Summary of passage: When the people met with God, they trembled in fear. They turned to one another and told each other to “Be strong.” They made idols together, ones that cannot stand on their own. God explains that Israel is His chosen people. They are descendants of Abraham, His friend. He called them from the ends of the earth to be his servant. “So do not fear, for I am with you.” I will strengthen you, help you, and uphold you with my righteous right hand.
6a) They trembled in fear and turned to one another instead of to God. They got together and made idols.
b) Similarly. People turn to whatever is immediate comfort instead of to God’s word: alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, and one another. Whatever to numb the pain and get a high.
7a) There were enemies on the road (Ezra 8:22). The city was destroyed when they returned. As soon as the temple began to be re-built, the surrounding neighboring countries felt threatened again and managed to stop the process (Ezra 4). There was foreigners already living there. Intermarriage was a huge threat (Ezra 9:1-4). This was against God’s law (Deuteronomy 7:3-6) and Ezra saw it as a huge threat. He prayed to God and the people repented (Ezra 10). Mainly, expectations exceeded reality. Re-building after war is not instantaneous. The people would have to rely on God for many generations to come. It’s a long road ahead.
b) Israel is God’s chosen people. They are descendants of Abraham, God’s friend. They are God’s servants. He chose them. God promises He is with them, will strengthen them, and uphold them in His hand. For me, knowing God is with me always and He will help.
c) Most people say everything will be okay. It’s just a phase or temporary. God says, “Do not fear for I am with you.” Much more powerful. Inherently, when others comfort, this is what they mean but they just don’t say it.
8 ) The right hand is usually the dominant and the strongest for most people.
Psalm 44:3 “It was not by the sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.”
Exodus 15:6 “Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.”
Here, the right hand symbolizes God’s intense love and faith for us. He is offering us his best when He upholds us in His hand.
God’s righteous right hand is also Jesus who sits at God’s right hand. Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3
Since Jesus is love, God’s hands are love.
Conclusions: I love how everything here is interconnected. Lesson 17 emphasizes the importance of comfort. Lesson 18 seems to be about our fears (and hence we need comfort). Of course, it’s all about God. How we have no need to fear because of His comfort.
But, as always, we are human. We have to have things repeated over and over again and pounded into us for it to stick. For me, I need to be told constantly I am one of God’s people, chosen by Him, and thus sitting in His righteous right hand. Fear, led by the Devil, creeps in and tries to push God out. I need to hear God’s words of comfort, “Do not fear for I am with you.” I hold you in my righteous right hand–the same hand where Jesus sits! How amazing is that!
Great re-iteration of God’s almighty presence in our lives.
End Note: Ezra headed the second wave of returning exiles from Babylon. He was a scribe, a descendant of a priest. He was in a leadership role, teaching the people God’s word.
I found this site helpful in understanding the exile: