Ezra 8:22 — Ezra was faced with a tension: accept the gracious offer of the king to provide protection, or allow God to protect them as they travel with over $100 million in gold (that’s not counting the silver – see Ezra 8:26). Hudson Taylor once refused to wear a life jacket on a boat because he thought it showed his faith in God. Should we refuse to wear lifejackets as well? How are we to balance keeping our faith in God and exercising reasonable care?
FIRST note that Elijah fasted and prayed about this decision (Ezra 8:23). Keep in mind that this was someone that God was willing to be entreated of (Psalm 66:18). If we’re not living for the LORD, we should be hesitant to claim we heard a command from the LORD.
SECOND note that Ezra learned the lesson of Hezekiah and Sennacherib in 2 Kings 18:15 – trust God first or soldiers won’t help you (Psalm 127:1). His decision was a response to a specific problem in Israelite history, not a general disregard of human precautions. God blessed this decision (Ezra 8:31).
THIRD note how Ezra was demonstrating his trust in God (see today’s reading in Psalm 31), and how he took every human precaution when auditing the treasure. Not because the transport team was untrustworthy, but to a) protect their reputation, b) deter temptation, and c) ensure they focused on the goal for the team instead of personal enrichment, Ezra employed the service of the Levites to transport the treasure. This is similar to a church treasurer who completes a deposit slip with the rest of the finance team and then is dispatched to the bank to deposit the money. The church auditor then reconciles the deposit slip with the deposit receipt to make sure nothing happened to the money enroute. Ezra found trustworthy men (Ezra 8:24), weighed the gold (Ezra 8:25), documented the weights (Ezra 8:26-27), charged the trustworthy men with the sacred trust (Ezra 8:28), and then scheduled an audit in Jerusalem (Ezra 8:29). While today’s treasurer might pocket some loose change enroute, the big danger in times past was debasement. Roman emperors would reduce the silver content of coins thinking people wouldn’t notice. Archimedes famously developed a test to ensure the gold in the crown wasn’t diluted. Here, the chapter concludes with the auditing in Ezra 8:33-34.
Back to Hudson Taylor:
Later he realized that was wrong thinking and wrote, “The use of means ought not to lessen our faith in God; and our faith in God ought not to hinder whatever means He has given us for the accomplishment of His own purposes … When in medical or surgical charge of any case, I have never thought of neglecting to ask God’s guidance and blessing in the use of appropriate means … to me it would appear presumptuous and wrong to neglect the use of those measures which He Himself has put within our reach, as to neglect to take daily food, and suppose that life and health might be maintained by prayer alone” (p. 99). He was later said to be “a man of prayer, but it was prayer associated with action … He prayed about things as if everything depended upon the praying … but he worked also, as if everything depended upon the working” (p. 329).
Excerpt comes from pg. 329 of It Is Not Death to Die: A New Biography of Hudson Taylor by Jim Cromarty
Ezra 9:1-2 — Ezra, whose father was executed by a pagan king in a pagan land as part of God’s judgment on the sins of Israel, knew sin could not be tolerated. They were commanded not to defile themselves with the Canaanites and their practices (Leviticus 18:24). They were commanded not to associate with them but to drive them out (Deuteronomy 7:1). They were not to show any mercy.
Ezra 9:6 — Ezra’s prayer of contrition; he recognizes his lowly position (Psalm 40:17) and the vastness of his sins (Psalm 51:3). He cites the very command they have broken (Ezra 9:11-12, Deuteronomy 7:3). Ezra refuses to allow people to make the same mistake Solomon made (1 Kings 11:1-2).
1 Corinthians 5:1 — Speaking of sin in the camp, Paul commands a harsh penalty (1 Corinthians 5:5) for sinful activity in the local church and God’s disapproval of those who tolerated it (1 Corinthians 5:2, 1 Corinthians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 5:9).
1 Corinthians 5:10-12 — We’re not to avoid those who sin. We must confront those who claim to be washed of their sin in the blood of the Lamb and yet persist in the sin that nailed the Lamb to the Cross! God will take care of sinners; we must take care of our so-called brothers.
Psalm 31:1 — The Psalmist is declaring what Ezra believed: we can trust in the LORD and be delivered! He has delivered us from our enemies!
Proverbs 21:1 — The Lord changed the heart of the king from Ezra 4:21 to Ezra 6:7. God can still change hearts even today!
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