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We have here a further relation of Ezra's journey to Jerusalem. He begins it with prayer; the Lord conducts him and those who accompanied him in safety. An account of his arrival, and his entrance on business.
It is to the honor of Ezra's company that the Holy Ghost hath caused their register to be made in the book of God. Strange indeed it is, to consider that so long after the proclamation made by Cyrus, so many of the people remained in Babylon; and yet were afterwards to go. But is not this the case in the call of the gospel? The hour was not yet come. And the Lord by this testimony, plainly shows that the work is with him. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but neither is he that planteth, neither he that watereth anything, but God that giveth the increase.
The whole number is fourteen hundred ninety and six, beside the heads of the houses themselves. A goodly company! How sweet is the gospel proclamation, when made successful to win souls unto Christ. Was it not in allusion to this, both in the Jewish and gospel church, that the prophet cried out, The Lord shall make an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt. Isaiah 11:16 .
The pause that Ezra made before his departure, no doubt, was with a view to begin his journey in prayer. Carry us not up hence, is, or should be, the language of every truly regenerated believer, when like Moses we are about to set forth on any expedition; unless thy presence goeth with us. Exodus 33:15 . Is it not a matter of great astonishment, that none of God's ministers, the Levites, should, unasked, have been forward to go, especially as Artaxerxes had granted free permission? But, Reader, do not overlook the pious conduct of Ezra on this occasion, in his anxiety to have the ministers with him for the service of the house of God.
I admire the promptness of the Levites in coming forward at the call. And I equally admire the piety of Ezra in ascribing this readiness of the sons of Levi to the good hand of God.
The prophet Jeremiah had predicted of the manner in which the people should return, both the dispersed of Judah and Jerusalem; going and weeping. Jeremiah 50:4-5 . Ezra therefore, in a most pious manner, proclaims a fast to seek the Lord's presence, like the pillar to Israel, to go before them. And though the way from Babylon to Jerusalem exposed the people to much danger, from the several enemies through whose territories they must pass; yet, from a well grounded confidence in the Lord, Ezra would not seek any convoy from Artaxerxes. And as Ezra confided in the Lord, the Lord honoured Ezra's faith. Oh! Reader! what hath a well grounded faith in God's mercy in Jesus Christ accomplished in all ages? For I hope I need not remind the Reader that the confidence of Ezra in a God in covenant, implied the covenant made with Abraham. And what was that but, that in Abraham's seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. Galatians 3:16 .
Is there not a sweet spiritual instruction here? Doth not the apostle, in allusion to gospel treasures for himself and his faithful companions, observe, we have this treasure in earthen vessels. 2 Corinthians 4:7 . Indeed, are not all the precious truths of God considered as the treasures of his grace, More to be desired than gold, yea, than fine gold? And is not Jesus the whole sum and substance of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? Blessed Redeemer! commit thy treasure, O Lord, unto faithful men. And ye that are ministers, be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Isaiah 52:11 .
Was not this journey a type of the gospel pilgrimage - long, and dangerous, exposed to the dens of lions, and the mountains of leopards? And is not the hand of our God upon us, to deliver us from every foe? Precious Jesus! how art thou going before thy people, and protecting them continually!
I admire the continual observance of the offerings, and the sacrifices; not for the multitudes of beasts slaughtered, but for the evident reference the whole had to the person of the Lamb of God. Oh! how impossible must it have been for all the art and contrivance of man, in such a succession of ages, to have kept up so expensive a train of services, had not the Lord's hand been evidently with them to testify of his dear Son. Yes! blessed Jesus! thy one offering, by which thou hast forever perfected them that are sanctified, unfolds, and explains the whole, and carries a palpable demonstration with it, that all referred to Thee, the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 .
My soul! doth not this view of Ezra's return from Babylon, with the number of the people here named and recorded, suggest to thee the ransomed of Zion, which shall one day return with everlasting joy upon their heads; when Jesus shall again be seen on the holy mount, and with him, not only the hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of Israel, but also a multitude which no man can number of all kindred's, nations, and languages! Oh! how delightful will be that appearance; and how sure and certain is the journey to it now. There is an highway opened, and it is indeed called the way of holiness. And it is truly called the way of holiness, for Jesus is himself the way; and the holiness of his person and finished - work, is the holiness of his people. The wayfaring men, though fools, cannot err therein. Here, precious Jesus, may I be found, returning from the Babylon of this world to the Jerusalem of a better. Yes! thou dearest Lord, thou art indeed the way, the only way, the sure way. For in thy person, thy redemption-work, thy covenant righteousness, thy atoning blood, followed with all the promises, and invitations, and assurances of thy gospel, my soul finds a sure way, and would walk in no other. Most fully convinced I am, that salvation is in no other; neither is there any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Witness for me, that my soul is come in this way: And oh! fulfil that precious promise, Lord, to my soul, that all that do come thou wilt in no wise cast out.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezra 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany