Send Us Ministers
Ezra 8:15 ¶ 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.
Ezra 8:16 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,
Ezra 8:17 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.
Ezra 8:18 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, eighteen;
Ezra 8:19 also Hashabiah and with him Jeshaiah of the descendants of Merari, with his kin and their sons, twenty;
Ezra 8:20 besides two hundred twenty of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.
Israelites were returning to Jerusalem from exile and Ezra was leading the way. As they journeyed he was making preparations for life in Jerusalem and he discovered that there were no priests with him. The worship of God was to be at the center of their lives in Jerusalem. It’s interesting that they didn’t notice until they were on their way that they had no priests with them. This makes it highly unlikely that they were taking time to worship God on their journey, but were simply thinking of everything that would need to be reestablished in Jerusalem upon their return. The people suddenly realized that having ministers would be important. They sent for ministers to come from what is thought to be the region of the Caspian Sea. They waited to continue their journey until twenty-eight ministers had arrived. Once they had their ministers, they felt that they could move forward in the direction of Jerusalem.
I find it fascinating that it took them some time to figure out that they had no ministers with them. This must speak of the spiritual state of the people of God. While they had been in exile they were extremely discouraged. They had hung up their harps! Could it be that in their discouragement they chose to pout and not worship God. Did they somehow think that worship of God could only happen in Jerusalem? We know of those who knew better, including Daniel and his three companions. At the same time it could be that the majority of the people simply weren’t sure what to do about practicing their faith. They had been so tied to the physical temple in Jerusalem. Or could it be that they felt that worship was only possible in the physical temple of Jerusalem? Without the temple there could be no worship? Whatever the reason, they were returning from exile and made it all the way to the river Ahava before they figured out they had no ministers with them.
Life sometimes takes us into our own personal exile. We find ourselves in places of discouragement and we don’t want to take our ministers with us. We don’t want to be reminded about God, we would rather pout! And then God’s sweet voice begins to call us back and we begin the journey home toward him. In our disappointment and frustration we have been unkind to the ministers of God. We have left them out of the equation and at times, we have taken them for granted. They have been pushed to the very margins of our lives and we sometimes wonder if they are useful! But suddenly we come to the river of our life. We need to cross over and we want to find peace with God and our ministers are missing. We thought that we could manage on our own.
This isn’t just true on a personal level, but I’m afraid this could be true on a corporate level. We have chosen to so embrace the idea of the “Priesthood of all Believers” that there have been moments when we have written off the need for those who are serving in vocational ministry. We can manage the church without the ministers! We can handle this on our own! But then we come to the rivers of our lives and we want to cross over. We want there to be some normalcy in the craziness of our lives and we want to go back to worshipping God. We have taken those who minister for granted and there are none to be found — we simply forgot about them. We find ourselves in the place of Ezra who must become intentional about finding ministers. He has to search and eventually is able to come up with a handful.
If we do not value those who have been called to vocational ministry they will be hard to find when we need them! We must intentionally invest in ministers for the future of the church or we will find ourselves going great distances to find them when we are in distress. May we value the ministers that we have, being careful with them and giving them space to be a valuable part of our daily lives. And may we intentionally invest in the ministers of the future so that when the time comes we don’t have to look far and wide for them.
Pray that God will send us ministers!
Lord, thank you for the ministers we have and may we care for them and worship with them. Amen.