What does it say?
Since the story of Esther occurs chronologically in the time gap between Ezra 6 and 7, we now return to finish the Book of Ezra. The first wave of returning exiles has now completed the temple, but a priest with proper genealogical credentials was needed to fully restore worship (2:61-63). Ezra is just such an individual and his credentials are as impeccable as his character. In the spring of 458 B.C. Ezra leads another group of exiles on the four-month, 900-mile journey back to Jerusalem with full backing of Persian king Artaxerxes (Ezra 7).
Chapter 8 provides more details of the journey that we saw summarized in the previous chapter. Ezra has people of influence in his group and also recruits some of the Levites to go with them. Arriving in Jerusalem (Ezra 9), Ezra is greatly moved to discover that the spiritual situation among the returnees was much worse than anticipated. They are far more affected by their non-believing neighbors than he could imagine. What follows is a riveting prayer for revival. The people respond in repentance, allowing God to do a work of revival in them (Ezra 10).
What does it mean?
Ezra is a man of great spiritual character and 7:10 is an example for anyone today. Ezra has prepared his heart to seek God’s word, do it and teach it to others. Ezra is a man of the mission!
Also instructive is the description of those returning with Ezra. Each one had distinct gifts, functions and background, yet all were needed in the mission. They all paid a great price to endure such a difficult journey from Persia to Jerusalem.
Ezra’s prayer is another great lesson for believers of all ages. Devastated by the spiritual laxness of those that had already returned, we see that it doesn’t take long to fall from fellowship with God and be diverted from his mission, turning our attention instead to our personal lusts and desires. We must all determine if we would respond as immediately and completely as did these Jews when confronted with need for renewal.
How will I respond?
I, too, have special and specific gifts, personality and background to contribute to God’s mission. Am I totally engaged? Why, or why not? Am I willing to pray in the model of Ezra right now? Am I more influenced by those around me, or do I provide positive, godly influence for them? Will I be as responsive as these Jews to anything that God’s Spirit reveals to me that I need to correct in my life?