Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers with them,
Ezra and the company he had gathered were now fairly on their way homewards, and we may look at them, looking also at ourselves, as -
I. TRAVELLERS TO JERUSALEM. "Then we departed to go unto Jerusalem" (ver. 31). They had come forth from a land of captivity and comparative privation, and were on their way to the land where they would no longer be bondsmen, and where every possible privilege would be theirs to enjoy: they were "going home;" to the land consecrated to their thought by innumerable hallowing associations; to the city whose walls should, to their fond imagining, shut them in to liberty, security, and joy. Onwards we move, we who have left the land of spiritual bondage behind us, to the land of our hope; our faces are steadfastly set toward the heavenly Jerusalem. We "seek a city yet to come." Every day we are travelling forward to its open gates; every night we pitch our tent "a day's march nearer" this home on high.
II. GUIDED AND GUARDED OF GOD UPON THE WAY. "The hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy," etc. (ver. 31). In answer to their earnest prayer (ver. 23) and to their humility (ver. 23), God gave them his guidance and guardianship along the road, and whatever enemies may have been near either refrained from attacking them or were easily repelled. In answer to our earnest prayer and our humility, God will be our guide and guardian along the heavenward way. He will
(a) show us the path we should take, saving us from error, and thus from evil, and
(b) defend us from our adversaries:
(1) those above us - principalities and powers, etc.;
(2) those around us - evil men, dangerous fascinations, worldly honours, pleasures of the flesh;
(3) those within us - unholy propensities, wayward dispositions, tendencies towards pride, sensuality, selfishness, etc.
III. THOSE CHARGED WITH SACRED TREASURE (vers. 24-30). Ezra put into the hands of some of the priests and Levites very precious treasure - the gold, silver, vessels, etc., which had been contributed for the temple; they, as holy men, were to take charge of the holy things (ver. 28), to watch them and keep them intact, to be prepared to have them weighed when they reached their journey's end (ver. 29). All of us who are spiritual pilgrims are men charged with treasure - some with more than others. All of us have in charge that most valuable treasure - more precious than the precious gold they carried (ver. 27) - our own spirit, created in God's likeness to bear his image, to dwell in his glorious presence. Each one of us must sedulously, scrupulously, devoutly watch and keep this unharmed, and be ready to have it "weighed in the balances" of God, not being found wanting then. To some of us - parents, teachers, pastors - God has intrusted the precious treasure of others' souls, and he bids us take earnest heed of them, "watching for them as those who must give account," doing our best in every way, publicly and privately, by direct solicitation and by prayer on their behalf, that they may be found whole and blameless "in that day."
IV. AT THE END OF THEIR JOURNEY. They "came to Jerusalem" (ver. 32), and their arrival was marked by three things -
(1) judgment (vers. 33, 34),
(2) presentation of sacrifice (ver. 35), and
(3) kindly reception by those across the river (ver. 36).
When we reach the end of our journey we shall find these three things -
(1) Judgment, for we must all stand at the judgment seat, etc. (2 Corinthians 5:10). God will bring every work into judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
(2) The offering of no more sacrifices as under the old dispensation, and no more pleading of the one great Sacrifice for sin; no sin offering at all (ver. 35), but the offering of praise and of holy service - of our purified, renewed, perfected selves, whole and without blemish, vessels meet for the Master's use even in the heavenly sanctuary; and
(3) welcome from those who are there. Those who are on that side the river will wait, with outstretched hands, with eager hearts, to receive us to those blessed shores, to lead us into that better land, to introduce us to that country which has no temple because it is a temple, full of the presence and the glory of the Lord. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,