Today’s reading from Ezra 2 features names—a LOT of names. Here’s a sampling:
“The gatekeepers’ descendants included Shallum’s descendants, Ater’s descendants, Talmon’s descendants, Akkub’s descendants, Hatita’s descendants, Shobai’s descendants, in all 139. The temple servants included Ziha’s descendants, Hasupha’s descendants, Tabbaoth’s descendants, Keros’s descendants, Siaha’s descendants, Padon’s descendants” (vv.42–44)…you get the idea.
It’s not exactly a screenplay for the next Tom Cruise blockbuster. But it is the inspired Word! Ezra 2 is a detailed list of the Jewish exiles who returned to Judea in 538 BC after the long, sorrowful Babylonian captivity. The chapter feels kind of like an Old Testament White Pages. (Remember those?!)
In all, 42,360 exiles returned to Judea in the first wave. We even get an exact count of every beast of burden that returned. Donkeys were never listed in the White Pages, were they? At any rate, Ezra 2 isn’t simply about the author’s fixation on census data. Family lineage needed to be established as people reclaimed ancestral land and property. Also, priestly and Levitical heritage had to be confirmed for service in the new temple.
However, the relevance of Ezra 2 didn’t fade with antiquity. Its timeless truth still cries out to us today: God always keeps His promises.
At least 600 years earlier, Moses foresaw Israel’s banishment and foretold God’s forgiveness.
He will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. Even if your exiles are at the farthest horizon, he will gather you and bring you back from there.
Seventy years into the Babylonian exile, God kept His promise. Each of the 42,360 returnees —all of them real humans with real names—could bear witness to that (Ezra 2:64).
God is still in the promise-keeping business today. Although circumstances may not turn out how we hope, we can trust the promises He gives us in His Word. He keeps big promises from His Word and small ones (if there is such a thing). He keeps promises from His Word you’ve been praying about for years. And He keeps promises from Scripture that you forgot.
The key is in the waiting. Multiple generations came and went between Judah’s exile and its return. The people cried out to God, questioned His goodness, and pleaded for His mercy. He answered, but not on their schedule.
Perhaps you feel exiled from God’s grace today. Perhaps your life feels uprooted, and your hopes feel scattered to the winds. Take heart: God is faithful even when we’re not. If He seems silent, it’s not because of apathy, abandonment, or inability. He is likely working in ways that might not be immediately obvious. His plans and timetable are infinitely greater than ours.
As we wait, we would do well to cry out to God, recall His previous faithfulness, and cast our anxieties on Him through prayer (1Peter 5:7). He never tarries or forgets. He never gets preoccupied or holds out to spite us. Because of His great love for us in Christ, He keeps all His promises. Every. Single. One.