On verses 11-26: One underrated reason for Ezra’s success in ministry is the help he got from King Artaxerxes. In his letter to Ezra, King Artaxerxes sends Ezra on a royal assignment to see how Jerusalem and Judah are progressing in relation to following the law of the Lord (v14). In sending Ezra on this mission, King Artaxerxes does so many things to set up Ezra for success on his venture:
–Artaxerxes lets Ezra choose a team of Levites, priests and other Israelites to go with him to Jerusalem (v13).
–Artaxerxes gives Ezra generous amounts of silver and gold from his own treasury as well as from his advisors (v15), “together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon” (v16) as well as the freewill offerings given by people and priests for the temple in Jerusalem (v16). Artaxerxes entrusts Ezra with these financial resources and tells him to use them to buy livestock to make sacrifices at the temple (v17). He tells Ezra to do whatever Ezra thinks best with the rest of the money (v18).
–Artaxerxes equips Ezra with articles and tools to be used to worship the Lord at the temple (v19).
–Artaxerxes invites Ezra to purchase anything else he needs using funds from the royal treasury (v20-21) up to the generous limits set in verse 22.
–Artaxerxes gives Ezra freedom to do whatever else God has prescribed (v23), provided that Ezra is not allowed to impose taxes, tribute or duty on those working at the temple (v24).
–Artaxerxes instructs Ezra to appoint judges, to teach the law of the Lord and to punish those who disobey the law (v25-26).
What can we learn from this? Have you ever been sent on an assignment but lacked clear directions, a clear job description, training, resources (whether it’s people, money or equipment), or freedom to make decisions? I learn from Artaxerxes’ letter to Ezra that when sending someone out on a long and important mission, you need to make sure you have done what you can to help them be successful. For example, consider the following:
– have I given the person I am sending clear directions and a clear assignment?
– does the person I am sending have adequate training for this assignment? If not, what arrangements should I make in this regard?
– does the person I am sending have sufficient people resources for this assignment? What arrangements should I make in this regard?
– does the person I am sending have sufficient financial resources for this assignment? What arrangements should I make in this regard?
– have I given the person I am sending freedom to make decisions within healthy boundaries?
The same goes for you when you accept an assignment. Before accepting an assignment, ask yourself the following 5 questions:
–how clear are the directions I have been given (and do I need to go back to the person who gave me the assignment to clarify anything)?
–what kind of training and preparation will I need to do for this assignment?
–who can I expect to help me with this assignment if I need?
–what financial and other resources should I have in place before I go on this assignment?
–what is my scope of authority and decision-making power?
Also, I like what King Artaxerxes writes in verse 23: “Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven.” In other words, whenever you are given an assignment, do it with diligence for God’s glory and for God’s kingdom.
Ezra 7:27 (NIV) 27 Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way
On verse 27: Ezra recognizes that the favour he received was not just from King Artaxerxes, but it ultimately came as a result of God moving Artaxerxes’ heart. Once again, God is the mover of kings’ hearts.
Ezra 7:28 (NIV) 28 and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
On verse 28: When you know that God is with you and that His hand is on you, you can courageously step out and do bold things that less courageous people will not do. May you live with courage today, knowing that the hand of the Lord is on your life and that God is for you, not against you.
Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us what to consider before giving or accepting an assignment. Just as You moved in Artaxerxes’ heart, move in my heart to accomplish Your will. Thank You that because You are with me and for me, I can live courageously today. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!