International Sunday School Lesson for Sunday July 28, 2013
Scripture Text: Ezra 8:24-30
Purpose: To feel awe when God trusts us with holy things
Ezra 8:24-30 (CEB)
24 Then I selected twelve of the leading priests, Sherebiah and Hashabiah and ten of their relatives with them. 25 I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the equipment, the offering for the house of our God that the king, his counselors, his officials, and all Israel present there had offered. 26 I weighed out into their keeping six hundred fifty kikkars of silver, one hundred silver containers weighing a certain number of kikkars, one hundred kikkars of gold,27 twenty gold bowls worth one thousand darics, and two containers of highly polished copper, which were as precious as gold. 28 I said to them, "You are holy to the Lord, and the equipment is holy; the silver and the gold are a spontaneous gift to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. 29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in Jerusalem before the officials of the priests, the Levites, and the heads of the families of Israel, within the rooms of the Lord’s house." 30 So the priests and the Levites received the silver and the gold and the utensils as they were weighed out, in order to bring them to Jerusalem, to our God’s house.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This week's lesson immediately follows last week's lesson in Ezra chapter eight. If we had known how much gold and silver they were actually transporting back to Jerusalem, we might have been a lot more impressed with Ezra's decision to not ask the King of Persia for a military escort. The faith and trust in God's protection, that Ezra showed, is certainly commendable.
Today's lesson is about the holiness of things and responsibilities that God has entrusted to all of us. Ezra chose twelve, just like Christ chose twelve. These twelve as well as the Apostles chosen by Jesus were responsible see that God's treasure was guarded and brought safely to the place God intended. One group was guarding gold and silver, the other group was guarding and proclaiming the very word of God. Failure of either group would have been a catastrophe, but God guided each group to a conclusion that was God's intended purpose.
Our text makes it quite clear that when we are called to fill a position within the workings of God's work, we need to take it seriously and make certain that we ourselves become holy to God's call, and sanctified for his service.
In our text, the descendents of Levi were those that were called. God had called the Levites to represent him to the entire family of Israel. You may recall the God first demanded the first born son of each family, but in Numbers 3:11-13 God made provision where the Levites became a substitute for all of the first born sons. (11 The Lord spoke to Moses: 12 I claim the Levites from the Israelites in place of all the oldest males who open an Israelite womb. The Levites are mine 13 because all the oldest males are mine. When I killed all the oldest males in the land of Egypt, I reserved for myself all the oldest males in Israel, both humans and animals. They are mine; I am the Lord.)
In today's text, we see the Levites again being used by God. The amount of gold, silver and polished copper represents several tons of wealth being transported safely back to Jerusalem.
Where did all of this come from and what were the different reasons for contributing to this fund? The largest contribution came from the King of Persia and his court. The King was primarily returning what Nebuchadnezzar had stole from the temple. Or in other words it already belonged to the Jews and their God. Others that gave, were those that chose to stay in Babylon rather than return to Jerusalem, maybe out of quilt. Some of the Kings court probably gave out of pride, because the King gave, they gave. Others may have given out of a sense of obligation. All reasons we give to our local church.
J. Clif Christopher, founder of the Horizons Stewardship Company, list the top three reasons we give to our local church. (1) A belief in the mission of the institution. (2) Regard for the staff leadership; and (3) fiscal responsibility of the institution.
So I think we can turn that around and say the reason we do not give are possibly the same reasons. That is why those that take the responsibilities seriously are to be commended. Ezra picked a good team and the people had great confidence in his selection. Dedicated and sanctified workers are part of a holy appointment.