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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Day 265: The return to Jerusalem

On the crest of a wave, Ezra heads back to Jerusalem.

Artaxerxes’ decree
Ezra 7:21-26
Ezra’s thanksgiving
Ezra 7:27-28
The exiles who returned with Ezra
Ezra 8:1-14
Ezra returns to Jerusalem 458BC
The camp site
Ezra 7:9, 8:15
Ezra finds Levites
Ezra 8:16-20
Prayer and fasting
Ezra 8:21-23
The Temple treasures
Ezra 8:24-30
Journey begins
Ezra 8:31
Ezra’s arrival at Jerusalem
Ezra 7:6-8,10, 8:32-36
Ezra’s grief
Ezra 9:104
His prayer
Ezra 9:5-15

Ezra has the king’s favour upon him (as well as God’s) and he uses it to organise a return to Jerusalem for a large number of exiles. He travels with large quantities of gold and silver, but no armed guard, because he told the king that God will keep them safe on their journey.
So, after a while, he stops and gets the people to pray that they will indeed be safe, and God protects them until they arrive. So far, so good.
Ezra finds a few priests and Levites who can trace their family line far enough back to be legitimate. and who have kept themselves faithful to God, and he plans to use them to re institute Temple worship. But when he reaches the land, and fins the condition of the people who remain there, he is appalled.
They are barely Jewish - they have intermarried with all the other peoples jumbled around - because this had been the Babylonian empire’s policy, to destroy the identity of conquered peoples by mixing them up. Ezra’s response is not to blame the Babylonians, but to blame the people. Not by being angry with them, but by crying out to God in sorrow and penitence for this sin. They haven’t kept themselves holy, and how can an unholy people have a holy God in their midst. It seems like Ezra fears that the whole project will fail.

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