August 1, 2018
Ezra was living in Babylon, but his heart was in Israel. The Jews had been in forced exile for about 50 years when the Babylonians were defeated by the Persians. The new Persian Emperor, Cyrus, issued an Indict that allowed the Jews to return home to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. The first wave of Jews back to Israel happened shortly after the Indict of Cyrus. Ezra got his chance to return in the second wave around 450 BC. However, having the chance, and taking the chance are two different things.
The trip “home” was fraught with many potential dangers. By 450 BC, Cyrus had died, and several new emperors had come and gone. By the time that Ezra had his chance to return, Atraxerxes was the emperor. Would he allow him to return, must have been a question that burned in Ezra’s heart. In time, Ezra got his answer. Not only would Artaxerxes allow him to return, but he opened up the checkbook, and told him to use whatever he needed to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Ezra’s response was recorded in the Book of Ezra.
27 Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way 28 and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me,
I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.
Ezra had been touched by the Hand of God in such a way that it gave him courage for his task. We know how important it is to have human touch, but consider how much more important it is to be touched by God. People need seven significant touches a day. I suspect that we need at least that many from our God who loves us. As we go through the rest of this week, let’s pay attention to the touches from God. They might bring us the courage we need to face our trials and tasks.