Our reading today begins with a public worship service. Ezra brings God’s Word before the people (8:2). Gathered together are men, women, and children old enough to understand the Word. Ezra begins with a prayer to God (v. 6). All of the people “Amen” his prayer. Ezra then reads, and interprets, the Word of God (v. 8). He preaches an expository sermon. Note the people’s part in this. They come prepared to hear God speak through His Word (v. 4). They come to worship God (v. 6). This is exactly what a Christian worship service should be.
As the people hear the Word and its interpretation, they begin to weep (v. 9). They are convicted by the Word. But Ezra encourages them not to mourn, but to focus on God. He tells them to find joy in obedience and fellowship (v. 10). And they do this because even as they were convicted by the Word, they were encouraged and strengthened by the Word (v. 12).
As he searches the Scriptures, Ezra finds the command to observe the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 14 – see Lev 23:33-43). The people are told to do so (v. 15) and they willingly comply (v. 16). The entire nation took part (v. 17). Note that this was the first time Israel observed this Feast since Joshua led them in conquest!
In chapter 9, we find the people mourning over their sin (9:1). So they seek God in His Word and confess their sins to God, which is here called a form of worship (v. 3). The leaders of the assembly encourage the people to bless and praise God (v. 5). The Septuagint indicates in verse 6 that the remainder of chapter 9 is the prayer of Ezra. He begins by extolling God for Who He is: Creator and Sustainer of all (v. 6), the sovereign God Who calls His people (v. 7), and Who makes a covenant with the faithful (v. 8). He then praises God for what He’s done. He miraculously saved Israel from Egypt (v. 9) all for His own gory (v. 10). He defeated their enemies (v. 11) and led them in the wilderness (v. 12). He revealed Himself to them (vv. 13-14) And provided for their needs (v. 15).
Ezra then talks of the sin of Israel. They did not obey even though they saw His mighty salvation (vv. 16-17). Yet God was patient. They worshiped false gods (v. 18). Yet God was patient (vv. 19-21). God kept His every promise (vv. 22-25), and yet they rebelled against Him (v. 26). Ezra then speaks of the cycle of sin and salvation in the time of the judges (vv. 26-28). Ezra knew God’s kindness was meant to lead them to repentance – their sufferings were a warning (v. 29). And yet they would not repent, and God was patient for years and years (v. 30). And finally, He sent them into captivity.
And yet He is merciful. When His people cried out, He yet again saved them (v. 31). The cycle continued. And here they were. They have suffered much (v. 32), but suffered justly (v. 33). They have been disobedient (vv. 34-35) which is why they are still under foreign control (vv. 36-37). So now, they will make a covenant with God (v. 38). Remember, the covenant God made with them has been broken and made void by their sin. Now they are going to make a covenant in their own power. This is their attempt to make a “New Covenant” with God.
Chapter 10 begins with the names of those who sign and seal the covenant document (10:1-27). The people as a whole make an oath to walk according to the Law of Moses (vv. 28-29). They will not intermarry with the nations – which they had already done (v. 30). They will observe the Sabbath, including the Sabbath years (v. 31). Remember, the duration of the exile (70 years) was because of their failure to observe the Sabbath years. In essence, the people are now “committing” to do all the things they have failed to do from the start up until this point.
The rest of the chapter details other specific laws that they commit to follow to keep the ministry of the Temple according to the Law. Specifically, it is all about the tithes and offerings that should be given unto God for the ministry of the Temple. We will see in the prophecy of Malachi that they do not stick to their commitment. They broke God’s covenant, and they will break their own. The cycle continues…