the Lord are shown as fleeing to the Lord’s organization, thereby agreeing to do his will. They are thus hidden or immersed under and unto the organization of the Lord. Those who followed Moses through the waters of the Red sea and under the canopy of the cloud overhead were thus “baptized unto Moses” in the sea and the cloud and were thus against the Egyptians, representing the Devil’s organization. Likewise those who followed Noah into the ark and remained there were hidden or immersed and thereby baptized unto Noah. Both Moses and Noah pictured Christ Jesus the great Prophet of Jehovah God. Therefore even the “other sheep” at this present time experience the baptism unto the Greater Noah, Christ Jesus. Coming under the protection of the Theocratic organization of Christ Jesus, they now find shelter, and if they continue there to seek righteousness and meekness, rendering themselves in obedience unto the Lord, they have the promise of deliverance from the wrath of God at Armageddon. That baptism “with fire” will be to the destruction of all Satan’s organization, but will be to the protection of all those who find refuge in or under Jehovah’s organization.
Hence experiencing and living up to the meanings of faith, consecration, sanctification and baptism are important steps along the way to life in Jehovah’s incoming new world of righteousness.
Ezra, Zealous for Pure Worship
EZRA, the Levite scribe of the fifth century B.C., had faith in God. He was not like the countless multitudes of Christendom today, who, by their course of ignoring God and his laws, manifest that they have said in their hearts, “There is no God.” Believing that God is, and that he rewards those that diligently seek him, Ezra manifested a burning zeal for the pure worship of Jehovah. God prospered that zeal, just as he is prospering the zeal of his faithful servants today.
The land of Palestine had lain desolate seventy years, even as foretold by Jehovah through his prophet Jeremiah. At the end of that time about fifty thousand devoted servants of Jehovah took advantage of the liberation decree of Cyrus and returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple. A malicious conspiracy on the part of their envious neighbors, however, caused an official ban to be placed on that work. So it happened that twenty years went by before the temple was finally completed.
Fifty more years pass and Ezra appears on the scene. He was a direct descendant of the high priest Aaron and “had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel [Jehovah’s] statutes and ordinances”. (Ezra 7:10, Am. Stan. Ver.) Ezra was far different from the hypocritical self-appointed would-be teachers of God’s law described by Jesus who “say and do not”, who “bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger”. (Matt. 23:3, 4, Am. Stan. Ver.) No, he not only sought to know and to teach God’s law in Israel, but also to do it himself. He had a genuine zeal for the pure worship.
It was with a clear conscience, therefore, that Ezra summoned up courage to petitioning Artaxerxes for permission to return to Palestine to advance the pure worship there. That the king noticed his zeal and sincerity is very apparent from his reply to Ezra’s request. Whoever of his own free will wished to return with Ezra was authorized to do so. Ezra might accept contributions for this purpose from any of the Jews as well as from anyone in Babylon, the king and his seven counselors also contributing thereto. If, after all things needful for the carrying on of the true worship had been obtained, some funds were left, Ezra and the Jews with him were to use them as they thought best, and if more funds were needed Ezra was to requisition them from the king’s treasury. The governors of the provinces beyond the River were notified that Ezra might request of them “up to a hundred talents of silver, a thousand measures of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of oil, and salt without reckoning”. (Having a value in our day of close to a quarter million dollars.) “Whatever is commanded by the God of the heavens, let it be faithfully done . . . for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king?”
Further the king’s decree provided that no tax, tribute or toll might be imposed on any of the priests or on any other temple servant, regardless of how lowly his assigned tasks might be: “Moreover do you Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your grasp, appoint governors and judges . . . all such as know the laws of your God, and instruct any who do not know them.” Finally Ezra was authorized to punish with fines, imprisonment or even death, any who refused to obey the law of his God.
No wonder that Ezra blessed Jehovah, “the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart.” Being strengthened by this evidence that Jehovah’s blessing was upon his efforts to advance the true worship in Palestine, he gathered the leading men of Israel to return with him.—Ezra, chapter 7, An Amer. Trans.
The repatriates assembled on the banks of the river Ahava, where Ezra made a three-day check on who was returning and where he saw to it that among those returning were those who were qualified to be “ministrants for the house of our God”. As he mentions the “little ones” that were with them, and lists 1,754 males of the various tribes, it is quite likely that well upward of 5,000 men, women and children were in the party.
Always acknowledging Jehovah in all his ways, Ezra then proclaimed a fast “that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek of him a safe journey . . . For I was ashamed to ask of the king an armed force and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, ‘The hand of our God is with all who seek him for good, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him.’”—Ezra 8:17, 21, 22, An Amer. Trans.
Ezra then carefully weighed and counted the treasure, some four million dollars in value, and, with a solemn injunction, entrusted it to twelve of the chief priests. After a journey taking about four months, Ezra and his band arrived safely in Jerusalem. Again Jehovah had prospered Ezra’s zeal for the pure worship. After offering sacrifices