Ezra cannot proceed in his story without inserting his thankful acknowledgement of the goodness of God to him and his people in this matter. As soon as he has concluded the king’s commission, instead of subjoining, God save the king (though that would have been proper enough), he adds, Blessed be the Lord; for we must in every thing give thanks, and, whatever occurrences please us, we must own God’s hand in them, and praise his name. Two things Ezra blessed God for:—1. For his commission. We suppose he kissed the king’s hand for it, but that was not all: Blessed be God (says he) that put such a thing as this into the king’s heart. God can put things into men’s hearts which would not arise there of themselves, and into their heads too, both by his providence and by his grace, in things pertaining both to life and godliness. If any good appear to be in our own hearts, or in the hearts of others, we must own it was God that put it there, and bless him for it; for it is he that worketh in us both to will and to do that which is good. When princes and magistrates act for the suppression of vice, and the encouragement of religion, we must thank God that put it into their hearts to do so, as much as if they had granted us some particular favour. When God’s house was built Ezra rejoiced in what was done to beautify it. We read not of any orders given to paint or gild it, or to garnish it with precious stones, but to be sure that the ordinances of God were administered there constantly, and carefully, and exactly according to the institution; and that was indeed the beautifying of the temple. 2. For the encouragement he had to act in pursuance of his commission (Ezra 7:28): He has extended mercy to me. The king, in the honour he did him, we may suppose, had an eye to his merit, and preferred him because he looked upon him to be a very sensible ingenious man; but he himself ascribes his preferment purely to God’s mercy. It was this that recommended him to the favour of his prince. Ezra himself was a man of courage, yet he attributed his encouragement not to his own heart, but to God’s hand: “I was strengthened to undertake the services, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me to direct and support me.” If God gives us his hand, we are bold and cheerful; if he withdraws it, we are weak as water. Whatever service we are enabled to do for God and our generation, God must have all the glory of it. Strength for it is derived from him, and therefore the praise of it must be given to him.
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