His name probably means: “Helps”
His work: A priest living in exile in Babylon.
His character: Courageous to face any foe, diligent in his study of the law, skilled in leadership, and humble before the Lord.
His sorrow: His own sinfulness and need of forgiveness and the sinfulness and disobedience of his people.
His triumph: Being the catalyst for genuine repentance among those Hebrews who returned from exile to their homeland.
Key Scriptures: The book of Ezra
A Look at the Man
Ezra was a student and a teacher of Scripture. His dedication to learning made him well versed in the substance and nuances of the law. He had a commanding knowledge of its truth. Is it any wonder why God selected him to initiate revival among the Hebrews?
Not much is said of Ezra’s conversation with Artaxerxes that day, but God empowered Ezra and softened the king in a remarkable way. Of course, Artaxerxes was impressed with Ezra’s understanding of his own religion and thoughtful preparation for this return to the homeland.
And although he would have been hard-pressed to explain it, the king knew that there was something else going on with this humble man who stood in his presence. Scripture tells us that “the hand of the LORD his God was on Ezra.” God revealed himself through Ezra and moved the heart of a pagan monarch.
The king also must have observed Ezra’s leadership skills. He knew that the task of moving thousands of Jews back to their homeland would need to be shouldered by a group of men who shared Ezra’s vision and were loyal to him. In his letter, the king directs Ezra and his “brother Jews” to “do whatever seems best” with the vast provisions he sends along. This was not going to be a solo operation, and Artaxerxes was impressed with Ezra’s ability to find other leaders to assist him.
Ezra was a man of vision demonstrated by his calling of the Levites to join the caravan to Jerusalem. He made it clear that this voyage was not simply a sightseeing tour of the rebuilt temple, but a spiritual pilgrimage.
Ezra’s close relationship to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is undeniable. Ezra “was well versed in the law” and had devoted himself to studying and keeping the law, as well as teaching its commands.
But it was Ezra’s humility before God that is the most telling part of the story. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than when the report of Israel’s sinfulness was brought to his attention.
You would think, after seeing how Ezra had prepared for this trip and how he had demonstrated his fidelity to God and his leadership skills, that Ezra would be outraged by the report. “Who do these Jews think they are?” Ezra could have thundered. “God will surely judge them for their sin.”
Instead, Ezra fell on his knees lamenting the sins of God’s people. Soon others gathered around the weeping priest, pouring out their own sins before the throne of God. What an amazing sight that must have been. Then Ezra, empowered by the Holy Spirit, made a declaration before the people that Israel’s unfaithfulness had manifested itself in the Jewish men marrying foreign women. He told them to confess their sin and make a covenant to send away these wives and their children. “You are right!” the people responded. “We must do as you say.”
Often the fires of revival are kindled in the souls of people like Ezra who come before the Lord on behalf of God’s people.
Reflect On: Ezra 10:1
Praise God: For his faithfulness in Ezra’s life and his promise to be faithful in yours.
Offer Thanks: For the insurmountable challenges that force you into his presence.
Confess: Any propensity to be critical of others’ sins without confessing the gravity of your own.
Ask God: To fill you with his presence, to give you dreams and plans that honor him, and grant you wisdom.