These are the family heads and genealogical records of those who returned with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes:
I. OVER THE KING AND HIS COURT (ver. 27). He puts it modestly, as becomes a devout man accustomed to refer everything to the Divine hand that governs everywhere, and says that God "extended mercy to him before the king and his counsellors, and all his mighty princes." Putting it into everyday language, we should say that he gained a commanding influence over the minds of these courtly men, and over this great sovereign.
II. OVER THE CHIEFS AND THE MULTITUDE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE (ver. 28). In the same modest and unassuming strain he speaks of being "strengthened as the hand of the Lord was upon him," and he "gathered out of Israel chief men" to avail themselves of the royal decree and go up with him to their own land. In other and more familiar words, he succeeded in winning the confidence and prevailing on the minds of the leading men of his own nation to such an extent that they were willing to forsake their homes and seek their fortune in Judaea. And not only the leaders, but also a large company of the "rank and file" among his compatriots responded to his call; there were "the people" as well as "the priests" (Ezra 8:15).
III. OVER THE UNRESPONSIVE LEVITES (Ezra 8:16-20). When it was found that, for some reason, no Levites had joined the party of the exodus, Ezra picked out "men of understanding" (ver. 16), the right men for the task, and told them what to say, giving them the right message for the purpose (ver. 17), and he thus succeeded in attaching to their company many who had meant to stand aloof, thus completing the number that should go up to Jerusalem (vers. 18-20). Only a man of commanding influence, a man of firm conviction who knew well his own mind, and a man of persuasive force who could impress his will on others, could possibly have accomplished this. On the great and important subject of influence there are two truths we shall do well to learn -
1. That those who find themselves possessed of it bear a weighty responsibility. in many cases influence comes to a man unsought.
(1) Wealth, or
(2) rank, or
(3) office, or
(4) intellectual eminence, or
(5) beauty and grace of person, or
(6) an exceptionally strong will, or
(7) a fascinating disposition,
may confer influence on a man or woman, without any effort on their part to acquire it. It is a very great possession. A grave thing it is to be insensibly drawing many souls either along the path of virtue, holiness, and life, or along the path of sin, and shame, and death. unconscious influence is very far from being irresponsible for what it does. We are most solemnly bound to see to it that such is the spirit of our life, such the colour and complexion of our words and deeds, such the tendency of our conduct, that, without any direct endeavour to do so, we shall be influencing our fellows towards truth, wisdom, God, heaven. Those whom God has made markedly influential are specially bound to consider what they are doing. "They know not what they do" may be a palliation, but it is not a justification, when they might know by thinking.
2. That those who would cherish the highest aspiration should strive to win it. To win wealth or fame or office for the sake of these things themselves is a comparatively mean thing; it does not rise higher than a refined gratification. But to win influence with the view of leading human souls in the path of heavenly wisdom, this is a noble aspiration, worthy of a child of God, of a follower of Jesus Christ. It may be acquired as well as inherited. It is the outcome of excellency of character, of strenuousness of soul, of kindness of heart, of likeness to Jesus Christ. - C.
And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava.I. THE LONG JOURNEY COMMENCED.
II. AN IMPORTANT INSPECTION MADE. This halt illustrates —
1. The need of seasons of rest.
2. The use of seasons of rest.
III. A GRAVE DEFICIENCY DISCOVERED. Ministers of religion are sometimes slow in making personal sacrifices and rendering personal assistance even in a good enterprise.
IV. THE SUPPLY OF THE DEFICIENCT SOUGHT. He sought them —
1. By means of influential men.
2. By sending them to the right place.
3. By sending them to the right man.
4. By sending them with precise instructions.
V. THE SUPPLY OF THE DEFICIENCY OBTAINED.
1. The supply was sufficient.
2. The supply was various.
3. The supply was remarkable for the presence of at least one man of distinguished ability.
4. The supply was obtained by the blessing of God.
A man of understanding, of the sons of MahliI. ARE THE GIFTS OF GOD.
1. They derive their abilities from Him.
2. They rightly develop their abilities by His blessing.
3. They attain their moral excellences by His blessing.
II. ARE OF GREAT WORTH AMONGST MEN.
1. Understanding is essential to the beneficent employment of other gifts and powers.
2. The employment of understanding itself confers great benefits upon society.Conclusion: It behoves us —
1. To praise God for men of understanding.
2. To prize such men.
3. To endeavour to become men of understanding.
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