Ezra 8 expands, generally, on that which we read in 7.1-10, namely the journey of the people to Jerusalem.
In 8.1-14 there is a long list of the heads of their father’s houses, and the number of men listed here is around 1500. Including women and children (8.21), this group, then, would have totalled anywhere between 5000 and 7000.
Ezra discovers that the group is lacking in the sons of Levi that would be integral to the work needed in the temple. Ezra sends back to Babylon for them (vv.15-21), and then prays for protection with fasting (vv.21-23). Not wanting to contradict the truth we read in 7.28 that the hand of the Lord my God was on [him] and ask for help from the king, Ezra preferred to fast, humble himself before God, and pray for protection.
The rest of the chapter is the account of the valuables being distributed among the people for safekeeping along the journey, the proper accounting and stewardship shown by the people (vv.24-34), and the offerings given for the general problem of sin and the specific sins of the people upon their arrival (vv.35-36).
Perhaps the most interesting and applicable point is Ezra’s reluctance to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect the people on their journey. They had already proclaimed that God would take care of them (vv.21-23), and staying the course of trusting in God was evidently difficult for Ezra and the people, despite knowing the covenant faithfulness of the Lord.
Reading this made me think of another who set out in complete obedience to the Father and who, when presented with a trial and tribulation, wrestled with the thoughts of wanting to do things differently, to do things in a way that would make things a little easier. Reading of Ezra’s wrestling here to stay the course of faith cast my mind to the garden of Gethsemane,
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples,
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he threw himself down with his face to the ground and prayed,
“My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed,
“My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done.”
Matthew 26.36-42 (NET, emphasis added)
See, Ezra knew that the journey would be difficult, hard, tough, and fraught with dangers. He had declared his outright trust in God and was unwilling to compromise and ask for help from the king.
As for Ezra, so for Jesus.
He knew that what was coming would be difficult, hard, and tough. He knew that the cup was the wrath of God that He would experience in the form of His suffering and death (Psalm 75.8-9). As Ezra wrestled with taking another course of action, so too did the Lord Jesus (“My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me!), but as Ezra committed to staying the course of faith, so too did the Lord Jesus (“My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done.”).
So often the accounts in the Old Testament give us a glimpse, a preview, a foreshadow, a type of Jesus and that which He would do. Here, he takes the resolve and the fortitude and the trust shown by Ezra, multiplies it exponentially, and takes it to the cross, for you.