Ezra 7:6 [Ezra] was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given.
About eighty years after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile, Ezra returned with a few thousand more of his countrymen. He was a priest and a capable teacher of God’s word. Even though the temple had been rebuilt, God’s word was not being carefully followed. Ezra received permission from the king of Persia to return to Israel and strengthen God’s people in their faith. Ezra wanted the people of God to conform their lives to the word of God, so they would enjoy the blessing of God.
Ezra 7:10 Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
Ezra was an effective minister of God’s word for three reasons. First, he was a devoted student. We should think of him getting up early, staying up late, and pouring over Scripture until he knew it forward and backward. Second, he applied the Bible to himself. He did not read it for knowledge alone, but to conform his life to God’s will. Third, he taught God’s word to others. He wanted all God’s people to receive the riches of the Bible. This kind of minister can be a great blessing in any generation.
Ezra 7:15 Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem.
The king of Persia not only gave Ezra permission to return to Jerusalem, but sent him back with a fortune. This fulfilled the word of the prophet Haggai: I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty. The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty (Haggai 2:7-8).
God’s people had little money themselves, but God provided for his work through the king of Persia. From this we learn to look to God more than to our circumstances. The God of heaven and earth is never short of cash.
Ezra 7:27 Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way.
It seemed strange that a foreign king would finance God’s work in Jerusalem, but Ezra saw it as a sign of God’s power. God is sovereign over the hearts of kings, and can make them sympathetic to his will. In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him (Proverbs 21:1), wrote Solomon.
Ezra 9:1-2 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices. . . . They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them.
About four months after Ezra returned to Jerusalem, a serious problem was brought to his attention. Some of God’s people had married pagans. This was a clear violation of God’s word. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you (Deuteronomy 7:3-4), wrote Moses.
The situation was so serious that Ezra tore his clothes, pulled out his hair, and prayed (Ezra 9:3). A crowd gathered, joined him in prayer, and agreed to put away their pagan wives. Women and children were sent away from their husbands, fathers and homes, so the purity of God’s people could be preserved. It was a drastic and painful solution to a very serious problem.
Like the ancient people of God, Christians are only allowed to marry in the faith (1 Corinthians 7:39). Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15), wrote Paul.
But unlike the ancient Israelites, Christians who are married to an unbeliever should not seek a divorce. If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him (1 Corinthians 7:12-13), wrote Paul. Getting married is easy. Staying married is difficult. Staying happily married is the challenge of a lifetime.
Reflection and Review
Why was Ezra an effective minister?
How did God provide for the temple?
Why did God forbid marrying pagans?