Theology “versus” Pastoring | Ezra 7.11

This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to the priest Ezra, the scribe, a scholar of the text of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel:
Ezra 7:11

Well look at that! Ezra is described as a priest, scribe, scholar, and teacher of the Law (and, let’s not forget: a “doer” of it as well!). No false academic/pastoral dichotomies here!

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How serious are you about ministering to your people? | Ezra 8.15-18

I gathered them by the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the descendants of Levi. Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were wise, and sent them to Iddo, the leader at the place called Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his colleagues the temple servants at Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. Since the gracious hand of our God was upon us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the descendants of Mahli son of Levi son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, with his sons and kin
Ezra 8.15-18

Here, you see Ezra refuse to settle for who he had before him. He was determined to see that the ministers to God’s people be the absolute most qualified people they could be. They had to be Levites. There were none there. Did he just throw up his hands and say that they had to “settle” for who was there and willing? No! He went out and sought qualified ministers.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Politics & Tithe | Ezra 8.35-36

At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats; all this was a burnt offering to the Lord. They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River; and they supported the people and the house of God.
Ezra 8.36

Interesting line… Is this saying that they had people “on staff” who managed their civil tithe to the secular authority (taxes), and the lay people supported the House of God? Is this like tax accountants “on staff” among the leadership of the temple?

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The Economics of the Soul | Nehemiah 13:19-21

When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, to prevent any burden from being brought in on the sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the sabbath.
Nehemiah 13:19-21

Interesting economic implications. There was a real understanding of human nature that understood the power of economics on the human self. If you let the market or commercialism have any real presence among the people of God,  it destroys them, and invites God’s wrath upon them.  The market destroys souls. We cannot “un-economize”  our selves.  Hence Paul’s disruption of the Ephesians market when people are converted. This is essentially what the Pope wrote about recently. We can use the market to serve human flourishing, or we can serve it at the expense of that flourishing. Nehemiah knows the tendency of the human heart to serve economics rather than have it serve us,  so he keeps the merchants away from God’s people on the Sabbath,  when they should be re-syncing themselves with the Living God.

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Pastoring the Sabbath | Nehemiah 13:22

And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
Nehemiah 13:22

It’s is part of the soul-care of the church leaders to safeguard the Sabbath rest of God’s people.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Insecurity Leads to Fasting? | Ezra 8:21-23

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him. So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Ezra 8:21-23

What an odd and beautifully honest aside. At first I was put off by the logic here. “I proclaimed a fast…For I was ashamed.” I thought “that’s a terrible reason to have a fast!” But the more I thought about it the more I realized that, of course!, that’s the right time to fast! When you are most unsure, most in need, most insecure. This is when “we might deny ourselves before our God.”

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.