“The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
Proverbs 21:1 (also see Ezra 7:27)
My hearts soars when reading about how God orchestrates the lives of these rulers to fulfill His good plans. Isn’t that what it means for God to be sovereign? He has the plan, the power, and the providence to work all things for the good of His people and His own glory.
King Darius receives a letter mentioning that God’s servants are rebuilding the house of God, which was a task granted by the previous king Cyrus (Ezra 5). After King Darius confirms Cyrus’ decree by having his men search the archives in Babylonia, he grants the Israelite leaders to “work on the house of God alone” without interference (6:7). Furthermore, Darius grants the elders of the Jews the funds and resources to carry out the rebuilding! All this, according to Proverbs 21:1, is God’s doing for His people through various kings and leaders.
God Doesn’t Need Anything
Ezra was a man who “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (7:10). He loved the LORD and obeyed Him diligently. In chapter 7, Ezra receives a decree that he and the people may freely go to Israel to offer sacrifices. Ezra sends for Levites, and God safely brings them all to the temple to offer a fascinating amount of gold, vessels, and burnt offerings.
As I read about all the effort these men of God went through to rebuild the temple and offer sacrifices, I cannot help but think of Paul’s words in Acts 17:24-25: “The God who made the world and everything in it, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Of course God’s people offer sacrifices because God commands it, but I think the diligence of their sacrifices is an outward display of an inward affection and devotion that the Israelites had for the LORD. Obedience to God must spring from a heart that loves Him. Otherwise, God will disregard the so-called “worship” because He didn’t need the offering (the obedience) in the first place.
God’s Justice and Grace
In chapter 9, Ezra cries out to God in soul-wrenching prayer after receiving news that many of the people of Israel “have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations” (Ezra 9:1) and have married people from other tribes.
Even as Ezra shamefully weeps before God because of the great sins and guilt of Israel, he cries out God’s favor to them in that season. God favors them by leaving a remnant, giving them a secure hold in His holy place, and brightens their eyes by granting them a little reviving in their slavery (Ezra 9:8). Even as slaves, God has not forsaken them but has extended His steadfast love.
Ezra proclaims that the Lord is just because God left a remnant of His people, but even God’s own people cannot stand before Him because of their guilt (9:15). It is breathtaking to see God graciously preserve His people in His justice in order to have a people for Himself and make His name great among all the peoples of the world.
Thankfully, the book ends with the people of God confessing their willful disobedience and turning away from their sins by separating themselves in lifestyle and marriage from the other tribes. Because our heavenly Father is gracious and just, we must run to Him when we fail, for He alone will sustain us.