The One Year Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), September 9
Apparently, some of the exiles who return to Israel, including the sons of three priests (Habaiah, Koz and Barzillai – Ezra 2:61), cannot verify their lineage, so they are excluded from the priesthood and prohibited from eating “the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim” (Ezra 2:63). Captivity has taught the people hard lessons about doing things their own way. Serving as priests and participating in holy matters is therefore put on hold for those with unresolved questions regarding their lineage until the matter can be settled.
God had already given the Law to allow the people to determine right from wrong, but some decisions were not so clear. The priests were given a system for making decisions regarding matters that weren’t specified in Scripture (Ex. 28:29-30; Deut 33:8-11). King Solomon highlighted the wisdom of casting stones, “Casting lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart” (Prov. 18:18). A number of truths emerge from this scene:
- Casting stones removes biased judgment. The governor does not have to make a decision regarding the sacred food. Personal likes or dislikes have no bearing in the matter of obeying God.
- Waiting for clarity regarding the situation might create difficult conditions for the parties involved. The priests and their families might do without, the governor might be viewed as “the enemy,” and communal uprising might occur.
- Waiting for a deferred decision creates an opportunity for community. Since the priests in question cannot partake of the sacred food, the community is given an opportunity to give sacrificially to support these three families.
- When Scripture is not clear on a matter, God’s Word provides means for decision-making. Believers today can pray and seek the Spirit’s guidance, listen to the counsel of godly believers, move in unity, and apply the clear truths of the Word to the murky situations real life sometimes thrusts upon all people.
Bible Literacy, Songs of Joy, and the Passage of Time
Re-entry begins on a high-note of Bible literacy. The Book of the Law is elevated, just as Moses had instructed: “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess” (Deut. 32:46-47).
Seven months after re-entering the land, the priests build an altar to the LORD and sacrifice burnt offerings on it, “as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God” (Ezra 3:2). Obviously, the spiritual leaders are following the script, because, “they also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day” (3:4).
In the following year the Jews begin rebuilding the temple. When the foundation is laid, the priests lead the people in great celebration (which most certainly includes singing), declaring, “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever toward Israel” (3:11).
Songs of joy are sung by those whose hearts return to the LORD and who experience the great things that the LORD has done for them. Restoration brings joy!
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ezra 2:1-4:5; 1 Chron. 3:19-24):
Upon their return the exiles first build an altar and offer sacrifices. Review Genesis 8:20; 12:7-9; 35:1. What does the building of the altar signify?
The rebuilding of the temple is accompanied with singing, praise, weeping, and shouts of joy. What does this reveal about the nature of repentance and restoration?