And I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava; and there stayed we in tents three days: and I viewed the people…
The journey of the children of Israel from Babylon to Jerusalem may be viewed, like that of their fathers from Egypt to Canaan, as a type of the pilgrimage of Christians from the abominations and miseries of the sinful world to the purity and happiness of heaven. In this view the halt at the "river that runneth to Ahava" may suggest -
I. THAT WE SHOULD HAVE SEASONS FOR REELECTION.
1. The halt furnished Ezra with such a season.
(1) It gave him an opportunity for "viewing the people and the priests." His purpose was to see how the company he conducted would be useful in recruiting the colony at Jerusalem. Christians should consider of what service may they be to the Church of the firstborn in heaven.
(2) The value of service is measured by sympathy with its purposes. Therefore we should cultivate fellowship with God and with the purest and noblest of his people.
2. The review discovered to Ezra a want of Levites in the company.
(1) There were priests there who were Levites. But the priests had functions of their own distinct from those of the Levites who were not of the family of Aaron.
(2) There were no Levites who were not priests. These too had their own proper functions.
(3) As in Jerusalem there was work for every order of sacred person, so should there be in the Church. So will there be in Jerusalem above. Query - Do we, as Ezra did, reflect upon the needs of God's Church? Is God's cause ours, as it was his?
II. THAT REFLECTION SHOULD LEAD TO ACTION.
1. Ezra resolved upon a mission.
(1) There were Levites still in Babylon. So are there Christians mingled with the communities of Antichrist.
(2) The Levites were congregated at Casiphia. This word comes from a root which denotes silver. Some think Casiphia meant the Caspian Mountains, in the silver mines of which these Levites were working. Others construe it to mean Silver Street, possibly some bazaar in Babylon in which silversmiths conducted trade. How characteristic of the sons of Levi to be where precious metals are exchanged!
2. The mission he resolved upon he organised.
(1) He chose "chief men" for his missionaries. If Providence has given men high social position, its influence should be devoted to the ministry of his message.
(2) He also summoned "men of understanding." The world should not so monopolise the talent of our sons that only the refuse, the imbeciles, are given to the Church. There is scope in the message of God for the greatest ability.
(3) "Men of understanding" here are not only those of good natural parts, but those who are skilled in the teaching of God's law (Nehemiah 10:28, 29).
3. He then instructed his missioners.
(1) He sent them "with commandment unto Iddo, the chief at the place of Casiphia." Calls to the service of God come with authority. Ministers of the gospel are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
(2) He sent them with arguments. He "put words into their mouths." The import of the words is suggested in the end to be accomplished, viz., "that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of God." Surely the service of God in his house is far more important than the trade in Silver Street.
III. THAT WELL-DIRECTED EFFORT WILL INSURE SUCCESS.
1. The missioners returned, having gained over "a man of understanding.
(1) This achievement is put in the forefront. This son of Mahli was evidently a great acquisition to Ezra.
(2) A man of understanding is an acquisition to any cause. How valuable to the cause of order is the influence of such an one!
2. Thirty-eight Levites are next mentioned.
(1) The man of understanding" is mentioned before Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and Jeshaiah, with their sons and brethren, perhaps because of the influence he may have exerted in bringing them over. A man is not only valuable for what he is, but for what he does.
(2) We have Sherebiah the Levite again mentioned amongst them that made religious confession of God's goodness and their own wickedness (see Nehemiah 9:5).
3. Then follow 220 Nethinims.
(1) Here is an acquisition for which Ezra had not asked. God does for us more than we ask (l Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 3:20).
(2) All success is from God. Ezra recognised this (ver. 18). Let us follow his good example. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.