Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

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Written by Mr. Peter Langbroek
Ezra was not ready to go to Jerusalem and others waited by the canal at Ahava near Babylon. He could go. Artaxerxes, king of Persia, wanted him to go. He wanted Ezra to teach the people about the law, show them how to worship at GodÕs temple, and clean the temple. He even gave gold, silver and bronze to add to the new temple that was built fifty years before. Surely, thought Artaxerxes, EzraÕs God would bless him and his sons for being so gracious.

But Ezra wasnÕt ready to go. He had everything he needed, and everyone he wanted to go with. He and the people had prayed and fasted for able Levites to lead and teach the people about the law and how they had to worship God. God answered their prayers. More Levites joined Ezra to journey to Jerusalem.

Furthermore, the people were packed for the journey. Only the gold, silver, and bronze had to be carefully measured. Can you imagine packing 29 tonnes of silver and 3-3/4 tonnes of gold? How much would that be worth?

The people and the treasure are the clues to why Ezra and his followers waited. They took time to pray and fast. A dangerous journey lay ahead of them. IsraelÕs neighbours did not like to see more immigrants in the country, and the thieves would drool over all the loot in their caravan. They would show no mercy to the men, women, aged, and children. Ezra therefore wrote: Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict [humble] ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way [safe journey] for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substanceÓ (Ezra 8:21).

Ezra planned to travel unprotected. Sure, he could have asked Artaxerxes for army escorts. But it made him blush to even think of it. No, God was his protector and shield. DidnÕt He protect his forefathers Abraham and Jacob who travelled a similar route? DidnÕt He protect and care for Israel in the wilderness, and bring them safely to the promised land?

Only after praying and fasting did they begin their journey to Jerusalem. Twenty-four leading priests carefully weighed the gold, silver, and bronze. Then, the caravan entered the desert en route to Jerusalem. They arrived safely--no one hurt and nothing missing. Ezra knew the reason for the safe journey: The hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as laying wait by the way (8:31b).

Ezra and the people waited three days before they sacrificed to God at His temple. He longed for the fourth day there. On that day, he sacrificed to God at the altar. He saw the bulls offered, the smoke going up, and the blood dripping down the sides of the altar. There, he confessed his sins and gave thanks to God. He remembered and felt GodÕs good hand on his way to Jerusalem. But he also knew Jerusalem was not the end of his journey. It was only part of his spiritual journey to a heavenly Jerusalem.

Ezra was a man well learned in the law, as well as the prophets. He marvelled at the new visions God gave to Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. Their visions were of a larger Jerusalem, a bigger and more beautiful temple that GodÕs King, the Messiah would build. He would enter Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. He too, would be pierced and smitten as a sacrifice. Ezra did not understand these visions fully, but he longed for the peace of Jerusalem that would be at the end of his journey through life.

Boys and girls, how were your travels? Did you enjoy the scenery and have a good time? Did you return home safely? I think itÕs proper to put this text at the end of your scrap book or photo album: The hand of our God was upon us! Remember though, you are still travelling to eternity and the road youÕre travelling on is very important. Is that road a road to destruction, a road for self and pleasure, or is it a straight way to the heavenly Jerusalem, the hard but pleasant road which Ezra travelled in faith? If you are on that road, be at peace on that road, because the good hand of the Lord will protect you from the enemies and bandits along the way. Consider EzraÕs words: The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and wrath is against all that forsake Him (8:22b).

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