September 25 (Daily reading: Ezra 7-10) Fifty-eight years passed between the dedication of the temple in Ezra 6 and the return of Ezra to Jerusalem in Ezra 7. Ezra was a scribe, an expert in the law, and “the good hand of his God was upon him” (7:9). He brought with him a letter from King Artaxerxes which was favorable for all that Ezra wanted to do. It gave Ezra authority to appoint leaders and judges to govern those “who know the laws of your God; and you may teach anyone who is ignorant of them” (7:25). God’s hand was obviously also on the king, who had earlier issued a stop work order for the temple (Ezra 4:21).
Ezra proclaimed a fast and they prayed for a safe journey (8:21). Six times in chapters 7 and 8, Ezra repeated that God’s hand was upon them. “He delivered us from the hand of the enemy” (8:31). Someone once said that when God is present, a spider’s web can be a wall of protection. When He is not, the wall of protection is only a spider’s web.
Ezra was a good leader and a gifted administrator, and he proved also to be a spiritual reformer. The temple had been rebuilt, but the spiritual welfare of the people was not good. Many Israelites had intermarried with the foreigners who served pagan gods. Ezra repented for the people and prayed, thanking God for His grace and for the remnant that remained. “Now while Ezra was praying and making confession…a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel” (10:1). The people joined him in asking God for forgiveness, and one said to him, “There is still hope for Israel” (10:2). Our God is a God of mercy, forgiveness, and redemption. We are encouraged as we read throughout the Bible about His faithfulness to His people.
– Al Gary