by Pastor David Groendyk
Chapter 7 fast forwards approximately 60 years after the temple is finished being built and dedicated in chapter 6. Ezra, who is a priest in the lineage of Aaron the great first priest of Israel, leads another wave of Jews back to Jerusalem. More than just going back, though, Ezra has actually been charged by King Artaxerxes, a pagan king, to go back to Jerusalem and establish the Law of Moses as the law of the land. But what should we as 21st-century readers take away from this chapter that’s filled with more ancient letter-writing, genealogy, and numbering of temple treasures? One of the simplest methods to figure out what the main point is in a section of Scripture is to make note of what words or phrases are repeated the most. That method gives us a good handle on this chapter.
The importance of God’s law. Peppered throughout Ezra 7 are these high praises for Ezra being skilled in the law of God (vv. 6, 10, 11, 25, and more). Using the word “skill” indicates that he had an expert knowledge of the law and was particularly adept at applying the law. However, this was not just some God-given gift. Ezra “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord” (v. 10). Ezra intentionally dedicated himself to reading, studying, learning, and then teaching God’s Word. And he did this all even though he had likely been born while in exile. What excuses do we have? We all have individual copies of God’s Word and live in a country that freely allows us to read it and teach it. Would you consider yourself “skilled” in God’s Word? Every single Christian ought to learn from Ezra and set their heart to study, do, and teach God’s Word.
The importance of God’s good hand. Almost inextricably tied to all the mentions of Ezra’s skill in the law are also mentions of God’s good hand being upon him (vv. 6, 8, 27–28, and more). This entire chapter hinges on God’s grace. Ezra’s effectiveness as a learner, doer, and teacher of the law depends on grace. The opportunity and authority he has to go to Jerusalem depends on God’s grace. It leads Ezra to proclaim his great blessing in verses 27–28. God’s covenant faithfulness to his people shines brightly throughout this chapter. Not only has God re-gathered his people from the nations (chapter 2), not only has he given them the land again (chapter 1), not only has he provided the altar for sacrifices and the temple to be rebuilt (chapters 3–6), but now he is giving his people his Word (chapter 7). Why was it so important for them to receive the law? Because disobedience to God’s law was what caused Israel to be exiled in the first place. Without God’s law being taught to them and obeyed, they would surely lose everything again. What a gracious act of God to give his people his Word.
Looking ahead, though, this giving of the law (much like the construction of this new temple) will end with great disappointment (see chapters 9–10). The people must look forward to the day when God would implant his law directly into their hearts and give them the power to keep it. The longing for something better continues to grow. That day comes with Jesus. He inaugurates the better covenant in which he gives us not just the law but the power as well (Heb. 8:8–13). All the more reason for us to remain faithful and keep studying the Word. Commit yourself to it, and look to God for his grace in helping you to do so.