Confidence In God Is To Be Stronger Than The Confidence In Men: Ezra Chapter Eight
Ezra was a man of God who was instrumental in leading the people of God to commence a restoration project of the temple grounds that had fallen into the hands of heathen people who had plundered much of the contents of God’s place of Jewish worship. (2nd Chronicles 36:19-21).
However to say that Ezra did this all on his own would be a far cry from the reality of the multiple sides that were involved in the restoration project (Ezra 1:1, 1:5, 2:64) First it aught to be stated that the book of Ezra is not just a book about the restoration of a temple, it is a book about God’s favor on the children of Israel to be part of restoring the entire city of Jerusalem (Ezra 3:1).
Under the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar, the people of God were oppressed and carried off to the land of Babylon. (Daniel 1:1) After Babylon was besieged by the Persians, the Persian king Cyrus attained the position of highest political preeminence. So, the Israelites were now subjected to the Medio-Persian empire’s rule instead of the Babylonian rule. (Daniel 1:21, Ezra 1:2).
The book of Ezra mentions Persian kings who ruled from the scope of the Ezra-Nehimiah time frame. In the Jewish Bible the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are one work, thus as one can note the combination of the two narratives, one can see clearly through both books where the Persian leadership allowed the Israelites to return to the city of Jerusalem and commence two separate waves of re-building projects of their dilapidated city. Those who were exiled from Babylon came in the first wave under the leadership of Zerubbabal. This was during 538-515 B.C. (Ezra 3:2) Then at the later time frame of 458-420 B.C. after Jerusalem temple worship had already commenced with Zurubbabel under the first wave, then Ezra and Nehimiah and Haggai and Zecheriah began rebuilding the Jerusalem walls and spiritually edifying the people concurrently (Ezra 5:1, Nehemiah 8:1, Nehemiah 8:9).
Ezra begins with a decree that was made by Persia’s Cyrus that said God’s chosen people should return to restore spiritual order in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2-3). Furthermore, he meticulously had his treasurer, Mithredath, count each item that he believed the Babylonians had swiped from the Temple. He had Mithredath, count each item before “Sheshbazzar”. They counted right down to the “twenty-nine knives” of the temple worship that were used to sacrifice animals (Ezra 1:9). After Cyrus, there were other Persian leaders who succeeded him that are mentioned in Ezra; they are “Ahasuerus” (4:6), “Artaxerses” [the first] (4:11), “Darius” (5:7), and “Artaxerxes” (7:11). In Ezra chapter eight the Persian King had offered to send troops to fortify the safety of the Israelite travelers who may have faced enemies attempting to undermine their mission to complete the wall construction project.
It would not have been the first time that enemies would attempt to derail the plans of the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 4:1-5, Ezra 4:16). Nor would it be the last time bad people tried to stop the project (Nehemiah 6:14). However there is a fascinating passage that we can apply to our lives today that is found in Ezra 8. The passages says, “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek of him a straight way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to ask 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 that seek him, for good; 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” (Ezra 8:21-23, American Standard Version).
One’s gut reaction to this passage may be, “Ezra was not being very prudent or wise and was endangering God’s people. Furthermore he was nearing a display of egotism by refusing a Persian armored guard security cavalry force” (8:22). However there is more to this account than what we may view as temporal wisdom. Temporal wisdom may be the conventional way we approach our day to day activities; but, it is heavenly wisdom that guides the holy prophets and Men of God in the Bible (1st Corinthians 1:25,1st Corinthians 2:6-11). One might say, “when dealing with large sums (7:15-16) we need heightened security”. This is wise. It is why we have a banking industry today. It is why we have locks on doors, and passwords on computers. However, the passage of Ezra 8 is not saying we aught not secure our funds. It is dealing with a separate spiritual thought, entirely. Repeatedly folks had attempted to stonewall the reconstruction of the temple and proper Jerusalem-based activity. So Ezra has been working to intensify to the political leadership the thought that , “...not only does God rule in the kingdoms of men, He also has a way to directly protect His chosen people far above any political force, whether an ally or a foe”. Thus our main application for us today is this, “do you allow your confidence in God to be stronger than your confidence in men?”. Ezra did. So, when he was traveling, “the hand of God...delivered [them] from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road” (Ezra 8:31). We need to be wise in the ways of the world. But in spiritual matters we need to see where God’s wisdom is to direct our steps. When one decides to be a Christian they may say, “I think if I say a prayer to God...that aught to be enough for my salvation”. That is confidence in “self” over God’s plan. Some say, “I think pouring water over my head from a sanctified basin will save...”. The facts of salvation remain the spiritual standard. Like Ezra, prepare to serve God His way, and your confidence can be bolstered knowing that in spiritual matters He is Supreme. By: J.R. Rosado