“ I want to be a part of the living church; one that continues to grow and move.”
Pastor Rick Barcus Sermon notes 11/29/2005
I love to look through my bibles (yes I’ve had many over the years). I know many people do not, but I like to write in my Bible. My pages are filled with memories. At any given time you can see where my family was and what we were doing. I sometimes mark when I read a passage and usually always highlight or underline something that catches my attention or heart. But the things that bring me the most joy are not my thoughts or notes. They are the snippets, one liners, and sermon themes jotted down from many church members, preachers and teachers that have had an influence over the years. They are written alongside a verse or a chapter because they were humorous or had a profound effect in the delivery of a message or testimony. It is comforting now, sometimes many years later, to recall the texts of a good sermon, hear again the confident faithfulness of a testimony, and relive the unfolding of Bible lessons by a good teacher. Preachers, teachers, deacons, and church members doing their part to keep the church alive and moving in the right direction for the next generation.
The lesson today is about Ezra. Credited with having written Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, his heart was also to keep the Jewish people focused on God, alive , moving in the right direction. He is somewhat overlooked as a great man of knowledge; some commentators credit him with being like a second Moses. His dedication to the Word of God and the Law of God, after the Babylonian captivity, is a key influence in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
7 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,2 The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,3 The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,4 The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,5 The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
In our lesson today we meet Ezra. Ezra is a priest/scribe and direct descendant of a previous high priest including Aaron. He is one of three main characters in the Book of Ezra. His job is to teach the law and reestablish correct worship and social reform. He is not in the first group that returns from Babylonian exile. That group is led by Zerubbabel. Ezra comes in after the temple is started by Zerubbabel and during the second deportation back to Jerusalem. The third group includes the city project manager, the builder of the Jerusalem wall, Nehemiah. As is often the case with scripture study it is important to recognize a significant passage of time between chapter 6 and chapter 7. It is estimated that about 60 years transpires between these two chapters. The King is reckoned to be the son of Xerxes, the son of Darius I. More importantly, Xerxes is King Ahasuerus from the book of Esther.
6 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.7 And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.9 For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
He was a ready scribe in the Law of Moses and prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it , and to teach in Israel statutes and judgements. Ezra is an expert in the law of Moses. How did he do that? He wrote it down, studied it, applied it, sought the Lord about it. All the same things we should do as we study the Word of God. It isn’t enough to just read it or hear it… we have to do it. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James1:22-25) Now his job is to teach it. That is not a small task. He recognizes that the hand of the Lord is upon him. God is blessing his efforts and directing his steps. The same as he will for any believer. 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. (Psalm 37:23)
11 Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel.12 Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.13 I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.14 Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;
Again you see the reference to who Ezra is. The King identifies him as the priest, the scribe who understands the heart of God’s intent for the Jewish nation. As you read the Book of Ezra you see that the enemies of God (those that did not want the temple rebuilt and Jerusalem set back up) send letters to the King reminding him that those coming back would soon be more trouble to the King than they were worth. The King’s letter here shows that Ezra is not only asked to go as a representative of the King and to inquire for his counselors, he is asked to take as many as want to go with him. All part of God’s plan. All outlined by Daniel in his prophecy of 70 weeks.
15 And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,16 And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem:17 That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.18 And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God.19 The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.20 And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king's treasure house.21 And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,22 Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
Highly blessed and highly favored Artaxerxes vouches for Ezra’s character. The King funds this project, along with other donations and offerings. Ezra may ask for whatever he needs. By King’s decree all are to assist Ezra. It was not uncommon for a pagan King to want to appease all the Gods within his realm. At several points in the books of Daniel and Esther we see that even the pagan Kings admit that the God of the Jewish captives is the real God.
23 Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?24 Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.25 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.26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
Whatever your God demands, do it. There is tax exemption for the Jewish temple. They should set up their own form of governance and justice. The law of God and the Law of the King are displayed to require obedience. Swift (speedy) punishment at various degrees of intensity, up to and including death will be applied. The King is not kidding here. He means business. The King has judged Ezra to be the “certified” expert, declaring him able to correctly and wisely set things in Godly order.
Ezra is commanded by the King to teach this generation so that they are aware of who God is. It is a marvelous thing to be blessed and favored. To look around you to see the presence of God in all areas of your life. To know your purpose and to be a ready servant to God’s plans. Ezra didn’t get there by a life of ease. He endured the captivity.
The Word of God shares many one liners, snippets, and amazing examples of those before us that have believed and followed the Word of God. God carries out his plans through ordinary people with hearts bent toward him. Though the captivity was a consequence of sinful behavior, God had sent prophets all along the way to make sure his people knew he wasn’t done with them yet. His plans laid from the foundation of the world were still good. God keeps his promises. His church is alive and making a difference. The key to this lesson is that God’s word is true. His mercy endures forever. God loves his people. His people need to love him and turn toward his instruction instead of away from his truths and commandments. We should also be a ready witness to the truths of his Word and the difference he makes in our lives. We can only see it partially now… but when we get where we are going, we will understand it all!
What Christians have influenced your walk with God? In what way?
How can having a leader or leaders submitted to God’s will change the atmosphere in a church? In a country?
How can we influence younger Christians in a positive and faith filled way?
Is it as important to share our failures as it is to share our victories?
In what ways do you take time to remember and record what God has done for you, so that it may be helpful someday to someone else?
Thank you for studying with us.