The book of Ezra in our new generation Bible is one book but in the Hebrew Old Testament it was a two- part (or more) book Ezra- Nehemiah. The names Esdras one and Esdras two in the Greek version were continuing stories and part of that can also be found in the Catholic Apocrypha. Basically, they are similar but there are stories that were thought to “out there” or different to include in the canon. One of those stories is Darius’s dream. The tradition goes that there were these bodyguards and they debate over who is the strongest and the wisest as they protect a prisoner. Looking backwards we can see shadows of the Messiah on the cross. At that time, it didn’t seem to “fit” the narrative of the day, so it was left out.
Tradition also tells us that Ezra the Priest helped in choosing which books would be included in the Canon of scripture. He not only knew the law, proclaimed the law but helped put the law together in an easy format so people could understand the themes and character of God. Pretty impressive man.
The book includes shouting, singing, rejoicing and celebration as God’s people come back to Jerusalem. One of the exiled couples when they were exiled to Babylon had a baby. Amid a perverse and pagan culture, they raised him to know and believe God and His word. Though far away from the temple and everything they treasured they kept their eyes fixed on Jehovah and made sure His principles and decrees were known and followed. That was Ezra’s parents. He was born in Babylon. One return of exiles took place and then this Holy Immigrant Priest leads a parade of Exiles back to their promised land. Ezra was one of them but was born on foreign soil. He came back not only among the crowd – he came back with a passion and purpose. That purpose was to reform the Temple – God’s people.
Some things to note about this godly man:
Ezra 6:22 – He celebrated and remembered the wonderful things God was doing among them. He was a man of joy and thankfulness.
Ezra 7:10 He not only studied and knew Gods word, but he taught it to others He was intimate with God because He knew who He was.
Ezra 8:22 He fasted and prayed for God’s will to be done – not his personal agenda. Ezra trusted in God and postured himself before that holy God in intercession.
Ezra 8:32 He rested for three days. Ezra was a man of self-care and gentle care of those he led. Ezra was not a taskmaster or overbearing leader, he knew how to have seasons and days of rest.
Ezra 10:11 He called people to make confession to the Lord. He was a priest, but he knew that it was only God who could forgive peoples sin. Ezra pointed and worshipped God and did not take Gods glory.
One thing that I cannot prove or have not studied but want to mention here is that there is about a 60-year gap in this story. When you plug in the story of Esther you find the missing years. This man was the authority in his day and he could have included her story in the midst of his but instead she gets her own book with her own name on it. That strikes me as being humble and giving honor where honor is due. I have not had time to check this idea out so please email me if you have a different thought on that. It is in line with the other things Ezra has done. All Israel came together as “one man” and that seems to also signify that unity was important to him and them.
This saint was destined for greatness. A holy immigrant born in a very pagan culture takes a stand and goes to another nation to make changes and try to make them “great”. No wonder there was opposition and rebellion! What a task, what a leader.
Don’t you wish you had a priest like that leading you? Consider:
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
This Easter week take time to compare this priest to Jesus. They both wanted to point the church to God’s ways – one thru the law and one thru grace. The only way to personally be reformed, the only way for our families or churches to be reformed, the only way for our nation to be reformed is to call out to the High priest who has walked the heavenlies, paid for our sins and resurrected that we could live with God eternally.
Then consider what Peter said:
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9
What reform will you bring to yourself through the leaning on the Spirit? What reform will you bring to your culture and generation? Your church or neighborhood?