The Story behind the Story
Ezra 7:1–8:36; 1 John 4:1–6; Psalm 107:1–22
The Bible is full of unexpected moments. Some events seem almost coincidental, where people are in the right place at the right time. This is exactly the case with Ezra.
In ancient times, it was unusual for a king to honor a foreigner with a decree. It was even stranger for a king to offer his own wealth to help such a foreigner. Yet that’s what happened to Ezra: King Artaxerxes of Persia sent Ezra, and any Israelite willing to go with him, to his own land (and the people living there) with the blessing of silver and gold (Ezra 7:11–28).
The Bible doesn’t give the reason for Artaxerxes’ spontaneous generosity. He may have been motivated by politics, trying to gain the allegiance of the Israelites, govern the population in Babylonia, or inhabit a new land to control the native people there. Yet the most convincing reason for his actions seems to be that his heart was moved.
While the text doesn’t explicitly say, it appears that Yahweh motivated Artaxerxes to do not only the right thing, but the selfless thing. For at least this brief moment, Artaxerxes was compassionate and empathetic. He understood that God’s people needed to practice their religion freely and worship Him in their own land.
Ezra’s involvement in these events wasn’t a matter of chance. God intended for him to be there, in that moment, to do that work. His providential work was part of every step.
How have you been intentionally placed to do God’s work? What influence can you use for His kingdom?
John D. Barry
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.