The Hand of God on Ezra
Did you catch it? The phrase “the hand of God” or something like it occurs several times in these two chapters. Each time, we see that God’s hand leads to blessing.
Ezra 7:6 tells us that the King of Persia gave Ezra everything he asked for. Why? It’s because the hand of the Lord was on him.
Ezra 7:9 tells us that Ezra and others with him traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem. This is a second wave of Israelites returning home after the exile. How did Ezra and company make it home safely? Because the good hand of his God was on him.
Ezra 7:12-28 tells us exactly how the King of Persia blessed Ezra. The King sends Ezra along with large sums of gold, silver, and other offerings. He orders the local rulers and peoples to give generously to Ezra and the Israelites. He also exempts the Levites, priests and other servants of God from their taxes. Finally, he gives Ezra authority to set up judges and magistrates to enforce the law over all the peoples of the land! Why does the King do all of this for Ezra? As verse 28 tells us, it’s because the hand of the Lord was upon him.
Ezra 8:18 tells us that Ezra is able to find a capable man to lead the Levites with him. Why are they so fortunate? Because the good hand of their God was upon them.
Ezra 8:31 tells us that Ezra and those with him made it to Jerusalem safely with no ambushes or problems. Why? Because the hand of their God was on them!
Ezra, Man of God
Now here is a great question. Why was the good hand of God so clearly on Ezra? Let’s take another look at the situation surrounding the good hand comments that we mentioned above.
In Ezra 7:6, we learn that Ezra is a scribe well studied in the Law of Moses. Could God’s hand be on him because he studies God’s Word?
Ezra 7:10 tells us that God’s good hand was on him because Ezra had set his heart to study, obey, and teach God’s Law.
The blessings of the King in Ezra 7:12-28 may seem to go without an act of Ezra. But these are actually details fleshing out what Ezra 7:6 says. This brings us back to Ezra being well studied in God’s Word.
In Ezra 8:18, we find that the hand of God is on Ezra after Ezra has been concerning himself with the things of God. Ezra was paying enough attention to God’s Laws that he realized there were no Levites (God’s chosen priests) traveling with him. Because Ezra cares about God, he made sure to look for some Levites. Then God’s hand is on them to find a capable Levite leader.
Finally, the Ezra 8:31 hand of God comment comes on the heels of what might appear to be a boring portion of Ezra. Ezra takes the offering that had been given to him by the King and divides it among the priests and the Levites to care for. Ezra doesn’t keep any of the offering for himself, but instead makes sure it is treated with care by the priests. And lo and behold, the hand of God was on them to protect them.
What We Learn About God
The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him. (Ezra 8:22b)
The sovereign God blesses Ezra abundantly. God provides Ezra with loads of wealth for the Temple, the favor of the King, needed assistants, and protection from enemies. Everything Ezra needs, the sovereign God provides.
The Bible tells us why. Ezra was a man who was seeking God fully. Ezra was a man who studied God’s Word and sought to obey it all and teach it. Ezra was a man who fasted and prayed. Ezra was a man who honored God’s spiritual leadership in the Levitical priesthood. Ezra was a man who took the things of God, like the offering, very seriously. Ezra was a man of holiness and obedience.
The sovereign God chooses who He blesses and who He opposes. This portion of Ezra teaches one thing loudly and clearly. God blesses those who seek Him and obey Him.
Do you want God’s hand of blessing on your life? The sovereign God’s hand is for good on those who seek Him. In what ways is God currently calling you to seek and obey Him?
I grew up in a big Italian and Catholic family. When I became a Christian, my family acted like I had joined a cult. Everyone was leary of me. My pastor was urging me to get baptized as an act of obedience to God. It seemed clear to me that I was supposed to as I looked at the Bible. But I knew my family would treat me even worse if I got baptized. I remember those months as I refused to obey God. I was incredibly discouraged and all of the things that normally took my mind off of things just wouldn’t cheer me up. I just couldn’t get happy.
Eventually, I cracked and I gave in to God. I got baptized. My family was livid. Many of them felt betrayed. It was even weirder around them and for a while, some of them simply refused to talk to me. But, despite all of that, I was happy and full of joy. Before I got baptized, nothing made me happy. After I got baptized, God filled me with joy despite my circumstances. God blessed me when I sought Him and obeyed Him. It won’t always be physical blessing like Ezra, sometimes God blesses us with joy, peace, friendships, comfort, or other less tangible blessings.
True blessing and joy will only be yours when you seek and obey God.
· Identify a time in your life in which God has blessed you for obeying Him. Give thanks to Him for it and remind yourself of it when tempted to disobey.
· Identify a new way God is calling you to obey Him. This may be something new you have learned such as the call to love our enemies. It may be an opportunity to serve that God has placed in front of you such as a chance to share your testimony at small group. Once you identify it, take steps to doing it this week.
· Read Ezra 9-10
o What problem comes up among the people of God?
o Read Deuteronomy 7:3-4
§ Why does God prohibit intermarriage with non-Israelites? Is it a matter of race or something else?
o How does Ezra respond when he hears of the people’s sin?
o What is Ezra concerned God will do because of this sin?
o What do the people and Ezra decide to do?
o Why do you think the book of Ezra ends this way?
· Drop a line in the comments to discuss what you’ve learned in Ezra this week.