July 4, 2011

Tuesday after the Second Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 49, Joshua 3:1-6, 13-17, Lk. 5:12-26
Evening - Ps. 50, Ezra 8:15-23, 31-36, Acts 11:19

Commentary

Life has become good for the Jews in Babylon. Freed from their oppression, they have become productive citizens of the city, often rising to great heights in social and financial status. Living in the capitol city offered many advantages. It was heavily defended, so the probability of conquest was remote. It was wealthy and offered many ways to make a very comfortable living, and it tolerated a relaxed approach to faith that appealed to many Jews. It was far removed from the demands and dangers of the frontier type of existence of those in Jerusalem. Yet, Ezra longed to leave it for the Holy City. He longed to call the people back to God, and help them re-establish themselves as the Covenant people of God. Having the letter from Artaxerxes, Ezra has gathered influential people who are prepared to go with him. On the shores of the River Ahava, as the pilgrims stop to take stock of their people and resources, a shocking discovery is made; no priests have come. No priests were willing to face the hardship and danger. No priests were willing to leave the comfort of well-paying synagogues in Babylon. No priests were willing to do that which they were called to do, serve in the Temple in Jerusalem (8:15). By the grace of God this problem was solved, and 258 priests joined the caravan for Jerusalem (8:18-20). The articles and money for the Temple was put into their care, and the caravan traveled without military escort to Jerusalem (8:22).

Their entrance into Jerusalem was received with great joy. They and the people recorded the money and articles brought for the Temple (8:33) and a great day of worship was observed. It is noteworthy that the sacrifices were all given as burnt offerings and sin offerings. They were not eaten by the people, but devoured by the fire of the altar as acts of faith, confession, and dedication to God.