Who Came Out Of Babylon?
In Ezra 8, we find a number of names are mentioned: the names of "them that went up with me from Babylon."
Here you have a record of those who absolutely separated themselves to go through with God.
It is as if the Holy Spirit is taking the pen and putting down the names of men who took responsibility in the testimony of God, and HE is setting down every name of the wholly devoted company who went right through with God; for the Holy Spirit would have made comment, if anyone had stopped on the way.
This is a roll of honor of those who left the comparative ease and comforts of Babylon for a long and difficult journey, fraught with many dangers, and came back to a ruined city, even Jerusalem.
There is hard work, a certain amount of suffering, opposition, and so on, but they are willing to pay the cost and go through; and these are the ones whose names are individually recorded with such care, and their names will stand as long as the Bible stands; they are wholly for God, whatever the cost.
Here's something to think about: God put down every name of those men who went going through with Him, from Babylon to Jerusalem. Are we going through with God? Or are we counting the cost and staying back in Babylon?
No Sons of Levi
And then notice that the next thing in the chapter is Ezra's statement: "I found none of the sons of Levi there" (Ezra 8:15).
Why was this?
The Levites were those who had an inheritance only in God; they had no inheritance in the land (Joshua 14:4-5).
To go to a land of desolation in which, in any case, they had no inheritance, does not look very promising, when they were getting more in Babylon.
The Levites could not see how they were going to get their bread and butter, and they knew they had no right to own land in Israel.
Because they had no inheritance in the land, they had to trust the Lord. This did not appeal to them, so they stayed in Babylon. Those who had to come out and have their portion only in God, without seeing where "on earth" it would be coming from, were miserably absent. No Levites came out!
And is it not the same in the ministry of the Word, when you come out of a system where you are sure of your supply? It is a test of faith to have a secured position in the world of the churches, and to come out and have your portion only in God, nothing in the world, or in the church? Not many can stand up to that test.
So we find no Levite in that record of names.
Giving God A Chance
The next thing is, Ezra proclaimed a fast (verses 21-23).
What does this represent, spiritually? Just this – the Lord seeing you through!
That is all.
Oh, yes, it is a test of faith again, for it is a journey of faith.
Can the Lord see us through? had we better not ask the king?
Should we not make an appeal for help to men, to the world, to make sure of a safe conduct through – that is what it means; but we have taken our stand that we can go through without the resources of the world; we can count on GOD, HE will see us through; that is the testimony – GOD SEEING US THROUGH – that is our safe conduct, successful and triumphant conduct.
Read Psalms 121-134 after Ezra 8:21; notice there is a going up in them all the time, and a strong note of trust and victory.
Some have thought they were sung on this journey. They express that utter confidence in GOD.
"As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people." That is something better than all the horsemen and horses of this world. The Lord can see you through. Trust HIM; don't go down to Egypt or to the king of Babylon for help; give the Lord a chance to maintain His own testimony.
And so they went on this journey of faith and the Lord vindicated their confidence.
Ezra 8:24-30 deals with the deposit; the holy free-will offering to the Lord; "Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chiefs of the priests and the Levites, and the princes of the fathers' houses… at Jerusalem." (The Levites mentioned here are the ones who were still in Israel. They had not been taken captive and hadn't travel out to Babylon to secure their living.)
It is blessed to regard this as the deposit which the Lord entrusts to us at the beginning. It is that of which the Apostle writes to Timothy – "Guard the deposit which is committed unto thee" (I Tim. 6:20). The Lord has committed to the vessel for His testimony those things which represent the fulness of His salvation. You have the brass, the silver, and the gold; we know what it means, and all this is the deposit, these sacred things of "the faith once for all delivered to the saints." Those great factors of salvation – Righteousness – Redemption – and Sanctification.
You meet brass immediately you come within the Court of the Tabernacle – the Brazen Altar – with all its wonderful meaning of the wholly and fully consecrated body of the Lord Jesus to the will of God, "By the which will we are sanctified" – the whole Burnt Offering which avails for our Sanctification (Heb. 10:10).
Then you have the silver of our Redemption, and the gold of that conformity to the Divine Image.
That is the deposit of the faith.
Jude urges the believers to whom he writes that they contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints; that is the deposit entrusted to us at the beginning, and to be handed up complete at the end of the journey.
Paul could say at the end of his life, "I have kept the faith," and he handed it back at the end in the House of God complete.
It represents the ministry concerning the House of God, the whole testimony, the full Gospel. The full faith once for all delivered to the saints is entrusted to us; and it has to be enshrined within the House of God, so it needs to be safeguarded on the journey, and at last presented to the Lord without mixture, the clear testimony; not an iota dropped, but handed back complete.
May the Lord give us grace and strength to guard our trust and present it to Him saying, 'We have lost nothing, we have kept the faith, we have run the race – henceforth there is a crown of Righteousness."
All this is very good as Bible truth, but if it only goes that far, I have spoken in vain.
I know the difficulty of bringing other people into one's own concern and travail. I believe you have a certain amount of perception as to how things are today; they are terrible spiritually, but there are those reaching out for more of God, and asking where they can find spiritual food.
The Lord would, I believe, do something in our day, a day of small things; and He will begin by having an instrument with a burden, with whom there is deposited the full-orbed revelation of the Lord Jesus; and who would step out in faith and trust the Lord; give the Lord a chance to vindicate Himself.
May the Lord make us part of such an instrument. May He help us move out to others also.
Ask the Lord about this matter, and, if you find it true, lay it on your heart and bring you into fellowship with HIMSELF in what He would do today.
"The hand of our GOD was upon us, and HE delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the-lier-in wait by the way… and the vessels were weighed in the house of our God… the whole by number and by weight: and all the weight was written at that time" (Ezra 8:31-34).