I’ve been reading through Ezra this week and this morning I read the riveting 2nd chapter. Let me give you a sample of what you will find there.

Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, 2 in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah): The list of the men of the people of Israel:

3 the descendants of Parosh 2,172
4 of Shephatiah 372
5 of Arah 775
6 of Pahath-Moab (through the line of Jeshua and Joab) 2,812
7 of Elam 1,254
8 of Zattu 945
9 of Zakkai 760
10 of Bani 642
11 of Bebai 623
12 of Azgad 1,222
13 of Adonikam 666
14 of Bigvai 2,056
15 of Adin 454
16 of Ater (through Hezekiah) 98
17 of Bezai 323
18 of Jorah 112
19 of Hashum 223
20 of Gibbar 95
— Ezra 2:1-20

And if that’s not enough it continues on for a total of 70 verses. I sat there with an empty journal page in front of me, wondering what this might be saying to me. I do believe and teach that, that the Scripture is a living text that God uses to speak into our lives. So, preacher man, what’s this text saying?

As I sat before the passage I started looking at the numbers. Some family groups were big (2,812) some were small (95). But why? Why in the Bible? The people were heading home from exile, they had been living 70+ years in a foreign land after seeing their homeland and their religious heritage completely obliterated. Finally they were heading home, and God numbered every single one of them. All of these people returning from the far away place were known and numbered by God.

I took some comfort in that. Recently in my own life I have felt like I was in a far away place. I haven’t been rebelling, or hiding some secret sin (at least not that I am aware of) but God has seemed so distant, so hard to connect with. Maybe this was God’s way of reminding me that even when I am “exile” He has not forgotten. Even when it appears He is long gone, He is still with me. His friendship, love, grace, and presence is not dependent on my ability to sense or perceive it. That’s good news. It started me writing, and this is where it lead

(Ezra 2, 11.14.18)

It feels like I’ve been far away
though You have never left.
At least that’s what You say.

I can’t see You, or feel You, or hear You.

You play a mean game
of hide and seek
when You want to.

One moment here, vibrant, touchable,
then invisible;
gone without a trace.

I want to come home,
home in a deeper way.
To rest in Your presence
even when it feels like absence.

Free me to receive the gifts You give
in ways that don’t resemble gifts at all.

I’m not there yet, at a place where I can receive the gifts God gives that don’t look like gifts at all, but I want to be. Maybe today if you feel far away this will remind you that He isn’t far away. That as we journey home He knows and numbers each of us.

Jeff KuhnComment