The Good Hand Of The Lord Was On Ezra
Text: “… in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra … the son of Aaron the chief priest; 6this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given. The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. 7Some of the children of Israel, the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Nethinim came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. 8And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 10For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:1, 6-10).
1. The title of this lesson is “The Good Hand Of The Lord Was On Ezra”
a. The idea suggested by this title is that Ezra was successful in his endeavors because the Lord’s good hand was blessing him.
b. Notice passages in Ezra that refer to the hand of the Lord doing things.
1) “The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him” (Ezra 7:6).
2) “On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him” (Ezra 7:9).
3) “So I was encouraged, as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me” (Ezra 7:28)
4) “And I gave them a command for Iddo the chief man at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say to Iddo and his brethren the Nethinim at the place Casiphia; that they should bring us servants for the house of our God. Then, by the good hand of our God upon us, they brought us a man of understanding …” (Ezra 8:17-18).
5) “And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road” (Ezra 8:31).
2. The theme of this lesson is that “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him” (Ezra 8:22). The same idea, in different words, occurs in the New Testament. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).
3. The procedure during this lesson will be to look first at the nature of the times and character of Ezra, then to think together about the times in which we live and the character qualities we need to be good servants of God.
a. Under the category of the nature of the times, we’ll look at the conditions and challenges of the people of God.
b. Under the category of the nature of character, we’ll look first at Ezra’s character – what he was, why he was that way, what he did, and why he was successful. Then we’ll ask you to examine yourselves, what are you? why you are that way? what do you want to do? and how may you expect to become successful at achieving your goals?
I. The Nature of the Times When Ezra Lived
A. General conditions of the people of God
1. They were scattered and away from their fathers’ homeland because of their forefathers’ failure to obey the Lord. (That’s because they had intermarried with the people of the land when Canaan was conquered, and the people of the land had led them astray.)
B. General challenges before the people of God
1. They needed to return to settle in the land of their forefathers.
2. They needed to conform to the word of the Lord.
3. They needed to rebuild Jerusalem, rebuild the temple, and restore ancient Jewish practices.
II. The Character of Ezra
A. What he was …
a. He was a student, and as such had a duty to himself to study the will of God as revealed in his word, that he might hide it in his own heart (Ezra 7:10).
b. He was an interpreter with a duty to his own generation in teaching his fellow exiles what he had learned. In this way he gave the “sense” of the word (Neh. 8:2-8).
c. He was a copyist, which meant that this leaned man had a duty to his own people in multiplying and preserving intact the very words of God (Ezra 7:10, 11).
a. A man of deep humility and self-denial (Ezra 7:10-15; 10:6)
b. A man of great learning with a fervent zeal for God’s honor (Ezra 7:10; 8:21-23)
c. A man of great trustworthiness (Ezra 7:13, 26)
d. A man anxious to commend his cause to others (Ezra 8:2-20)
e. A man who knew how to pray (Ezra 8:21; 10:1)
f. A man deeply grieved over the sins of the people (Ezra 9:3; 10:6)
g. A man who spared no pains to bring the people to repentance.
B. Why he was what he was …
C. What he did …
D. Why he was successful …
III. The Nature of Our Times
A. General conditions of the people of God in our times
1. Like Israel of old who claimed to be God’s people, but whose lives were like those of the nations around them, so also most Americans claim to be God’s people today, but the quality of Christianity in this country is so shallow that there is virtually no distinction in behavior between the world at large and those who profess Christianity.
2. The worldview of modern humanism dominates the thinking and behavior of nearly all aspects of our culture.
3. Generally, our nation is blessed with material prosperity, but cursed with spiritual poverty. We are very much like the ancient Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14-22).
B. General challenges before the people of God in our times
1. Christians need to learn what it means to be dedicated to God and distinct from the world.
a. Christians need not only to educate their own children in spiritual values, but also to do whatever possible to privatize all public education in order to minimize the teaching of humanistic values in the country.
b. Christians need to spend more time planning for eternity rather for retirement.
c. Christians need to think more about being of service to God rather than enjoying the pleasures of life, etc.
IV. What about your character?
A. What do you want to be? – “What you are to be you are now becoming!”
B. Why do you want to be that?
C. What do you want to do?
D. How do you know you can be successful?
1. Take courage, trust God, plan to do excellent in God’s service
2. 2 Chronicles 15:1-2, “Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: ‘Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.’”
Copyright © by author, Robert L. Waggoner, 1999. This message was presented at the Roundhouse, an encampment of homeschooling families, October 12, 1999. Permission is granted to duplicate and distribute this manuscript, if unchanged, for non-commercial educational purposes. All other rights reserved.
Exodus 34:12-16, “Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.” 1 Kings 11:1-2, “But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites; from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, "You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love.”
Ezra 10:6, “Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.”
Ezra 8:21-23, “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, ‘The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.’ So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.”
Ezra 7:13, 26, “I issue a decree that all those of the people of Israel and the priests and Levites in my realm, who volunteer to go up to Jerusalem, may go with you … Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.”
Ezra 8:21, “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.” Ezra 10:1, “Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly.”
Ezra 9:1-3, “When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, ‘The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.’ So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. Ezra 10:6, “Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.”
“If you put the U.S. up against the Scriptures, we’re in trouble. I think we’re very close to the judgment of God. The problem of America is not the unbelieving world. The problem of America is the people of God. You see, right now there are just as many divorces in the churches as outside the churches. There are just as many abortions inside the churches as outside the churches. There’s only a one percent difference in gambling inside the churches as outside the churches. George Barna did a survey of 152 separate items comparing the lost world and the churches, and he said there is virtually no difference between the two. So we have brokenness in the churches [and] no reconciliation.
How then should we live? This is a long answer to a short question, but it depends on the people of God. . . . it’s God’s people who hold the destiny of America. Don’t fuss at the world. It’s acting just like its nature. We’ve got to be salt and light again. We’ve got to have an observable difference.
So God’s attention right now is on His own people, and if I gave one statement, it would be, “The future of America rests in our hands.”
Dr. Henry Blackaby, “What do You See as the Future for the United States?” speech given at the Billy Graham Training Center, Asheville, N.C., May 22, 1999, as cited by Family News From Dr. James Dobson, September, 1999, p. 9. (Dr. Blackaby is a special assistant to the presidents of the North American Mission, International Mission and Sunday School boards of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
“The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him” (Ezra 8:22).“Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).