By Pastor Tom A. Faulk
READ EZRA 9-10
Ezra came to Jerusalem approximately 80 years after Zerubbabel which means that the nation has enjoyed a space of grace (Ezra 9:8) for approximately 80 years. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Jerusalem Ezra receives a report that devastates him. Israel has made an affinity with abominating nations. Israel’s leaders including the priests were “chief in this trespass.”
- THE PROFANED PRIESTHOOD (1-2; Malachi 2)
The Levitical priesthood began with Aaron, the older brother of Moses (Ex. 28:1–3). Aaron’s descendants served as the priests in Israel, ministering in the tabernacle and, later, the temple, primarily as mediators between man and God. The Levitical priests bore the responsibility of offering the sacrifices required by the Mosaic Law.
The term Levitical is derived from the Israelite tribe of Levi. Levi was the third son of Leah and Jacob (Ge 29:34) and the father of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of Moses and Aaron. Originally, it was the firstborn son of every family who was consecrated to God and inherited the birthright, leadership, authority, etc. (Ex 13:2). And then out of the nation of Israel God chose the tribe of Levi to serve Him and the sons of Aaron to be the priests. Thus, all priests were Levites, but not every Levite was a priest. (Ex 28:1-4).
The Levites, who were not priests, were given various duties in the caretaking of the tabernacle and its furnishings (Nu 3:21–26). The priests among the Levites were given the immeasurable privilege of doing service in the tabernacle. The Levitical priests also served as judges (Dt 17:8–13) and teachers of God’s law (Dt 33:10).
The high priest could deliver edicts to guide the nation (Nu 27:21). He was the only one permitted to enter the Most Holy Place (1Chr 6:49; Le 24:9), divided by a curtain from the rest of the tabernacle and containing the Ark of the Testimony (or Covenant), the symbol of God’s very presence (He 9:3; 1Ki 8:6; Ex 25:22). The high priest could only enter the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer sacrifices for all the people, including himself (He 9:7). There was only one high priest at a time.
The Levitical priesthood was never intended to be permanent (He 7:11). The death of Christ put an end to the Old Covenant and the Levitical priesthood, as evidenced by the rending of the temple veil (Mt 27:51). Jesus now serves as the believer’s Great High Priest (He 4:14), called according to the order of Melchizedek, not of Levi (He 7:11–17). Through His death and resurrection, we have access to God’s presence, where we can freely enjoy Him forever (He 6:19–20).
God held the priests to a high and holy standard of holiness and purity (Le 21-22). Abihu and Nadab were sons of Aaron and two of the first priests. They disobeyed God, however, and were instantly struck down (Le 10:1–2). Later, the sons of the high priest Eli “treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” and were also judged (1Sa 2:12–17).
The law forbade the nation including the priesthood to intermarry with neighboring heathens. Read Dt 7:1-3. The priests were instructed in Le 21:14 to “take a virgin of his own people to wife.”
Malachi, the prophet was called upon by Nehemiah, who arrived in Jerusalem approximately 12 years after Ezra to deal with this issue. Malachi 2 records the profaneness of the priesthood.
2. THE PRAYERS OF EZRA (9:3-15; 10:1)
- Ezra is appalled, devastated, and grief stricken.
- Ezra rent his clothes, a custom expressing grief. Reuben rent his clothes when his brothers sold Joseph to the Midianites, and Jacob did the same when he was led to believe that Joseph was dead (Ge 37:29, 34). Job 1:20-21, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” There’s grief but he is mostly devastated. The word astonied is found 87 times in the OT including twice in Ezra 9:3-4. Are you devasted over profaneness of our country?
- He plucked out his facial hair. Obviously, an action of extreme grief, disappointment, and horror.
- Other’s join Ezra in prayer who tremble (10:3) at the commandment of God.
3. THE PROPOSAL OF SHECHANIAH (10:2-5)
Shechaniah, a descendant of Zerubbabel, is not listed (10:18-44) with those who put away their strange wives. He spoke in my opinion for the assembly of people that had gathered to pray with Ezra. Unfortunately, his father and five paternal uncles (10:26) were involved in unlawful marriages. Despite his disappointment and the desecration of the priests, Shechaniah said, “yet now there is hope in Israel.” In verse 3 he counsels Ezra according to the law of God. Israel’s hope depends on the law of God. If we will have revival, we must seek counsel from the Lord. Shechaniah lays out a plan and urged Ezra, a qualified scribe, to see it through by addressing the nation.
4. THE PRESCRIPTION FOR REVIVAL (chapters 9-10)
Regarding the events in chapters 9-10, consider the summary below as a prescription for revival.
A. CONTRITION (9:5-15; 10:1)
The word contrite means crushed or broken and typically includes a penitent heart. Sackcloth was not worn in Ezra, as far as know, however when mourners wore sackcloth it represented sorrow, humiliation, and repentance. Someone said, “It was not then a repentance in word only, but in deed.” See Ps 51:14-19
B. CONFESSION (9:5-15; 10:1)
Ezra’s prayer in chapter 9 is a brokenhearted prayer of confession.
- Verse 5, In heaviness of heart Ezra fell upon his knees and spread out his hands unto God.
- Verse 6, He expresses shame and humiliation. Jeremiah had complained that in his day those who “committed abominations were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (Je 6:15; Je 8:12). Ezra, with similar words in his thoughts and prayers, begins his confession. He blushes and is overwhelmed with shame for the sins of his people.
- Verse 7, Ezra’s reference point is undoubtedly the exodus from Egypt. Since the exodus the nation has sinned against the law. Similar remarks in 1Sa 8:4-9.
- Verses 8-10a, But now for a little space of grace or 80 years (from Cyrus’ decree in Ezra 1:1 to present or Ezra’s day) God has been gracious, however once again we have fallen, failed, and sinned against God. What shall we say after this? (10a)
- We have escaped/delivered from captivity.
- The nail represents being back in Jerusalem a sure, secure place to worship God.
- Repair, and revival is of the Lord (10)
- Verse 10b, But once again we have sinned. What shall we say after this? One thing is needful. Confession!
- Verses 11-12, The prophets have warned us.
- Verse 13, Punished less than what we deserve.
- Verse14, Again we have broken the commandments compare with 6.
- Verse 15, Cannot stand before thee in our sins
C. COVENANT (10:2-5)
The prescription for revival included a contrite heart, confession of sin, and a covenant or an agreement to put away sin. It was a biblical covenant. Verse 3, “Let it be done according to the law.”
- Ezra organizes a meeting in 3 days at Jerusalem (6-8)
- The people respond (9)
- Ezra’s speech (10-11)
- The guilty were dealt with by appointment and with order (12-17)
D. CONSECRATION (6-17)
- The list, or the evidence of consecration (18-44)
Summary: Prescription for Revival