“The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way.” (Ezra 8:31 ESV)
Ezra chapter 8 records another journey out of Babylon, just as we read in earlier chapters. This is the second wave of returned exiles and they are coming with Ezra himself. Recall that the temple is built and we were recently introduced to the man Ezra, who determined to come to Jerusalem to teach the law of God to God’s people.
Verses 1-14 provide another list, much like the one in chapter 2, reminding us of the importance of one’s heritage as an Israelite in taking part in God’s covenant blessings. Verses 15-20 show us Ezra’s priority in gathering the priests together to serve in the temple. Ezra then calls for a fast and prayer for protection, refusing to ask the king for help, relying solely on God (verses 21-23). The last and longest section of the chapter, verses 24-36, tell us that Ezra delegates the responsibilities of keeping the offering to the priests and that through this journey and return to Jerusalem, God kept them safe from their enemies.
Taken all together, Ezra chapter 8 reveals how determined Ezra was to accomplish his tasks. He prioritized service in the house of God. He wanted to be a good steward with what God gave him. And most of all, he relied upon God’s help to do these things. Three times in this chapter, Ezra says, “the hand of our God was on us.”
We would be pretty accurate to say that the Book of Ezra, in its entirety, is all about the theme of “the hand of our God was on us.” From the stirring of the heart of the kings, to the decrees allowing the Israelites to return, to the blessings along the way and the protection of the enemies, there is no doubt that the Book of Ezra points us to how God sovereignly provides for his people throughout history. Yes, the kings made searches and decrees. Yes, Ezra was determined to teach. Yes, the people came together and finally built the temple. But all of these were secondary causes of their success. The ultimate, or primary cause of success in the story of Ezra is the fact that God’s good hand was upon his people!