Ezra was the N. T. Wright or Ravi Zacharias of his day. According to his own mini-biography, “He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses,” and, “a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord.” He was a premier Bible scholar.
Ezra was so educated in the Law, and so able to teach, that he was sent by the king of Persia back to Jerusalem for the purpose of re-educating the people of Israel. Israel had been captive in the region of Babylon for many years. Their temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, and many of the people simply forgot about God’s Law as they faced war, servitude, and then the everyday business of life in a foreign land.
But, by the time Ezra was around, the temple had been rebuilt, and it was time for Israel to return home. And they needed someone to teach them how to live in their land again, how to worship God and keep His commandments. They needed a great scholar and teacher like Ezra.
So, Ezra had appealed to the king, and had obtained a letter decreeing that all the Persian treasurers were to make their resources available to Ezra for his use in accomplishing his mission. Ezra collected treasures from them, as well as contributions from the people of Israel, and he gathered the first wave of settlers for their journey to Jerusalem.
The problem was that Ezra and the people would be traveling a long distance with a large sum of money. Bandits, nomads, and foreign tribes were known to attack traveling parties in order to rob them, often leaving them for dead, naked and wounded. The gold and silver Ezra’s entourage would be carrying could certainly draw some unwanted attention.
The king had already been generous, and would have most likely provided an armed escort for Ezra. But, the other problem was that Ezra had already told the king that the Lord God could protect His people, and bring about good for those who seek Him. So, Ezra wrote, “I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen.”
In desperation and fear over the safety of his kinsmen, Ezra ordered all of the travelers with him to fast and pray to God for a safe journey. His declarations of faith in God to the king of Persia backed him into a corner until his only hope was that God would hear and answer his prayer for safe travel.