Ezra: A priest for the people
Scripture: Ezra 9:1-15
Golden Text: “And thou Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not” (Ezra 7:25).
Zerubbabel led 50,000 Israelites from Persia back to Palestine in 536 B.C. They settled down, laid the foundation for the new temple in Jerusalem, and faced severe opposition; therefore, the Israelites stopped working on the temple. It was begun again in 518 B.C. and was finished in March 515 B.C.
Zerubbabel governed the people for a number of years. Then in 458 B.C., Ezra, the scribe-priest, came (see Golden Text above) to minister among the people in Judea (Ezra 7:1-6).
Ezra returned with many of the vessels, which had belonged to Solomon’s temple and much silver and gold as an offering to the new temple (Ezra 8:24-36). After delivering the money and materials to the leaders of Israel, Ezra led in a great celebration with offerings, sacrifices and thanksgiving to God for His blessings to His people (8:35-36). Ezra thus began his ministry among the Jews.
I. Ezra recognized that the people were at a low condition spiritually (Ezra 9:1-4). Many had inner-married with the gentiles of the land in direct disobedience to God’s commands to the people. These peoples (vs. 1) were avowed enemies of God. This alliance led to a decrease in the worship of Jehovah and an increase in the worship of pagan idols. Israel was setting the pattern to follow the sins of the forefathers, for which Jehovah had sent them into captivity. Thus, Ezra was sent to minister and help the people return to Jehovah and a proper relationship with Him.
II. Ezra prayed for the Israelites of Judea (9:5-15). First, he confessed the great sins of the people (vs. 5-7). Their sins had engrossed the people to lead them into greater sin, which overpowered them and reeked of a stink in the nostrils of Jehovah (vs. 6). Their sins were so great that they reached up to heaven (that’s the way sin is). Their sins trapped them in the pathways of evil rebellion to God. They could not get out of their wicked pattern of living by themselves. They were brought into bondage and confusion by their sins and to their sins (vs. 7, it’s the same today!).
Second, Ezra acknowledged the grace (undeserved favor) of God even while the people were still in their sins (vs. 8). God had allowed a remnant to escape captivity. He had established them back in the land. He had enlightened them in their need to be obedient to their God.
Third, Ezra remembered the working of Jehovah in the past (vs. 9). Israel was in bondage; yet, Jehovah did not forsake them. He extended mercy through the kings of Persia. He allowed them to return to their home land to set up the house of God and repair the city.
Fourth, He acknowledged that they had no excuse or denial for their sins (vs. 7). They had no personal righteousness (vs. 11). They were not to inner-marry with pagans (vs. 12). Since they had disregarded Jehovah’s commands: They had on lasting peace either inside or around them; they had no real wealth in this world; they lacked strength to live, they lacked the necessities that were required for them to live; they had not received their inheritance that was promised (vs. 12).
III. The people responded in confession and repentance (Ezra 10:1). Ezra and the people bowed down before Jehovah confessing and weeping over their sins. They were ready to make the necessary changes, which would bring them back under the direct blessings of Jehovah.
We need meetings like this all over our country today. Generally speaking the people do not know the awfulness of their sins before God. They are not willing to confess that they are failed sinners in need of forgiveness. They are eaten up with materialism and worldly pleasures instead of being humbly devoted to God and determined to live righteously. Oh God, deliver us from our sins!