In Ezra chapter two we snoop on the church roll and find it instructive, for it shows us what is – or should be – characteristic of the people of God.
One in ten returnees was Priest. Worship was the reason for the return. To rebuild the altar and the Temple and to re-institute public worship for God’s people. This is the Passion that should rule us. A Passion to dwell with God.
By contrast, only seventy four Levites were among them. That’s precious few to do all the menial tasks required of Levites in Temple Service. There is not much incentive to menial labour. No accolades, no applause. Much of Christian service is the same; simple humble service and given our pride, it’s not surprising that there are many who resist doing the “ordinary” works of service among God’s people.
Next on the Roll (v43-58) are two lists of returnees who were more or less “temple slaves”. These did the dirtiest of work around the Temple. What’s instructive here is that 68% of the names are foreign; non-Jewish. Think about it.
It might have seemed an unfortunate chance occurrence. An ancestor had been captured in war, years ago, had been brought into Israel to do the work of a slave around the first Temple. But, that placed them in the very sanctuary of truth where they might see the Gospel of Atonement in the daily sacrifices; Where they would hear the teaching of the God of Israel.
Somewhere in the passing of generations, the truth took hold and these “foreigners” came to be numbered among Gods people.
Tragedy, under providence had brought the gospel into their lives. It had brought them face to face with the one true God. This is the providence of God that should lead us.
What to do with those who can’t prove their descent? That’s the problem in verses 59-64. There is a rough analogy here to those who often struggle with assurance of their place in God’s Kingdom. The Solution that Ezra 2 gives? Keep walking with us until God sheds more light on the subject. What a wonderful comfort to the fearful or uncertain among God’s people.
Ezra 2 is only a “church roll” with names numbers and a few addresses. But we could do worse than being like this “church:” Here is a people with a passion for worship; some who don’t care whether they are recognised; a people who look back and see the strange twists of God’s providence in bringing them to Himself; and a people who have a place for the uncertain and fearful of Christ’s flock.
Lessons For little Saints…
- How do God’s people feel about worship?
- What was the Job of the Levite?
- What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure if God loved them?
- How can you serve in church, how can you help God’s people?