Artaxerxes’ Letter Directing Ezra to Return to Jerusalem

Text: Ezra 7:11-26

Reflection and Question: The Persian king’s letter, which paves the way for Ezra to reestablish Jerusalem as the center of worship of the God of Israel, is quoted here in full. Ezra is to take people as well as silver and gold. And if he finds he needs something else when he gets there, Ezra is authorized to draw on the king’s treasury to get it. Artaxerxes expects Ezra to enforce “the law of your God and the law of the king.” For him, there must be no distinction between the God of Israel and the king of Persia. Artaxerxes does not fear God as we might expect. Who exactly is in charge, God or the king?

Prayer: Gracious Holy Spirit, we are so used to presuming the separation between church and state that we find passages like this both foreign and mystifying. Open our eyes to see Artaxerxes as Your devoted servant. And then make us the same. Amen.

This meditation is based on the Daily Lectionary Year 1 from the Book of Common Worship for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (1993).