Pastoral Commentary for Ezra 8:15-9:15
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
As Ezra's group began their journey back to Jerusalem, Ezra found no Levites among them. He sent men to a particular settlement with a large number of Levites and recruited nearly 40 Levites and another 220 temple servants to return with them. It may be that the Levites were reluctant to return to Jerusalem where they would once again play a subservient role to the Priests. Jesus turned such thinking upside down when he said, "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12) In preparation for the journey, Ezra proclaimed a fast to humble themselves before the LORD. Unlike so many kings of Israel, Ezra would not rely on men for their protection, refusing a military escort, and instead trusting that, "The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him." Ezra entrusted the gold and silver articles and the freewill offerings to the priests to guard and protect. When they arrived they offered sacrifices and burnt offerings to the LORD, and stepped up to aid the people of Jerusalem and the help at the temple. Ezra soon learned that many of the remnant of Israel returning from exile had taken wives for themselves from among the neighboring people who engaged in pagan worship. Ezra was horrified, and tore out his hair in repentant indignation. Ezra knew that this was the same sin that had entrapped the nation of Israel prior to the exile. Ezra humbled himself before the LORD in prayer. His prayer began with repentance for all the sin that led to their captivity. He then thanked God for the grace He had shown them in allowing them to return from exile and rebuild the temple. Ezra then reminded the people before God in prayer that their intermarriage was against the Law. Ezra admitted to God that by repeating the same sin they would deserve to be wiped out entirely, without a remnant remaining. He then threw himself and God's people on the mercy of the LORD: "Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this." Everyone of us must make this same admission to our God, for we are saved by His grace alone!