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Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity.
Going up out of captivity
I. The deliverance from captivity.
1. This captivity had been--
(1) A degradation;
(2) a subjection;
(3) a transformation;
(4) a retribution.
The most deplorable degradation and the most real and terrible subjection are those of sin.
2. This deliverance--
(1) Originated in the favour of God;
(2) was effected by an unlikely agent;
(3) was permissive and not compulsory.
Salvation from the bondage of sin is freely offered in the gospel, but no one is compelled to accept the offer.
II. The journey home. This journey was--
1. A restoration.
2. A restoration to their own home.
3. A restoration to religious privileges. The salvation of Jesus Christ restores man to his true condition and to his forfeited inheritance.
III. The subordination to leaders. Society could not exist without leaders and rulers. They are necessary--
1. For the maintenance of order.
2. For insuring progress.
3. Because of the differences in the characters and abilities of men. (William Jones.)
The Rev. J. Jackson Fuller, of the Cameroons, a coloured missionary, said at the Young People’s Meeting of the Baptist Centenary: “Although our fathers in my country were born under the British flag, yet we were nothing more and nothing else than the chattels of the Englishman. We were British slaves, and it was partly by the missionaries going to our country--the island of Jamaica--and telling us of the love of Jesus Christ that their vivid description of our oppressed condition aroused the English nation, and in the year 1834, after paying twenty millions of money, you set us all free. The very day you passed the Emancipation Act in England, I was made free. You young people would have been glad, or your fathers before you would have been glad, had they the opportunity of seeing that morning in the year 1884 when thousands of children and their fathers and mothers gathered together during the evening, waiting for that morning of the 31st of July to dawn. At eleven o’clock at night they gathered in mass and waited for the hour to pass when the clock should strike twelve. And then you would have been glad to see that mighty mass of human beings rise on their feet and sing the Doxology--‘Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.’ I was among that number that gathered that night. I heard the Doxology sung. I am one of the boys that were rescued when you paid twenty millions of money and set our fathers free.”
The number of the men of the people of Israel.
A suggestive record
I. The significance of the fact of the record.
1. It Was an honour to the pious and patriotic ones who returned.
2. It is an illustration of the Divine record of God’s spiritual Israel (Luke 10:20).
3. It suggests that every one of His people is precious in the sight of God (Isaiah 49:16).
II. The significance of the contents of the record. We have in this list--
1. Significant persons.
(1) Zerubbabel, an ancestor of the Messiah (Matthew 1:12).
(2) Jeshua, who was a distinguished type of Jesus Christ (Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 6:11-13).
2. A significant place: Bethlehem (Ezra 2:21).
3. Significant numbers. (William Jones.)
It is here suggested--
I. That there are various spheres of service in the Church of God (Ephesians 4:11-12).
II. That the humbelest sphere of service in the Church of God is a place of privilege and honour.
III. The privilege of sevice in the Church of God is not limited to any particular races or classes of men. (William Jones.)
These sought their register.
The importance of a clear spiritual pedigree
I. The doubtful pedigree amongst the people is an illustration of uncertainty as to our spiritual state.
1. This uncertainty may consist with association with the people of God (Ezra 2:59-60).
2. This uncertainty must involve spiritual loss.
(1) Of spiritual joy.
(2) Of spiritual usefulness.
Lacking Christian assurance our testimony for Christ would be likely to be deficient in clearness and attractiveness, in fervour and force; it would especially fail to set forth the joyful character of true religion.
II. The doubtful pedigree amongst the priests is an illustration of uncertainty as to our ministerial calling and condition.
1. A ministerial pedigree may be lost by reason of worldliness.
2. The loss of ministerial pedigree involves a corresponding loss of ministerial power and reward.
3. The final decision as to the standing of a minister of uncertain pedigree must be given by God Himself (Ezra 2:63). (William Jones.)
Here is the picture of men seeking a register, and finding nothing in it; looking up old family papers, and their names are not found in the tender record. A man not known at home! He may have been born there, and have lived a good many years of his early life there; but to-day he has no record on the hearthstone, no place at the table, no portion in the family memory: it would be a breach of courtesy to name his name. Something must have happened. There is an ineffable sadness about this: all nature seems to be violated; instincts have been rooted out; natural affection seems to have been burned down and utterly destroyed. Consider the tremendous possibility of outliving one’s natural rights, or forfeiting birthright, inheritance, paternal blessing, all the wealth of home’s true love. Talk of falling from grace! What is this but an apostasy from the best grace--a fall from childhood’s trust, the wilful obliteration of the name from the scroll whose meaning is nothing but love? Here is a child who is not named in the will. Consider what you have done. How infinite in detestation must have been the character which resulted in this issue! Take more general ground, and the principle still applies. Here is a man who is unknown in the community; his name may be written upon certain official papers, but it is not inscribed on the scroll of the heart, on the memory of gratitude; it is not to be found anywhere put up as a thing most prized and loved. He is but a figure in the community, but a tax-payer, but an occupier of a house; he is not a living presence in any sense of beneficence. When he is buried no one will miss him in the heart. His name is not written upon the register of trust, affection, or benevolent interest. Seeing that all these things are possible, there must be a reason for them: what is it? It is always a moral reason, where it touches any conception of general justice. At the last shall we go to the book of life and not find our names there? The answer is in our own lives. Sad to turn away from the record, saying, “My name is not there!” But, blessed be God, the humblest, least, vilest may, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, the whole mystery of the priesthood of Christ, have their names written in heaven. (J. Parker, D. D)
And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely.
Possessions and offerings
I. The completion of their journey. “They came to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem.”
II. The extent of their possessions (Ezra 2:65-67).
III. The presenation of their offerings.
1. The object of their offerings.
2. The spirit of their offerings.
(1) They offered promptly, without delay.
(2) They offered spontaneously, without constraint.
3. The measure of their offerings.
IV. The settlement in their cities. This suggests--
1. Home after exile.
2. Rest after a long and tedious journey. (William Jones.)
As I was reading my Greek Testament the other day, I was delighted with a discovery concerning the well-known text: God loveth a cheerful giver. The word cheerful is our word for hilarious. And I began to imagine what would happen if the meaning of the word was put into action. “Will you give five pounds to missions?” “Will you contribute a hundred pounds towards our evangelistic work this winter?” “Ha, ha, ha! I am only too glad for the opportunity to give, since I have so abundantly received.” And the hilarious giver writes out a cheque on the spot. How much better that sounds than the doleful, “Oh, dear! I am tired with the never-ending calls for money, money, money.” But this “hilarious” giving is not possible except the Spirit is dwelling richly within. For only the Spirit shows the greatness of that salvation which we received through Christ, and the greatness of our consequent obligation. (A. J. Gordon.)
The Church the rallying point of nations
The temple and its worship marked the last days of the kingdom of the Jews anterior to their captivity, and formed the point around which the returning wanderers gathered at their restoration to the home of their fathers. So around the Church, the events of all successive empires have gathered since the day of Pentecost.
I. Every state of importance, alike in ancient, mediaeval, or modern history has gathered round the Church, and has received its shape and definiteness from her. Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome each became important in their different times in proportion as they were able to bless or to chasten the Church of God. The long dynasties that ruled on the banks of the Nile; the invasion of the Hyksos; the vast undertakings of Rameses or Amasis; the gigantic records of antiquity which rise in such sepulchral magnificence in Egypt from amidst her waste of sand; the high philosophy of one Ptolemy and the literary research of another, proclaim one after the other in successive generations the splendour of an empire whose principal end of existence was to aid in the throes of the early Church; to give a home to the famine.stricken patriarchs; to be a scourge in the successive invasions of Shishak, Pharaoh Hophra, and Pharaoh Necho, and to be the probation of the Jews when God ordained the Chaldean captivity. All these seem to have been the main objects for which Egypt existed as a nation. So in each successive period in after-history the Church became more and more the central body which gave shape to the kingdoms of the world, alike in mediaeval as in modern history. The vast multitudes from the north-east of Europe which swept like a bankless flood over the fertile plains of Italy, arrested by the walls of Constantinople or of Rome, or diverted by the intercession of Ambrose or Gregory, became at length themselves children of the Church whom they had persecuted; and the imaginative genius of the Goth lent mellowness, sublimity, and tone to the architecture and service of the Church. Men who came to persecute remained to pray, and the Gothic invasion formed an era in ecclesiastical history. The kingdom of France beheld a repetition of the acts of Constantine in the conversion of Clovis; and Clotilds and her husband resembled in the story of their conversion Ethelbert, king of Kent, and Bertha his wife. Charlemagne followed in the passage of years, in family as well as name mixed up with those who were giving protection to while they received their own definiteness from the Church of Christ. And the gifts of Pepin became a record to a long after-day of the power which the Church had to give shape to the early civilisation of Europe. From the death of Charlemagne throughout eight following centuries, the interests of Europe became synonymous with those of France or Germany, while they oscillated in alternating supremacy, each of them seeking the recognition of the Church for their claims. The Great Reformation which broke out over Northern and Western Europe bore upon the billows of its tempestuous sea the vessels that carried the destinies of Spain and Austria, France and England, and many of the minor states of Germany; while religious questions became the direct causes which shook the dynasty of the Stuarts, and agitated France through the illustrious periods of Catharine de Medici and Henry the Great and the imbecile reign of Louis XIII; while the names that have rendered so many pages of French history interesting--the Hugonot and Coligni, Conde and Turenne--were immediately brought out by questions connected with the doctrine and discipline of the Church in defence of which each one of them was brought before the notice of history.
II. The Church has in her that principle of vitality which gives her the power to rekindle life where it has been extinct, and to reconstruct the shattered portions of fabrics which have fallen to decay. The children of Israel, leaving their patriarchal government at Goshen to enter upon that developed state of their history which was to issue in the kingly line of David, preserved their nationality and drew together their otherwise scattered forces around the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the lawgiver; and the Church of God became in the wilderness of Sinai the source and fountain of national life and existence to the tribes reseeking their home. A second time the chosen people were called upon to bewail their sins in a long captivity; a second time their national distinctiveness bid fair to be lost, but the voices of Daniel and Ezekiel sounded loudly to penitence and prayer by the Chebar and in Babylon. These were the voices of the Church of God--these represented that eternal principle around which national and individual existence might coil and find compactness. These were the forces from within which kept together the people of the captivity, and were the means of restoring them in their national integrity to their homes. Forlorn and orphaned indeed must the returning tribes have felt; like men who in the chill of the morning wander amid the fading flowers of the banquet of yesterday. At that moment the Church again became the centre of their national revival and around the foundation stones of the temple the scattered people again became a nation. (E. Monro.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezra 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent