.
The first thing we see is that Ezra carefully details that his family can be traced back all the way to the days of Moses and that he is from the line of Aaron, Moses brother and the very first priest of Israel. This is important because it gives him the genealogical credentials he needs to be considered a spiritual leader for the Nation of Judah.
By the way, this is not an exhaustive genealogy, it was customary in ancient writings to shorten the lists with the more recognizable names as opposed to including every single name in the genealogy.
After establishing his family heritage, in verse 6 he moves to his professional or occupational heritage.
6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the Hand of the Lord his God was on him.Next Slides
Ezra-A scribe by Trade.
Now up until the time of Ezra, being a scribe was’t really that impressive. They often served as little more that secretaries to the king, writing down decrees, keeping records of the kings activities, some times they served as treasures or messengers. Really anything but an impressive occupation. When Ezra came onto the scene, the duties and the perception of the occupation of scribe completely changed. As we read on, particularly in verse 6 & 10, we will see why it changed.
First, we see in verse 6 that Ezra was: Next Slides
1. Skilled in the Law of Moses/Set his heart to study the Law of the Lord. Vs. 6 & 10
Verse 10 adds to this by stating “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord.” Truthfully, it was likely the fact that he had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord that he became skilled in the Law of Moses. The two go hand in hand. When we read that he set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, the Hebrew word used gives the picture that he made a determination of the will. Simply put, he made the Word of God a priority and as a result we get the impression that God gave him a deeper than normal understanding than most.
Now perhaps you may be thinking right now; “Man, I wish God would give me a deeper understanding of His Word!” Well you’re in luck because if you set your heart to study the Law of the Lord, He will give you a deeper understanding. He gives us this assurance through the prophet Isaiah. Let’s look at Next Slides
Isaiah 55:10-11
Isaiah 55:10–11 ESV
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Actually, let me backtrack in Isaiah 55 a few verses, starting in verse 6 we read; “ 6Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
If a deeper understanding of the Word of God is what you want, set your heart to study it.
That brings us to the second thing Ezra did that changed the course of history for the scribes. We see it in verse 10 that Ezra; Next Slides
2. Set his heart to obey what he studied in the Law of the Lord. Vs 10
We see this is 4 small words when we read “and to do it”. Ezra understood this very important truth, it doesn’t matter how well you know and understand the Word of God if you don’t apply the truths you read to your life.
The application of the Word of God to our lives is of paramount importance if we want to live transformed lives.
The next thing Ezra did that changed the course of history for the scribes we also see in verse 10, where we read that Ezra; Next Slides
3. Set his heart to teach the Law of the Lord. Vs. 10
We read in verse 10 that he had set his heart to “teach His statutes and rules in Israel.
So in Ezra’s eyes it wasn’t enough to just know God’s word, he also had to obey it, and it wasn’t enough to know and obey God’s Word, he also had to teach it.
By the way, did you happen to notice where Ezra wanted to “teach the Law of the Lord”? Thats right, he wanted to teach it in Jerusalem, 900 miles from where he was at this time.
Now perhaps some of you may be thinking right now, “Phew, that gives me an out, I don’t have the spiritual gift of teaching, I just need to know and obey the Word of God.” For those of you that watch College Game Day on ESPN during the college football season, let me quote the great ESPN theologian Lee Corso “Not so fast my friend!
You see if you know and obey the Word of God, then in some instances you still have to teach it as well. We see that in the Great Commission; Matthew 28:18-20 where we read;
Matthew 28:18-20
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The good news for us is what we read at the end of Mt. 28:20And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Ezra understood that truth as well and that brings us to the 4th thing that Ezra did or actually in this instance what he experienced, that changed the course of history for the scribes. We read about it in verse 6 where Ezra writes; Next Slides
4. For the Hand of the Lord was on him. Vs. 6
This, by the way, is a common trait of the transformed believer. When we set our hearts to study God’s Word, then when we set our hearts to obey God’s Word, and then to teach God’s Word, we are transformed and when we experience God’s transformation in our lies we experience His Hand on our lives. It is inevitable.
Now does that mean that transformed believers don’t experience heart ache, trials, tragedy…? Not at all, those things are pretty much a part of all of our lives, but for the transformed believer, on who’s life the Hand of the Lord is on, He is with us each step of the way through those times. He comforts us, directs us, sustains us, gives us peace that passes all understanding, strengthens us beyond our own strength.
Which brings us to the 5th thing that Ezra did that changed the course of history for the scribes. We see it by digging deeper in verse 6. Next Slides
5. Ezra Trusted the Hand of God on his life. Vs. 6
In verse 6 we read “and the king granted him all that he asked”. Now perhaps you may be thinking; “How does that phrase indicate that Ezra trusted the Hand of God on his life?” Well you are right to ask that question, because on it’s face it’s not real clear.
Our tendency can be to look at the Book of Ezra and get the impression that Artaxerxes was a good, even a godly king. I mean look at what he did for Ezra, from allowing him to return, as well as many others, to all the money and gifts he sent with him (which we will read about later). But the truth is he was a pagan wicked king who believed in many gods. We get a picture of how Ezra trusted God when he approached the king with a request when we jump ahead to the Book of Nehemiah. Let’s look at Nehemiah 2:2 Next Slide
Nehemiah 2:2
Now before I read this verse, let me briefly set the scene for you. Nehemiah is a cupbearer to king Artexerxes, the same Artaxerxes we read about in Ezra. To a large degree his job was to taste everything the king drank before the king. So what is he tasting it for? Is it to make sure the flavor is good, maybe to make sure there isn’t a bug or hair in his drink…Well it isn’t any of those things, he is tasting the drinks to make sure there is no poison. If Nehemiah dies, well the king knows the drink was poisoned, he throws it out and gets a new cupbearer. Well in Nehemiah 2:2, and evidently for the first time ever, Nehemiah went into the kings presence with a heart so heavy you could see it on his face. Now let’s read verse 2:
Nehemiah 2:2 ESV
2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid.
To go into the kings presence with anything other than a cheerful face could mean a death penalty. That is why we read that Nehemiah “was very much afraid”.
So how does this fit with Ezra making a request of the king. Well even approaching a Persian king with a personal request could cost you your life. We saw that in our study of the Book of Esther. Esther didn’t approach the king until every Jew in Susa sent 3 days fasting and praying. Ezra didn’t just approach the king with a personal request, we get the impression that he had a whole laundry list of items he wanted. We will see that list as we read on. But Ezra knew that God’s Hand was on his life and because of that he brought his list before the king.
Reading on, starting in verse 11 we get a picture of the extensive list Biblical scholars believe Ezra brought before the king;
Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14 For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand, 15 and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, and with the freewill offerings of the people and the priests, vowed willingly for the house of their God that is in Jerusalem. 17 With this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God that is in Jerusalem. 18 Whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. 19 The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. 20 And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.
21 “And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, 22 up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. 23 Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. 24 We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.
25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. 26 Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.
27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
So what are the key applications for us this morning?
Well to begin with;
We need to Set our hearts to study God’s.
We need to set our hearts to obey what we learn as we study God’s Word. Knowledge of God’s Word is of little value if we don’t apply it’s truths to our life.
We need to set our hearts to teach what we have learned and applied from God’s Word to any God places under us.
The fourth thing is actually something we experience as a result of the first 3, and that is:
We will experience the Hand of the Lord was on our lives.
Which leads us to the 5th key application for this morning:
We need to trusted the Hand of God on our lives. Which simply means that if He has given us a job to do, He also gives us everything we need to successfully do what He has called us to do.
Let’s close in prayer.
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