“We departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way” (v. 31).
Artaxerxes I granted Ezra’s request to return to Jerusalem in order to teach the Jews, and with Ezra he sent silver and gold from the king’s treasuries as well as from what the Jews would offer for the new temple (Ezra 7:11–20). In today’s passage, we read about the journey that Ezra and the company of Jews with him made with those treasures back to the territory of Judah.
First, let us note the quantity of gold, silver, and bronze that Ezra and the Jews brought back with them to the promised land. Commentators disagree on how to translate the quantities of precious metals into modern measurements, but the range of suggested totals is somewhere between twenty-two and thirty tons. Whatever the exact measure, it is clear that we are talking about a vast quantity of valuables (8:24–27). The Persian emperor and the Jewish people showed great generosity in sending goods for the temple.
Second, Ezra gave these goods to the priests and the Levites for handling during the transport, stressing the holiness of the items and the holiness of those who carried them (vv. 28–30). It was necessary for these precious materials to be guarded by the priests and Levites in order for them to be protected from threats outside the traveling people as well as from people inside the group who might be tempted to pilfer some of the precious metals. Ezra made sure to keep these items safe, and he did so by entrusting them to the proper people, for Scripture appointed the priests and the Levites to carry the instruments used in the temple and to supervise the funds used to keep up the sanctuary (Num. 1:50–51; 1 Chron. 9:1–34). He was committed to following the Lord’s instructions, just as all leaders of God’s people should be.
Ezra’s journey was a success, for the Lord protected him and his company during the several months they were on the road (Ezra 8:31; see 7:8–9). We should not think that Ezra’s words on this matter are merely an idle reflection. Travel in those days was vastly more dangerous than it is in our own, at least in the modern West, so it was a special providence indeed that enabled the Jews to get back to Judah safely. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra carefully counted out the items he was delivering to the priests in charge of the temple, a sign of his integrity and commitment to making sure everything was put where it belonged (8:31–36). Such integrity would serve the Jews well in the days ahead.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
From what we read in Ezra 8, it is clear that Ezra was a man of integrity who was committed to obeying the Word of God. Such integrity should be a mark of every leader of the Lord’s people, but it should also mark every child of God. If we want the Lord to be pleased with our service, we must seek to obey Him in a manner that is consonant with His revealed Word. Let us be people of integrity who are concerned above all to serve the Lord and His church.