Ezra 2

Ezra   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:18
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Illustration: In our dating years, Josslyn and I went down on a camp weekened to my cousin’s wedding in South Louisiana. She was sitting out with my family in the in the sanctuary and I was backstage with my cousin getting ready to walk out as one of the groomsmen. When I walked out and saw her sitting there my gaze quickly found hers. However the look wasn’t enough, I decided to step it up and give her the wink of an eye. Obviously the wink was not proof of my ability to open and close my eye quickly. A small unimpressive twitch of the eye was loaded with great emotion of love.
In our passage tonight we find a genealogy. At face value it has no more significance than an opening and closing of an eye. Though there is much I don’t understand about God’s wisdom in including genealogies in His Word, I do know that is has the significance like the wink of the eye that I gave to Josslyn.
So what do you need to listen out for in this passage? What need does this address in our lives?

We look to our circumstances for our identity.

To be identified as a captive, exile, remnant (small number), servant, and reject has no apparent value for encouraging people.
If one looks at smallness, position, inclusion, possessions, and achievement, a variety of responses will ensue: arrogance, discouragement, apathy, and carelessness - to name a few.
This list of God’s people tells a story about the God of this people. Considering Israel’s God aid in helping rightly see the titles that describe our circumstances.

What constitutes a people of God?- their God

Opening Question: Who is the God of this people?

God shows favor to His people

Ezra 2:1 NKJV
1 Now these are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city.
“Exile” and “captive” signal weakness, abandonment, finality, and failure.
Though there is the record of Nebuchadnezzar deporting the people of Israel, Scripture records that God is the one that sent them into exile. This deportation was something ultimately directed by God.
The attempt to live apart from God in His land is no living at all.
However, God declared that He would bring them back into the land.
Later in the book Ezra records in His prayer
Ezra 9:8–9 NKJV
8 And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. 9 For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.
Transition: A list of exiles therefore testifies of God’s favor. Does his favor however have longevity?
Consider moms and kids you were looking for new toy on the web and you see an add pop up for Toysrus. What would be your response- I thought they closed years ago. Read with this same perspective verse 2 of Ezra 2.
Ezra 2:2 NKJV
2 Those who came with Zerubbabel were Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:
Who is Israel? The northern nation was conquered almost 200 years prior to this return and southern part of the nation was destroyed almost 70 years prior. But what are the people called in verse 2?
A little side note of a person we see repeated in Ezra but also in 2 genealogies of Christ in the gospels-Zerrubabel
One other note that students of Scripture observe is the number of leaders listed. Here there is only 11 names. Nehemiah uses this same list and records 12 names. They observe that this number is representative of the 12 tribes of Israel. This representation is even clearer in Ezra 8:35
Ezra 8:35 ESV
35 At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord.
Transition: A mention of a seeming obsolete name reveals what about the God of this people?

God doesn’t quit when faced with rejection

The list of exiles returning continues with two basic qualifications: they were described in terms of their descendants or the town in which their descendants lived.
One of the promises that God gave to Israel was that of a land. He gave it to them as a gift. 2 Chron. 36:21 records what happened when Israel lived in God’s land and ignored the God who gave them the land.
2 Chronicles 36:21 (ESV)
21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
However, in this list of exiles we see them returning to lands. This demonstrates that:

God’s giving nature does not change even when His gifts are misused

Verses 36-54 give another lengthy list of names all associated with the priesthood and the temple. This theme will continue on in to further weeks, so I would like to just highlight one group starting in verse 45 who are known at the Nethinim or simply temple servants. They were instituted by King David to assist the Levites. Several of these names are foreign names. The listing of the sons of Meunim in verse 50 suggests that that these particular foreigner were former prisoners of war, for it is a name of a location that was conquered by Israel during the time of the kings.
With the choosing of the nation of Israel to be His people God made provision for foreigners to become part of His people as well.
Exodus 12:48 NKJV
48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.
However, in Ezekiel 44:6-8 judgement is spoken again Israel’s admittance of foreigners into God’s sanctuary, but the uncircumcised heart is listed as the reason for this pronouncement.
Ezekiel 44:6–8 NKJV
6 “Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “O house of Israel, let Us have no more of all your abominations. 7 When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it—My house—and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of all your abominations. 8 And you have not kept charge of My holy things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you.”
In the culminating part of this section of Ezra, it is noted that people who had separated themselves from the uncleaness of the land joined Israel in their Passover. Ezra 8:21
Ezra 8:21 NKJV
21 Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.
What does this inclusion of foreigners in the exile list show us about God?

God is not a respecter of persons

So far we have seen a God who is not only gracious but unshakeable in His graciousness. Does this graciousness allow for slackness in holiness?
Ezra 2:59 notes those who came up with the exiles who could not prove their Israelite heritage
Ezra 2:59 NKJV
59 And these were the ones who came up from Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer; but they could not identify their father’s house or their genealogy, whether they were of Israel:
Then it is noted that some priests could not prove their lineage. As a result the governor declared that they were excluded from the priesthood and banned from eating the temple food until the Urim and the Thummin could be used to discern their situation
Ezra 2:62–63 NKJV
62 These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled. 63 And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim.
Ezra has an emphasis on the purity of the exiles returning. Their adoption of the ways of the ungodly people around them is what led to their captivity. These people still remained in Israel. In another passage there is a possibility that the sons of Hakkoz (questionable priests) were reinstated in their position. This exclusion was displaying caution. However, this emphasis is not intended to display superiority based on the qualities of the people; nor is it intended to create a haughtiness toward other people. Rather this emphasis here brings to mind something we see about God’s interaction with His people throughout Scripture.

God shows favor to make a people new

His favor is first a rescue effort to deliver us from destruction. After this loving and heroic rescue took place, the work was not downgraded (emergency is over we can relax). He is now energetically working to make us a people that are healthy from the care of their God.
Illustration: A lady as a mom toward her children and a host to her guests does not want them to go away hungry or looking for good food elsewhere. There is a delight to see her family and guests commenting on the flavors of the food, asking for more, and walking out with leftovers.
To wear the been there/done that sticker of being in Mom’s kitchen while remaining famished or mal-nourished is not a light matter to a mom.
Far from the book of Ezra introducing a scene change in history (Babylon gone, Persia up, Israel back), we have a record of God’s interest in the people of this scene change. This revelation is more than a genealogy; it is an insight into the heart and working of God on behalf of His people. As we get a greater glimpse into God’s heart we realize that a people are more than their circumstances; they are a people being fashioned by God.
Is the hearing of God’s word like a caffeine boost that gives us a temporary pick-me-up only to be followed by a weighty tiredness? What are we supposed to do with this truth?
Can you gaze for a minute at that ugly nagging sin and consider this
How do you see God interacting with you on this (“You just wait,” “Oh well” “I cant believe it”)
How have you reacted (“i’ll try harder, Its too hard, Don’t hit me!)
If God’s favor is toward you in Jesus and He doesn’t back down at rejection or misuse of His gifts, what does He delight to hear from you?
“God I’m humbled by your tenacity. Because of what you’ve done for me, I really want to honor you by quitting this action. Do your kind and gracious discipline in my life.”
I see your tenacity, but I don’t really feel or see it in my life. Are my kids indifferent to you because of me? I really want to see other relationships in my life restored, but when I try things get worse, I get angry, they won’t talk. Is this just life? Your word proposes that you have a stockpile of resources for my hope, but I feel like it is mere crumbs. You have given me a glimpse into that stockpile. I see that your tenacity works over a larger time span than mine. Would you make me tenacious in my love and show me next steps to take in these complex relationships
Here is one other response God’s word would call on us to do: examine the difference in your life between the label of being called a child of God and the character of being His child. On this side of glory there always will be a difference. However, another gaze at the privilege of being favored by God and His rescue effort to make us new should lead us to a righteous discontentment. You have been given limitless love, the standing of being one in Christ who is loving, and the prospect to become loving. May God break down the other positions that mean more to us, and make us treasure most being a child of God.
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