It had been about 70 years since most of the Israelites had gone back to Jerusalem, but some were still living in different parts of the Persian Empire. One of them was a priest named Ezra, who taught Jehovah’s Law. Ezra learned that the people in Jerusalem were not following the Law, and he wanted to go and help them. Persian King Artaxerxes told him: ‘God made you wise so that you can teach his Law. Go, and take any who want to go with you.’ Ezra met with all who wanted to return to Jerusalem. They prayed to Jehovah to keep them safe on the long journey, and then they set off.
Four months later, they arrived at Jerusalem. The princes there told Ezra: ‘The Israelites have disobeyed Jehovah and married women who worship false gods.’ What did Ezra do? In front of the people, Ezra got down on his knees and prayed: ‘Jehovah, you have done so much for us, but we have sinned against you.’ The people repented, but they were still doing things that were not right. Ezra chose elders and judges to look into these matters. Over the next three months, those who did not worship Jehovah were sent away.
Twelve years went by. In the meantime, the walls around Jerusalem were rebuilt. So Ezra gathered the people in the public square to read God’s Law to them. When Ezra opened the book, the people stood up. He praised Jehovah, and they raised their hands in agreement. Then Ezra read and explained the Law, and the people listened carefully. They admitted that they had strayed from Jehovah again, and they wept. The next day, Ezra read more of the Law to them. They learned that soon they should celebrate the Festival of Booths. Right away, they began to prepare for the festival.
For the seven days of the festival, the people rejoiced and thanked Jehovah for a good harvest. There had not been a Festival of Booths like it since the days of Joshua. After the festival, the people gathered and prayed: ‘Jehovah, you saved us from slavery, fed us in the desert, and gave us this beautiful land. But over and over, we disobeyed you. You sent prophets to warn us, but we did not listen. Still, you were patient. You kept your promise to Abraham. Now we promise that we will obey you.’ They wrote down their promise, and the princes, Levites, and priests put their seal on it.
“Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”—Luke 11:28