Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. OVER THE KING AND HIS COURT (ver. 27). He puts it modestly, as becomes a devout man accustomed to refer everything to the Divine hand that governs everywhere, and says that God "extended mercy to him before the king and his counsellors, and all his mighty princes." Putting it into everyday language, we should say that he gained a commanding influence over the minds of these courtly men, and over this great sovereign.
II. OVER THE CHIEFS AND THE MULTITUDE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE (ver. 28). In the same modest and unassuming strain he speaks of being "strengthened as the hand of the Lord was upon him," and he "gathered out of Israel chief men" to avail themselves of the royal decree and go up with him to their own land. In other and more familiar words, he succeeded in winning the confidence and prevailing on the minds of the leading men of his own nation to such an extent that they were willing to forsake their homes and seek their fortune in Judaea. And not only the leaders, but also a large company of the "rank and file" among his compatriots responded to his call; there were "the people" as well as "the priests" (Ezra 8:15).
III. OVER THE UNRESPONSIVE LEVITES (Ezra 8:16-20). When it was found that, for some reason, no Levites had joined the party of the exodus, Ezra picked out "men of understanding" (ver. 16), the right men for the task, and told them what to say, giving them the right message for the purpose (ver. 17), and he thus succeeded in attaching to their company many who had meant to stand aloof, thus completing the number that should go up to Jerusalem (vers. 18-20). Only a man of commanding influence, a man of firm conviction who knew well his own mind, and a man of persuasive force who could impress his will on others, could possibly have accomplished this. On the great and important subject of influence there are two truths we shall do well to learn -
1. That those who find themselves possessed of it bear a weighty responsibility. in many cases influence comes to a man unsought.
(1) Wealth, or
(2) rank, or
(3) office, or
(4) intellectual eminence, or
(5) beauty and grace of person, or
(6) an exceptionally strong will, or
(7) a fascinating disposition,
may confer influence on a man or woman, without any effort on their part to acquire it. It is a very great possession. A grave thing it is to be insensibly drawing many souls either along the path of virtue, holiness, and life, or along the path of sin, and shame, and death. unconscious influence is very far from being irresponsible for what it does. We are most solemnly bound to see to it that such is the spirit of our life, such the colour and complexion of our words and deeds, such the tendency of our conduct, that, without any direct endeavour to do so, we shall be influencing our fellows towards truth, wisdom, God, heaven. Those whom God has made markedly influential are specially bound to consider what they are doing. "They know not what they do" may be a palliation, but it is not a justification, when they might know by thinking.
2. That those who would cherish the highest aspiration should strive to win it. To win wealth or fame or office for the sake of these things themselves is a comparatively mean thing; it does not rise higher than a refined gratification. But to win influence with the view of leading human souls in the path of heavenly wisdom, this is a noble aspiration, worthy of a child of God, of a follower of Jesus Christ. It may be acquired as well as inherited. It is the outcome of excellency of character, of strenuousness of soul, of kindness of heart, of likeness to Jesus Christ. - C.
I. THAT IT IS PREPARED BY COMING OUT FROM A HUMILIATING CAPTIVITY. "This is the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon" (ver. 1). Ezra and his comrades must quit the scene of their captivity before they can carry the sacred vessels to Jerusalem; the Church must arise and leave its moral Babylon before it can serve God in successful enterprise.
II. THAT IT IS PREPARED BY PRAYERFUL SOLITUDE. "To the river that runneth to Ahava" (ver. 15).
1. Sacred solitude. Not the solitude of the misanthrope.
2. Prayerful solitude. Seeking guidance before setting out for Jerusalem.
3. Thoughtful solitude. Counting the cost of the journey to Jerusalem.
4. Active solitude. Ezra inspected the people and the priests, and finding none of the sons of Levi, successfully sent for them.
5. Friendly solitude. The companionships of heaven were with Ezra and his company by the river. Such solitude cannot fail to prepare the Church for duty.
III. THAT IT IS PREPARED BY THE PROVIDENTIAL GIFT OF TALENT (ver. 18).
1. Talent required. Ezra inspected his company. God requires ability in the work of his Church. Ministers should see that the Church has the requisite capability for its work.
2. Talent varied. "The people, the priests, the Levites." The Church needs combined capabilities; the lower as well as the higher; the Levites as well as the priests.
3. Talent absent. "And found there none of the sons of Levi."
4. Talent sought. Ministers should endeavour to bring talent into the Church.
5. Talent obtained providentially. "And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding." Thus God prepares the Church for duty.
IV. THAT IT IS PREPARED BY THE ENERGY OF ONE DEVOUT MAN. "And I gathered them together" (ver. 15). Who was this man? He was a "ready scribe." He had "prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord" (Ezra 7:10). Such men are competent to prepare the Church for duty; they have first prepared themselves.
1. The power of sanctified individuality in the Church.
2. The use God makes of a sanctified individuality in the Church.
3. The wisdom of a sanctified individuality in the Church. It discovers the absent Levites.
4. The authority of a sanctified individuality in the Church. It sends for the Levites and they come. - E.
I. THAT WE SHOULD HAVE SEASONS FOR REELECTION.
1. The halt furnished Ezra with such a season.
(1) It gave him an opportunity for "viewing the people and the priests." His purpose was to see how the company he conducted would be useful in recruiting the colony at Jerusalem. Christians should consider of what service may they be to the Church of the firstborn in heaven.
(2) The value of service is measured by sympathy with its purposes. Therefore we should cultivate fellowship with God and with the purest and noblest of his people.
2. The review discovered to Ezra a want of Levites in the company.
(1) There were priests there who were Levites. But the priests had functions of their own distinct from those of the Levites who were not of the family of Aaron.
(2) There were no Levites who were not priests. These too had their own proper functions.
(3) As in Jerusalem there was work for every order of sacred person, so should there be in the Church. So will there be in Jerusalem above. Query - Do we, as Ezra did, reflect upon the needs of God's Church? Is God's cause ours, as it was his?
II. THAT REFLECTION SHOULD LEAD TO ACTION.
1. Ezra resolved upon a mission.
(1) There were Levites still in Babylon. So are there Christians mingled with the communities of Antichrist.
(2) The Levites were congregated at Casiphia. This word comes from a root which denotes silver. Some think Casiphia meant the Caspian Mountains, in the silver mines of which these Levites were working. Others construe it to mean Silver Street, possibly some bazaar in Babylon in which silversmiths conducted trade. How characteristic of the sons of Levi to be where precious metals are exchanged!
2. The mission he resolved upon he organised.
(1) He chose "chief men" for his missionaries. If Providence has given men high social position, its influence should be devoted to the ministry of his message.
(2) He also summoned "men of understanding." The world should not so monopolise the talent of our sons that only the refuse, the imbeciles, are given to the Church. There is scope in the message of God for the greatest ability.
(3) "Men of understanding" here are not only those of good natural parts, but those who are skilled in the teaching of God's law (Nehemiah 10:28, 29).
3. He then instructed his missioners.
(1) He sent them "with commandment unto Iddo, the chief at the place of Casiphia." Calls to the service of God come with authority. Ministers of the gospel are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
(2) He sent them with arguments. He "put words into their mouths." The import of the words is suggested in the end to be accomplished, viz., "that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of God." Surely the service of God in his house is far more important than the trade in Silver Street.
III. THAT WELL-DIRECTED EFFORT WILL INSURE SUCCESS.
1. The missioners returned, having gained over "a man of understanding.
(1) This achievement is put in the forefront. This son of Mahli was evidently a great acquisition to Ezra.
(2) A man of understanding is an acquisition to any cause. How valuable to the cause of order is the influence of such an one!
2. Thirty-eight Levites are next mentioned.
(1) The man of understanding" is mentioned before Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and Jeshaiah, with their sons and brethren, perhaps because of the influence he may have exerted in bringing them over. A man is not only valuable for what he is, but for what he does.
(2) We have Sherebiah the Levite again mentioned amongst them that made religious confession of God's goodness and their own wickedness (see Nehemiah 9:5).
3. Then follow 220 Nethinims.
(1) Here is an acquisition for which Ezra had not asked. God does for us more than we ask (l Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 3:20).
(2) All success is from God. Ezra recognised this (ver. 18). Let us follow his good example. - J.A.M.
I. THE SPIRITUAL NEEDING THE AID OF THE SECULAR. "To require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way" (ver. 22). Ezra was about to conduct his comrades on a perilous journey to Jerusalem; hence he felt the need of a military guard as well as of the good hand of God upon him. The spiritual, as a rule, requires the aid of the secular.
1. Divine truth needs secular aid. As the companions of Ezra would be in danger during this march, so the word of God is often in peril in the world; infidels assail it, and secular aids are necessary to defend it.
2. The Church of God needs secular aid. It is exposed to many enemies on its journey to Jerusalem, and requires the defence of secular agencies - legislative, intellectual, and social.
3. The life interests of the good need secular aid. The good man needs the aid of the physician; his property must be protected, his ships must be insured. True, God loves his own book, his own enterprise, his own people, but it is his method to aid them in the use of means. As a general rule Ezra must employ both horsemen and prayer; prayer and precaution must go together.
4. The moral needs the aid of the secular: -
(1) Because God has ordained that the spiritual shall move in the sphere of the secular. The sacred vessels of the sanctuary journey in the desert under the care of man; piety is subject to physical law.
(2) Because the spiritual is in danger through the natural antagonism of the sinful heart. Ezra and his companions were endangered by men who wished to frustrate their mission; the carnal hates the spiritual, hence the need of horsemen.
(3) Because God has intrusted the spiritual to men as a discipline. The truth of God is put within the power of men that they may be cultured into a right attitude toward it; that they may become "fellow-helpers of the truth."
II. THE SPIRITUAL ACTING WITHOUT THE AID OF THE SECULAR. "For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers."
1. Why did Ezra act without the aid of the secular?
(1) Because he feared lest he should manifest greater dependence upon the aid of a heathen king than in the God of heaven. Ezra did not wish Artaxerxes to take the place in his enterprise which belonged to God; he had more confidence in his God than he had in his king. There are times in religious life and in moral service when it would be wrong to put any trust in man, when Divine aid may alone be sought. Ezra wanted to show that God was the object of his supreme confidence; that he was indeed conducting the sacred vessels to Jerusalem.
(2) Because he feared lest he should deprive God of the glory of his own operation. Had Ezra obtained the band of soldiers, they would have concealed the operation of God; Christian workers must not give the glory of the Divine activity and achievement to another, much less to the soldiers of a heathen monarch.
(3) Because he feared lest he should seem to compromise Divine truth in the view of the king. Ezra had said to Artaxerxes that "the hand of our God was upon all them for good that seek him;" he feared even in appearance to compromise this statement.
(4) Because he feared lest he should substitute a carnal expedient for a spiritual preparation. Secular aids do not often avail in the absence of moral fitness. Soldiers cannot give safety to disobedience.
2. How did Ezra act without the aid of the secular? He was not indifferent to the danger to which he might be exposed in marching without the band of soldiers; he did not superstitiously seek to avert it; he did not frantically rush into it; he religiously braved it.
(1) Humility. He humbled himself before God in view of his perilous journey.
(2) Supplication. He sought the Divine aid. Thus must we act when we are called upon to reject the secular aids of life.
3. When did Ezra act without the aid of the secular? Ezra travelled without the soldiers n an important crisis; it is but seldom that we are called upon to divorce prayer and precaution.
4. What moral qualities did Ezra exhibit in thus acting without the aid of the spiritual? It is evident that he was zealous for the honour of God; courageous in sacred toil; devout in daily life; and could act alone when necessary. God answered his confidence by leading him safely to Jerusalem. - E.
I. THE OBJECT. It was to obtain the Divine guidance and protection.
1. The adults needed this for themselves.
(1) The weight of responsibility rested with them. Duties are claimed from adults which are not required from children: religious, civil. Excuses may be pleaded for infants which would not avail for adults.
(2) Where responsibilities are onerous, the greater the need of prayer and fasting. This is not sufficiently considered. Hence the serious blunders, the disasters.
2. They needed it on behalf of their "little ones.
(1) Any army encumbered with women and children would be at an immense disadvantage in the face of a foe. The claims of natural affection would so distract as to destroy presence of mind, and expose to a more easy prey the very objects of solicitude.
(2) This would be so in the highest degree in an army of civilians. How helpless are we in the face of our spiritual adversaries! What need have we for the hand of God upon us for good I
3. They needed it for the safety of the treasure in their custody.
(1) It was vast in its value (vers. 24-27). The plate alone is estimated at £1,038,600. Then there was the private property, all the substance," of the whole caravan.
(2) It was therefore tempting to the cupidity and rapacity of marauders. These were known to exist. "The enemy in the way." We have to guard our Christian honour, which is of priceless value, against the rapacity of the "enemy in the way." So have we need of fasting and prayer.
II. THE MOTIVE.
1. He was jealous for the honour of God.
(1) He might have had an escort from the king. He had influence enough at court to have procured this. The safety of the treasure, to which the king himself and his counsellors and princes had so handsomely contributed, would have been a sufficient reason to influence him.
(2) But then he had proclaimed to him great principles, viz. -
(a) That "the hand of God is upon all them for good that seek him." The king might say, "Why then do you not seek him and trust in him?" May we not say this to ourselves when we are tempted to lean upon an arm of flesh?
(b) That "his power and his wrath are against all them that forsake him." The king might reply, "Why then do you not confide your defence to him from those wicked persons who would molest you?"
(3) What a testimony to Artaxerxes of their faith in their principles, and of the jealousy of God for his honour, that Ezra did not ask for a military escort, and yet was prospered in his way!
2. He was jealous for the honour of his people.
(1) The great principles enunciated might be true, and yet the way of the people might be disastrous. In that case it would argue that they did not "seek God," and that, "forsaking" him, they made him their adversary.
(2) To prevent this the fast was proclaimed. The "afflicting of the soul" was to express repentance for departures from God, that his wrath might be averted and his favour conciliated. Do we not need this?
III. THE ISSUE.
1. "The Lord was entreated of them.
(1) Some favourable sign may have been given them. On another occasion God anthenticated his servant Ezra by sending heavy rain to show his anger (see Ezra 10:9). Their faith in God would have carried its own evidence. True faith is of Divine inspiration (Colossians 2:12). Therefore it is the subsistence of things hoped for, i.e. things hoped for are to genuine faith as certain as though they subsisted.
2. The success of their journey proved it.
(1) They were delivered from the hand of the enemy." The enemy was there, but he was restrained by the hand of God upon his people. The lurking foes as well as the avowed enemies were restrained (see ver. 31).
(2) They "came to Jerusalem" in safety (ver. 32). Our safe arrival in heaven will be the most glorious proof of the good hand of God upon us. But it would be folly to remain unassured of that good hand upon us until this proof may or may not be given. Until a present assurance be given we should not cease to pray; and if prayer without fasting does not secure it, then let fasting be added unto prayer. - J.A.M.
I. THE TRUST GIVEN. "And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God" (ver. 25).
1. Their nature. As the men appointed by Ezra had costly and sacred vessels committed to their care, so men have given to them money, time, genius, and influence to carry through life.
2. Their purpose (ver. 28). These vessels of gold and silver were given for the use and adornment of the temple at Jerusalem. Men must hold their sacred trusts for God.
3. Their measure (ver. 26). The gold and silver given were carefully weighed; all the capabilities of men are weighed by God: to some he gives two talents, to others five talents; to each man according to his several ability.
4. Their responsibility. The comrades of Ezra had the responsible task of safely conveying the vessels of the temple to Jerusalem; human talent is a solemn gift.
5. Their registration (ver. 34). The gifts of man are written in the book of God.
II. THE FIDELITY REQUIRED. "Watch ye, and keep them" (ver. 29).
1. Their peril. The men conveying the costly vessels of the temple would be exposed to many enemies by the way (ver. 22); men of talent are liable to many moral enemies - pride, indolence, misuse, and neglect of culture.
2. Their safety. The prayers of these men were their protection. Ezra says, "So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us" (ver. 23). Devotion is the safeguard of talent.
3. Their inspection. "Weighed in the house of our God" (ver. 33). At the last God will judge men for the use of their talents; then every man will be morally weighed in the unerring balance of truth.
4. Their fidelity. The comrades of Ezra were faithful to their trust; happy if at the close of life we are found faithful to the trusts we have received. - E.
1. The treasure was various.
(1) Various in its qualities. Some vessels were of silver, some of gold, and some of "fine copper precious as gold." This last the Syriac, somewhat oddly, construes as best Corinthian brass, referring to the amalgam, formed by the fusion together of copper, brass, silver, and gold, found by Lucius Mummius after the burning of Corinth. More probably it was some factitious metal (see A. Clarke, in loc.). Though all men have the attributes of each, yet these are variously developed. It should he our endeavour so to cultivate our powers that our service should be like gold, of the most valuable kind.
(2) Various in its sources. Some of the vessels were the free-will offerings of Jews. Some were from the Gentiles. So whether Jew or Greek now it matters not, for all believers are one in Christ (Matthew 8:11).
2. The treasure was precious.
(1) Gold, from its purity and costliness, has ever been taken as a symbol of preciousness. Silver also has the same signification, though in inferior degree. Here also were vessels of a "fine copper precious as gold."
(2) But what material substance can compare in value to the human spirit (Isaiah 13:12)?
(b) Capable of God (Job 28:19).
Redeemed by the Son of God (1 Peter 1:7).
3. The treasure was sacred.
(1) It was rendered so by being freely given to God. Having freely given ourselves, we have no right to resume the gift. What an anomalous position is that of the backslider from God!
(2) By virtue of God's acceptance of a gift it becomes holy. When God receives a sinner he sanctifies him by his Spirit. As the Levites and Nethinims kept the vessels of the sanctuary clean, so are all the ordinances of religion designed to keep believers pure. Consider -
II. THE TREASURERS.
1. These were twelve in number.
(1) This number is sacred in Old Testament Scripture. There were the twelve sons of Jacob, and so the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22; Genesis 49:28). According to the number of these tribes were the twelve pillars built by Moses; the twelve stones in the breastplate of judgment; the twelve stones in the Jordan, and in the altar of Elijah (Exodus 24:4; Exodus 28:21; Joshua 4:8; 1 Kings 18:31). So the twelve cakes on the table of shewbread, etc. (Leviticus 24:8).
(2) This number is no less sacred in the New Testament. Corresponding to the twelve patriarchs we have the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2). Twelve thrones are to be assigned to the apostles for the judging of the tribes of Israel. Twelve and multiples of twelve are common measures in the Apocalypse in things pertaining to the Lamb (Revelation 12:1; Revelation 21:12, 14, 21; Revelation 22:2).
2. They were of the chief of the priests.
(1) They had a consecration to God in their birth as sons of Aaron. So ministers of Christ who have the oversight of precious souls should be regenerate persons.
(2) They had also a consecration in their official separation. So ministers of Christ must have a vocation from Christ. God assigns special work to special men (see Acts 13:2). By this special service they become holy, though they were officially holy already (ver. 28). Every service we faithfully render to him God makes to react upon us with a sanctifying virtue.
III. THEIR DUTIES.
1. They were duly to estimate the value of their c/large.
(1) To impress this upon them, they had all the precious things weighed.
(2) The value of the soul cannot thus be estimated, yet it may be considered and pondered until the very spirit of a minister is penetrated with a sense of the magnitude of his responsibility in those over whom he is placed in the Lord.
2. They were to watch over it.
(1) To see that it was not lost through neglect, or by becoming mixed with other property. Ministerial neglect has resulted in the loss of many a precious soul.
(2) To defend it from the cupidity of robbers. These infested the way: some openly, others stealthily. So are souls in danger of encountering those who would rob them of peace.
3. They were to present it in its integrity in the temple.
(1) Having kept it amidst the dangers of the journey by the blessing of God, the custodians present the treasure in the house of the Lord. It will be a happy thing for ministers if they can as completely fulfil their commission in leading their flock into the better Jerusalem. For parents with their children, etc. (Ephesians 4:11-13).
(2) The balances of the sanctuary are true. The actions of all men will there be weighed up. May we not be found wanting in the great day of scrutiny. - J.A.M.
I. TRAVELLERS TO JERUSALEM. "Then we departed to go unto Jerusalem" (ver. 31). They had come forth from a land of captivity and comparative privation, and were on their way to the land where they would no longer be bondsmen, and where every possible privilege would be theirs to enjoy: they were "going home;" to the land consecrated to their thought by innumerable hallowing associations; to the city whose walls should, to their fond imagining, shut them in to liberty, security, and joy. Onwards we move, we who have left the land of spiritual bondage behind us, to the land of our hope; our faces are steadfastly set toward the heavenly Jerusalem. We "seek a city yet to come." Every day we are travelling forward to its open gates; every night we pitch our tent "a day's march nearer" this home on high.
II. GUIDED AND GUARDED OF GOD UPON THE WAY. "The hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy," etc. (ver. 31). In answer to their earnest prayer (ver. 23) and to their humility (ver. 23), God gave them his guidance and guardianship along the road, and whatever enemies may have been near either refrained from attacking them or were easily repelled. In answer to our earnest prayer and our humility, God will be our guide and guardian along the heavenward way. He will
(a) show us the path we should take, saving us from error, and thus from evil, and
(b) defend us from our adversaries:
(1) those above us - principalities and powers, etc.;
(2) those around us - evil men, dangerous fascinations, worldly honours, pleasures of the flesh;
(3) those within us - unholy propensities, wayward dispositions, tendencies towards pride, sensuality, selfishness, etc.
III. THOSE CHARGED WITH SACRED TREASURE (vers. 24-30). Ezra put into the hands of some of the priests and Levites very precious treasure - the gold, silver, vessels, etc., which had been contributed for the temple; they, as holy men, were to take charge of the holy things (ver. 28), to watch them and keep them intact, to be prepared to have them weighed when they reached their journey's end (ver. 29). All of us who are spiritual pilgrims are men charged with treasure - some with more than others. All of us have in charge that most valuable treasure - more precious than the precious gold they carried (ver. 27) - our own spirit, created in God's likeness to bear his image, to dwell in his glorious presence. Each one of us must sedulously, scrupulously, devoutly watch and keep this unharmed, and be ready to have it "weighed in the balances" of God, not being found wanting then. To some of us - parents, teachers, pastors - God has intrusted the precious treasure of others' souls, and he bids us take earnest heed of them, "watching for them as those who must give account," doing our best in every way, publicly and privately, by direct solicitation and by prayer on their behalf, that they may be found whole and blameless "in that day."
IV. AT THE END OF THEIR JOURNEY. They "came to Jerusalem" (ver. 32), and their arrival was marked by three things -
(1) judgment (vers. 33, 34),
(2) presentation of sacrifice (ver. 35), and
(3) kindly reception by those across the river (ver. 36).
When we reach the end of our journey we shall find these three things -
(2) The offering of no more sacrifices as under the old dispensation, and no more pleading of the one great Sacrifice for sin; no sin offering at all (ver. 35), but the offering of praise and of holy service - of our purified, renewed, perfected selves, whole and without blemish, vessels meet for the Master's use even in the heavenly sanctuary; and
(3) welcome from those who are there. Those who are on that side the river will wait, with outstretched hands, with eager hearts, to receive us to those blessed shores, to lead us into that better land, to introduce us to that country which has no temple because it is a temple, full of the presence and the glory of the Lord. - C.
en route for Jerusalem. As we might expect from the piety which influenced them in their preparations -
I. THEY WERE PROSPERED IN THEIR JOURNEY.
1. They enjoyed the blessing of their God. "The hand of our God was upon us."
(1) The hand is the symbol of power (Judges 1:35; 2 Samuel 24:14). Appropriately so, since it is the instrument by which commonly we exert our strength. So when the "hand of God" is mentioned his omnipotence is supposed (Exodus 15:6; Psalm 17:7).
(2) The hand of God "upon" men sometimes denotes his almighty judgments (1 Samuel 5:11; 1 Peter 5:6). "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Sometimes it denotes his all-sufficient protection and defence (John 10:28, 29). In this good sense it is intended here (see also vers. 18, 22; 7:9; Nehemiah 2:18).
(3) The hand of God with his people coming up from Babylon may be likened to the glorious cloud which accompanied their fathers in their exodus from Egypt (see Zechariah 2:9, where "I will turn my hand upon the little ones" denotes the sheltering of the little ones when the sword smites the Great One).
2. The Divine protection was respected by the enemy.
(1) There was the open "enemy" in the way. There ever were, as to this day there are, bold marauders in the East. Temptations often, with impudent ostentation, attack the Christian pilgrim.
(2) There were also "those that lie in wait." There are stealthy as well as sturdy foemen. The brood of the old serpent is legion. Temptations are often most successful when they attack by surprise.
(3) But the people were armed with "all prayer." The knowledge of this so over-awed the enemies that they did not attack. Or else if they did attack they were overwhelmed by the "hand of God." "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
II. THEY ENTERED INTO JERUSALEM WITH JOY.
1. It was the end of a toilsome march.
(1) The journey occupied four months. They "departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month." They "came to Jerusalem in the fifth month" (Ezra 7:8). It would be a joy to them to have the discomfort of that tedious pilgrimage ended.
(2) It will be an inexpressible joy to the Christian pilgrim to end life's toils in the heavenly city.
2. It was the satisfaction of a cherished hope.
(1) They were "children of captivity," born in Babylon, never having seen Jerusalem. Yet would they not be without the traditions of the glory of their forefathers. The spirit which breathed in Psalm 79, and 137, could not leave them in ignorance of these things.
(2) They had also their Scriptures, which associated Zion with the glories of history and of prophecy. Now they were standing in the very place where their fathers had worshipped. In this also they had a pledge of the superior glories of the heavenly Jerusalem.
(3) They were relatives of those who had preceded them under the conduct of Zerubbabel. This is evident from a comparison of the catalogues of names (ch. 2. and ch. 8.). Therefore they would have happy recognitions, congratulations, and greetings. If in heaven now there is joy over the repentance of a sinner, what will be the joy of that entrance which shall be ministered abundantly into the kingdom!
III. THEY ABODE IN JERUSALEM IN PEACE.
1. They had peace in themselves.
(1) This is the happy fruit of fidelity. Tranquillity dwells with integrity. They faithfully delivered up their precious charge. "Now on the fourth day," etc. (vers. 33, 34).
(2) The balances of the sanctuary are true, and the weights are just. Sad is the case of him that shall be "found wanting" (see Daniel 5:27).
2. They had peace with God.
(1) They went the right way to secure this by offering sacrifices (see ver. 35). Christ is our peace.
(2) Note - These sacrifices were offered not only for themselves, but also "for all Israel." But "Judah and Benjamin" alone were present, and these only by a representation, for the bulk of the Jews remained on the Babylonish side of the river Euphrates. Query - Is there not here an expression of faith in the ultimate restoration of all Israel (Romans 10:26)?
3. They had peace from their neighbours.
(1) This was secured to them, through the good providence of God, by the king's commissions to lieutenants and governors. These documents were probably sealed; but the purport of them is evident from the letter of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21-23).
(2) No wonder, then, that these lieutenants should 6, further the people and the house of God." Persecution would cease. "When a man's ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." Let us never move without God. Let us ever move with God. - J.A.M.