Ezra, a man of Prayer
We meet Ezra, after the captives have come back to the land of Judah, seventy years after the fall of Jerusalem.
He is a priest, and devoted to the Word of God. He wanted to return to Judah and teach the returning people what the law said, for their good.
Ezra 7:6, 10 “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.
(This is a phrase we will hear again about Ezra)
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgements.”
(Scribes had been established under the good king Josiah; and Jeremiah the prophet, who was also of the priestly family, was one. They were to go around the land and reacquaint the people with the law of Moses. This was before the captivity….Josiah being the last king who loved the Lord and followed His Word. 2 Chronicles 34:1, 15-33)
Ezra’s love of the Lord and his Word was known, and so the king sent him to gather more people of a willing heart to return to Judah….to teach the Law of God to those who were already there.
They were to take a offering of gold and silver to the Temple at Jerusalem for the king, as well.
Ezra 7:25 “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.”
Ezra was more than grateful….he was thankful.
Ezra 7:27-28”Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem:
And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counselors,….And I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.”
So he gathers the men, and the gold and silver….weighs everything, and sets certain men over the keeping of them.
Then he gathers at the river of Ahava, to start the journey.
But men who knew the Word of God were lacking….till….”And by the good hand of our God upon us” (Ezra 8:16-18) men of understanding came.
After so much preparation, I would think they would be anxious to begin, but they first prayed.
Ezra 8:21-23 “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him.
So we fasted and besought our God for this: and He was entreated of us.”
Wow! What a testimony….and what a life, that backs it up!
Ezra 8:31 “Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.”
And God blessed the prayers….
It took four full months to go to Jerusalem….and “the hand of our God” was protecting them……without soldier or horsemen from the king to keep them from thieves along the way. (Ezra 7:9)
When they came to Jerusalem, everything was great, right?
Many of the people of God had returned; and more were coming back into the land, according to promise.
Ezra 9:1-2 “Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, the people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the land, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites…..
For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers have been chief in this trespass.”
God has always said that we should be in the world, but not of it…not tied to it, or under it’s influence.
2 Corinthians 6:14, 17-18 “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
That we are to not love the world or the things in it…
1 John 2:15 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
We are too easily swayed by these things…therefore we are to keep our hearts separated to God.
But what to do? Ezra was eminently a man of prayer. He knew his word was not going to make a lasting difference.
God must speak to the people’s hearts….there must be an awakening there….if God’s Word was to be obeyed.
Ezra 9:3 “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished.”
The first thing was to pour out his anguish to God about this sin….and soon many “that trembled at the words of God” were gathered with him.
Then he prayed out loud….(Ezra 9:6-15) “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased…and our trespass is grown up…..since the days of our fathers….for our iniquities have we,…been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands….
And now for a little space grace hath been shown from the Lord our God…and to give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us….and now, O our God what shall we say….after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds,…seeing that Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve….
Should we again break Thy commandments….O Lord God of Israel,…behold we are before Thee in our trespasses; for we cannot stand before Thee because of this.”
(It is interesting to note in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel that each have a prayer for confession of sins…the people’s sins that have returned from the captivity,…in chapter 9. That in each, they include themselves…”we” and “our”.)
And what was the result of such prayer?
Those that had gathered…”assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation…for the people wept very sore.”
Then one stood and said, “We have trespassed against our God,……yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this…” because Ezra had come….
The man suggested a covenant between the people and God, which Ezra should write and see to.
Ezra 10:4 “Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: We also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.”
It was if they had been waiting for someone to come and see to this matter….they knew it was wrong, yet did nothing till they saw the Lord’s reaction to their sin….through Ezra’s prayer!
Ezra did this very thing, and this covenant continued.
By prayer, Ezra showed a powerful king the greatness of his God….He was as Mighty as Ezra said He was.
By prayer, Ezra confessed the iniquity of Israel, including himself; waiting upon God for His Power for the people. And he got it.
Ezra continued to serve his people….teaching the Word of God to them (Nehemiah 8:5-6)….and encouraging the joy of the Lord.
Nehemiah 8:9-10 “…mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
Then he said unto them, Go you way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: Neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Joy is strength; and joy is from God.
It is not happiness…that is in circumstances or the things or people that effect us…..there is nothing wrong with happiness, but it centers on what happens to us or others we love.
But joy is from God to us…no matter the circumstances. And it is a great strength in us, to carry us through good and bad.
Ezra did, “according to the good hand of the Lord upon him”.
And prayer was the means God gave him.
So can we….
Psalm 17:6-7 “I have called upon Thee, for Thou wilt hear me, O God: incline Thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.
Show Thy marvelous lovingkindness, O Thou that savest by Thy right hand them which put their trust in Thee from those that rise up against them.”
Isaiah 41:13 “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”
Psalm 91:14-15 “Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known My name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 37:24 “Thou he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.”
We can know these promises for ourselves, too.