by Robert Hawker
THE BOOK OF EZRA
THERE can be no question who was the penman of this book of God. Ezra, whose name it bears, was evidently the writer of it. Though indeed if he literally was the scribe of the whole, he must have been an ancient man at his death, for it contains in point of history a period of at least 80 years. It begins with the first year of the reign of Cyrus, which was about 536 years before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; and closeth somewhat about the 456th year before the Christian era.
The name of Ezra is not without signification, for it implies an helper. And certain it is that he well answered to this name, for his ministry must have been highly beneficial to the church of God in the critical period in which he lived. And I conceive the Lord hath made his labors a blessing and an help to the church, in all the intermediate periods, to the present hour.
The Reader will have a better apprehension of the several contents of this book, and will enter with more clearness of understanding into the design of the Holy Ghost in causing this faithful record to have been committed to writing, and handed down to the church, if he considers before he begins the perusal of it, the precise time of the church to which it refers, and connects also with the reading of it the view of the several contemporary writers in the church, whose ministry and labors were exercised much about the same era. What Ezra hath here stated, as an history, will have great light thrown upon it, if the Reader consults what the prophets, who ministered in the successive ages before, had predicted should be accomplished. If he looks no further back than the ministry of Isaiah, and traces in the writings of the prophets that follow to Micah, the sacred writings of those inspired men will be of great use to the advantageous reading the book of Ezra. And although the prophets Haggai and Zechariah did not begin their ministry so early by many years as Ezra, yet as they were both engaged in the Lord's service before that Ezra finished his labors, a reference to those parts of scripture will be highly profitable.
Another interesting point for the pious Reader to observe before he enters upon the perusal of this book of God, will be to call to mind the state of the church at this period of its history. The Babylonish captivity was now over. The church was liberated from Babylon, though still tributary to the Persian government which succeeded it. And such of the people as the Lord had inclined to return to Jerusalem, were now inhabiting again their beloved city, though all in ruins. But the kingly government which their fathers possessed, was lost. Such was the state of God's Israel at the period when Ezra wrote and begun this scriptural record.
I have only to detain the Reader with a request, before he enters upon the perusal of the book of Ezra, that both at the commencement and through every part of it, he will be on the lookout in every chapter and verse, more or less, as the several portions may direct, for a glimpse, (if it be but a glimpse), of him to whom the whole is intended to minister, and on whose account alone it becomes most highly interesting. The Holy Ghost hath never, in any one period of the church, left himself without witness that it is to Jesus he is ministering, and all the records he hath graciously given the church, by whatever servant he hath thought proper to send, they all, like so many rivulets directing their course towards the sea, point to Jesus. This was he of whom Moses and the prophets did write. This was he whose day the patriarchs saw afar off, rejoiced in the prospect, and was glad. And this was he for whose sake Jehovah declared himself to Cyrus two hundred years before Cyrus was born, that he had called him by name, and commissioned him to the deliverance of his people, when opening before him the two-leaved gates into Babylon. See Isaiah 45:14. And the same is he whose redemption we are equally interested in, whom the fathers looked forward to, and whose faith we would desire to follow, considering the end of their conversation; Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.
Reader! let you and I pray the Almighty Spirit, even God the Holy Ghost, who caused this scripture to be written, that he will bless it to our perusal, and more especially in that sweet and most precious part of it which contains Jesus; that in whatever part of scripture he is spoken of, or under what shadow soever he is veiled, like Ezra, we may be scribes, as he was, well instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, to find and bring forth out of the treasury things new and old. And, as Ezra, it is said, (Ezra 7:10; Ezr_7:16,) prepared his heart to teach in Israel, and was a ready scribe in things which are divine; so may we be prepared, from the same gracious source, to discover somewhat in every page of him, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Oh! Lord! do thou, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, grant both to him that writes, and the eye that reads, increasing testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus; that as these things are written that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God; so in believing we may have life through his name, Amen.
the Second Week after Easter