The return of the Lord’s people to the Promised Land and the reconstitution of a worshiping people in a rebuilt temple was a large project that took place over many years. In such a massive endeavor there was much room for discouragement and distraction. Reinforcements from among the faithful who yet remained in Babylon were necessary in order for the purposes of the Lord to be accomplished in their generation.
The people who responded to the call were listed by Ezra. Upon inspection, Ezra came to the conclusion that they were lacking Levites. Men like Ezra himself were priests who were part of the tribe of Levi, but others from that tribe were necessary who were not of the sons of Aaron. These other Levites were important for the ceremonial life of the nation. They needed to be recruited, which was soon accomplished.
Even though they now had the necessary people for the Lord’s work, their troubles were far from over. They had a long journey to make carrying many precious objects back to Jerusalem that were coveted by bands of thieves along the way. Could they count on the Lord to protect them on their journey?
The pilgrim congregation humbled themselves before the Lord with fasting and prayer. They asked for safety for themselves, their families, and their goods. They could have asked their captors for armed protection, but Ezra wondered about the message that this request might send. Was the hand of God with them? Was God able to defend them and to bring His wrath upon all who dared to attack them?
Along the way the offerings of the people and the sacred objects for the temple were placed in the care of specific individuals. They had a job to accomplish that would not be completed until all of these gifts were received in full by the appropriate officials in Jerusalem. They entrusted themselves and their mission to the Lord, and he brought them safely home.
Long before the days of Ezra, another group of Israelites were entrusted with a different sacred mission. Joshua led a much larger group of people into Canaan. The Lord was with them in the defeat of the nations that lived there at that time.
We have a new Joshua today who calls us forward in love. As we consider the mission of the church over the centuries, we can certainly say that “through many dangers, toils, and snares, we have already come.” Our journey is not yet over, but the Jesus who sent us out on this mission with His own death and resurrection is still leading us forward today by His Spirit.
We are a pilgrim people. We travel with the sacred “gold” of our beloved families and all of our friends in Jesus Christ. We may encounter enemies along the way, but we still humble ourselves before the Lord and seek His blessing and protection. Our destination is not the Jerusalem in Canaan, but the Jerusalem that is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. Our trust is in the Lord. He will lead us home.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Great God and King, there is no power that will stand against You, for You will accomplish all Your holy purposes. There are many people that You have called into Your church throughout the world. Some are gathered together with a few others in modest surroundings. Others are attached to much larger assemblies. All of us are a part of one body. Grant us ministers, men of discretion, who will serve You by lovingly and truthfully presenting Your Word to Your children. Surely Your hand is open to us for our good, for we seek You. You will protect us from those who hate You. We have been given much aid for our needs and for the progress of Your work. Help us to be wise in Your service, for we have been trusted with gifts more precious than silver and gold. We have been blessed with the care of bodies and souls, and with the task of loving Your children and leading them in the ways of life.