Along with the Temple to meet with God and the city walls for protection, the returning exiles also needed a refounding of their identity as Israel, and Ezra gives it to them in the reading and preaching of the Law.
One thing that strikes me is that when he comes (9:6 onward) to praying for the people, Ezra tells once again the story of God’s faithfulness even in his people’s wavering and sin. It is the history of God’s saving action which is the foundation of Ezra’s prayer for Israel in his own day; a story, not a set of rules.
One reason that this strikes me is that I see increasingly how often this story needs to be retold, even within the pages of the Old Testament itself. The Law which Ezra and the scribes read and interpreted probably wasn’t law as we usually think of it, but the whole picture of the story in which the ‘laws’ (with a small ‘l’) are given and make sense.
Once again, we see that God speaks through story, and especially through the story of Israel’s journey with him. Perhaps we miss something important when we forget to retell our own story of faith and life with God. For our story is part of this bigger story – and that is the foundation of our own confidence in God.