July 3, 2011

Monday after the Second Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.48, Joshua 1, Lk. 4:42-5:11
Evening - Ps. 121, 122 Ezra 7:1-6, 16, 25-28, Acts 11:18

Commentary

The previous chapters of the book of Ezra have given a short history of those Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. Its primary purpose is to recount the events and circumstances leading to the completion of the new Temple. Chapter seven begins the history of the ministry of Ezra in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, or, 458 B.C. He is shown to be a priest whose ancestry can be traced to Aaron, brother of Moses (1-5). He is also a ready scribe (7:6) who was educated in the law of God (theology), earnest of heart to keep the law as a Covenant child of God, and skilled in teaching the Scriptures to the people (7:7-10).

Ezra probably had not even been born when the first band of captives left Babylon for Jerusalem 78 years earlier in 536 B.C. His parents had remained in Babylon, where he had learned the Scriptures and the work of the priest. But his heart yearned to see the Jews dedicate themselves to keeping the Covenant of God, and, for this purpose, he was willing to sacrifice a promising career in a place of wealth, for the dangers and uncertainty of an impoverished and backsliding Jerusalem. And Jerusalem was backsliding. It had been 57 years since the Temple was completed, and most of the generation which had worked on it had passed away. Their children and grandchildren were sinking back into the paganism that had plagued the Jews for so long and tried the patience of God to the point of allowing the Babylonian Captivity. Ezra is being sent by God to call the people back to God once again.

Verses 11-26 contain a copy of a letter sent to Ezra from the king of Persia. Verses 27-28 show the priest's joy that God has moved the king's heart to such kindness toward the Jews. In verse 28, Ezra gathers influential Jews together who will support and go with him on his mission to that city which should have been sending missionaries from it into the world.

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