Ezra 7:13 – “Now I [King Artaxerxes] decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with [Ezra], may go.”
Ezra 8:1-14 – “These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with [Ezra] from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes: of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom; of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel; of the descendants of David, Hattush of the descendants of Shecaniah; of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men; of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men; of the descendants of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men; of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men; of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men; of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men; of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men; of the descendants of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men; of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men; of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men; of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men; of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.”
- King Artaxerxes asked for volunteers, and these are the ones who showed up. Approximately 1,500 men registered to make the trip from Babylon to Jerusalem with Ezra. Now, v. 21 mentions children, and with children come mothers to corral them on this 900 mile adventure. So you can see, Ezra has his hands full of far more than 1,500 calm, determined, capable, qualified men. He had a wild, excited horde of humanity with various passions, strengths, weaknesses and motives for their journey. Sound familiar to any of you pastors and leaders out there?
Ezra 8:15-17 – “I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, and I sent them to Iddo, the leader in Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his kinsmen, the temple servants in Casiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God.”
- Ezra registered the volunteers and affirmed their service; however, he recognized a gap in the practical ministry need. Should he have simply accepted those who presented themselves as God’s provision and moved on? He didn’t think so. Ezra affirmed the passion of those whose hearts God had stirred to volunteer, but he also pursued those who would provide vital leadership in Jerusalem. Passion and proficiency are both necessary components of successful ministry.
Ezra 8:18-20 – “Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah's sons and brothers, 18 men; and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 men. They also brought 220 of the temple servants--a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.”
- What if the Levites had not agreed to come? What then? Does that mean God is no longer gracious? Or could that mean Ezra had rolled up his sleeves when he should have stayed on his knees?
Lord, I believe You call me to walk on my knees, continually taking one step past my ability. When the answer comes, as it did for Ezra, You receive the glory. When the answer doesn’t come, I simply remain on my knees and know that You have said, “No, my child,” or “Not now.”