The people of God had been exiled for 128 years and have all but lost their identity. Ezra appears and by teaching the law and engaging the people in worship, he is used by the Lord to restore Israel’s identity to them, paving the way for Nehemia to come on the scene and restore the walls around Jerusalem.
It came about because God inspired Cyrus, the king of Persia, to make a proclamation that led to the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, the return of some of the exiled leaders, along with the priests and Levites and the financial support of the exiles who did not want to return by means of Freewil-Offerings, silver, gold, animals and tools. King Cyrus also turned over all the vessels and utensils from the Temple that king Nebuchadnezzar looted to put in the temples of the Babylonian gods.
As soon as the exiles arrived in Jerusalem they started on the project by setting the Altar back on its foundations and by offering the prescribed sacrifices to the Lord and by celebrating the Festival of the Booths, as prescribed.
Very soon the old enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the temple was being rebuild and they wanted to get in on the action. The leaders refused their help and as a result the enemies started to harass the builders, breaking down morale and even hiring propagandists to drain their resolve. This sad state of affairs continued for many years and under the rule of Artaxerxes an order was issued to halt all rebuilding of Jerusalem until he ordered otherwise.
Meanwhile the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were preaching to the Jews, reminding them of the mandate to rebuild the temple. The Lord orchestrated another victory…King Darius, now ruling in Babylon found the proclamation made by King Cyrus and ordered the rebuilding of the temple. The costs would be covered by the Royal bank, from taxes gathered and whatever was required for worship, being it animals or grains and salt or anointing oil, it was to be supplied daily.
The people were celebrating and rejoicing! God came through again!
Then Ezra appears on the scene, from Babylon, a scholar well-versed in the Revelation of Moses. Ezra had committed himself to studying the Word of God, to live it and to teach Israel to live its truths and ways. Ezra was authorized by King Artaxerxes to exercise the Godly wisdom he was given, to appoint magistrates and judges and to teach anyone who were not familiar with the teaching of his God and was generously provided for to accomplish this task.
Ezra assembles the family heads who were going with him at the river Ahava. This is when he noticed they were all laymen and priests, but that there were no Levites. Ezra sent for Levites to join them, as he refused to go without the temple workers.
21 Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, so that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our children, and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to request troops and horsemen from the king to protect us from the enemy along the way, because we had told the king, “The hand of our God is favourable toward all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who abandon (turn away from) Him.” 23 So we fasted and sought [help from] our God concerning this [matter], and He heard our plea. Ezra 8:21 – 23 AMP
As I was reading the book of Ezra, the history fascinated me, but I also saw the deep prophetic relevance it has for us today. In many cases, the temple of the Lord (us) has been broken down and desecrated. We have been looted and robbed and our precious things have been set in the temples of the enemy. As the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were preaching then, we too have prophetic voices calling out to us now, to remind us who we are and what we are called for.
There are the Ezras among us, calling us to mobilised, to rebuild but they refuse to go without the holy men, they refuse to live by the law of the land and they too, live to teach the Word of God…will you be an Ezra? Will you heed the voice of Ezra calling to you to submit to the Word of God?
Before we can move, we too need to pause at Ahava, to fast and pray.
In the ancient Hebrew language, Ahava means love. Not love as we understand it…an emotion, a sentiment or something we receive. No, Ahava is love as an action, especially the action of obedience. The root word, Ahav means to give true love, the kind of love that is more concerned about giving than receiving, that devotes itself and spends time…
Giving is a vehicle of love…for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Before we can start the massive task of rebuilding the broken down temples we see all around us, we need to pause and pray for the Lord to change our hearts…for the ahava of God to take up residence in our hearts, so that we are empowered to love and give, and give and love.
The late Brennon Manning said that he was convinced that when we stand before Jesus one day, He will ask only one question of us…”did you learn to love?” Some people are very difficult to love and the harder they are to love, the more they need it. We need grace and mercy in order to do this, we are so inadequate but Jesus is more than able. Let us start by engaging our will, that amazing gift we have been given…the right to choose.
Pray with me.
Lord Jesus, You are enough for every need…I know it, I believe it and I declare it over my heart. I confess, Lord, that there are people I find extremely difficult to love, but I know that You are love, You reside in me and You work through me. Please change my heart, remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh and love the unlovable through me while You do this work in me, because I choose to love. Lord, create opportunities for me to extend ahava – the love that gives without expecting to receive, the love that seeks to bless and prosper without needing to be acknowledged or repaid, the way You have loved me first, the love that seeks to obey the Father in everything I do. Amen.