- Ezra 7:1-7, 11-28; 8:15-32; 7:8-10; 8:1-14, 33-36
In the spring of 458 B.C., Ezra led a second wave of Israelites in returning to Jerusalem. GOD had put it in the heart of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, to bring honor to the temple and to extend favor to Ezra and the Jews. Artaxerxes sent a letter to Ezra instructing him to lead all the Israelites who were willing in a journey back to Jerusalem. Artaxerxes contributed animals for sacrifice, gold and silver for an offering to GOD. Ezra was to gather others to help him return and assist in the rebuilding efforts and in the restoration of temple worship in accordance with the law.
GOD blessed Ezra and this group and protected them on the four-month journey from Babylon. Approximately 1,500 Jews made the journey along with Ezra. They did not have Persian soldiers protect them because they had entrusted themselves to GOD. A wonderful statement is made regarding Ezra's character:
10 For Ezra had prepared and set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord [to inquire for it and of it, to require and yearn for it], and to do and teach in Israel its statutes and its ordinances.
(Ezra 7:10 AMP)
Ezra had a heart that wanted to please GOD, and to share Him with others among GOD's people—even the king of Persia knew Ezra's character and that's why he entrusted Ezra with the charge of leading this second return to Jerusalem. Even still, Ezra didn't simply stop by trusting in his character and in favor of the king. As they were preparing to leave Babylon, Ezra called the people together and proclaimed a fast, so that the people would humble themselves and ask GOD to grant them safety and blessings in their return.
Let's focus on two important lessons we can learn from Ezra's leadership:
- A good name (or reputation) is very important and takes years to build. If I want to be recognized by those around me as a good, trustworthy and reliable person, then I need to demonstrate character consistently over time that shows I have these traits. In time GOD blesses that.
- Even a good person shouldn't trust in their own strength, ability, or wisdom. Ezra knew that if he was to succeed, He was going to need GOD to make him successful. He didn't rely on his own abilities or wisdom. He instead led by example in humbling himself and fasting before GOD in an effort to gain GOD's favor and blessing. It worked.