Category Archives: Ezra

Ezra 7-10

In chapter 7 Ezra enters the story. He is a priest descended from Aaron, the first priest, and a godly man:

10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

This is the kind of mentality every person of God should have, devotion to study, observe and teach God’s word.

Ezra comes from Babylon with a letter and charge from Artaxerxes to lead the people to follow the Lord their God, and they worship in the way proscribed. The last two chapters are about some of the men intermarrying with the women of the land, and thus sinning greatly against God. When Ezra finds out about this, he tears his clothes and hair and beard, and repents before God, and because of his leadership all the people with him.

They finally come up with a plan where all the men who intermarried will be identified and their women and children sent off. It takes them three months of investigation, but in chapter 10 they name all of the men who married foreign women, 110 by my count. This out of 40,000 plus exiles who returned from Babylon.  A small number to be sure, but before the Lord God of Israel, the standard for blessing is perfection. And as long as the Law is the focus of blessing, it will always be so. Christ offers another way. The law and our failure drive us to him, and forgiven and accepted by the just judgment of God on Christ, we now want to follow God’s law.

Ezra 1-6

I was going to read through the whole book, all 10 chapters, but something stood out to me in light of the discussions we had regarding God’s sovereignty in the problem of evil book discussion we had the last several weeks at our church. I picked a book by David Bentley Hart called, The Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami, since I’d read two amazing books by him previously. As impressed as I was by those two previous books, was as disappointed as I was by this one. There was the same elegant writing and big words, and flashes of insight and brilliance, but I didn’t realize what a radical Arminian he was. He took on atheists, but his real target was Christians whose theology and understanding of God he deemed unworthy, and especially Calvinists, for whom he seems to have an especially great disliking.

His problem is the Reformed emphasis on God’s sovereignty and control of earthly affairs. If God has too much control (how much exactly that is, he didn’t, or couldn’t, say) then God is implicated in the problem of evil. If God wills what we perceive is an evil act, he is the author of evil. The problem with his thesis is that it is not at all Biblical. God can control human beings without destroying their nature, their freedom or moral culpability. It is a mystery that is so biblically accurate that it seems hardly worth discussion, but it obviously needs to be. This chapter is an excellent example of it.

Ezra is about the exiles return to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the rebuilding of the temple. God moves several foreign kings to make this happen, and one is the King of Assyria. In chapter 6 it says the following:

22 For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

This reminds us of the verse in Proverbs, 21:1 that says:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

On the surface it appears as if the only thing that controls a ruler is himself or his counselors, but in the Bible the Lord God is the sovereign ruler over all. The radical Arminian like Hart probably thinks this is fine in some instances, but not in others. If God moves the king to do evil, as we see it, then God is just one big blob of volition and complicit in the evil committed. But God moves human hearts, and people are still free and accountable. Our very consciousness is a testimony to this truth.