Learned For The Lord 3 – Daring To Expect
Updated: Mar 13, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, and I ordered them to go to Iddo, the leader in Kasiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his fellow Levites, the temple servants in Kasiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God.
It was about 80 years after Sheshbazzar led the first group of exiles back to Judea, and almost 60 years after the Temple was rebuilt.
Ezra decided to lead a new group of exiles back to Judea. They compiled a list of the people on the expedition (Ezra 8:1-14), and the group consisted of about 1,500 men. Add to that women and children, and the group could have been about 5,000 to 7,000 people.
They were already assembled. Their bags were packed, their minds were set and they were ready to go. But Ezra discovered that there wasn’t a single Levite among them. So he summoned some of his team leaders to go rally up some Levites to join their expedition. We don’t know how many days or weeks that took them. But the thousands were put on hold, right by the Ahava canal, till a team of Levites joined them.
Functioning Or Thriving?
What was so important about having Levites?
The Levites were not required for the journey, but for the destination – the Temple where the Levites were supposed to serve. But there were already Levites in Jerusalem. Sheshbazzar had brought them there. The Temple had already been rebuilt for almost 6 decades. It was already functioning, with priests and Levites.
But Ezra wanted to bring along more Levites because he had bigger plans for the Temple and his people. He didn’t want the Temple to simply function; he wanted it to thrive. He had bigger dreams and higher expectations.
We often settle for ‘functioning’ when we ought to be ‘thriving’. That’s because in our mind, ‘functioning’ is not that bad. Wouldn’t aspiring for more require some sacrifice from us? Why risk upsetting anyone by expecting more? And wouldn’t bigger dreams mean bigger disappointments if we fail? We often get so affected by negative thinking that we’re willing to settle for something lesser.
It is a matter of faith. We’ve become so humanistic in our thinking that we leave no room for God to work. Imagine how it’ll be like if your spiritual life is thriving. Now imagine the same for your small group, and the church. That’s how God wants us to think.
Daring to Expect
Ezra was unabashed to describe what he did,“So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel... who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, and I ordered them to go to Iddo, the leader in Kasiphia. I told them what to say...” I don’t know what you think, but this was what I thought when I first read this passage: Isn’t Ezra a little pushy? C’mon, these men aren’t noobs. They were leaders and learned men. Did he have to summon and order them? And did he need to tell them what to say?
It certainly wasn’t a case of disrespect. Of course Ezra knew they were leaders and learned men. In fact he specifically chose them because he believed they were the best guys, and the ones who could get the job done. But he wasn’t afraid to convey the seriousness of the situation or expect more out of them, because the situation demanded it.
People hate to rock the boat. But we cannot hope for growth and improvements without creating some waves. It is only when we dare to expect high standards that change happens.
We have become ultra sensitive in our politically correct world. It is sad that egos have become so fragile that talking to people have become like walking on eggshells. Don’t get me wrong; I am not advocating being callous or careless. We can be polite and respectful, and yet be unafraid to call each other higher.
“Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah’s sons and brothers, 18 in all; and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 in all. They also brought 220 of the temple servants – a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.” (Ezra 8:15-20)
Ezra dared to expect high standards, and it worked. They got 38 Levites and 220 temple servants.
God has shown throughout the Bible that He expects high standards. Let’s not be afraid to do the same.
Read more about ‘Learned For The Lord’: Learned For The Lord 1 - Beyond The Call Of Man Learned For The Lord 2 - Devoted To Study, Observe & Teach Learned For The Lord 4 - Finding Faith In Fearful Times
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry of the Central Christian Church. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".