He answered me and said, "The Most High made this world for the sake of many, but the world to come for the sake of only a few.
But I tell you a parable, Ezra. Just as, when you ask the earth, it will tell you that it provides a large amount of clay from which earthenware is made, but only a little dust from which gold comes, so is the course of the present world.
Many have been created, but only a few shall be saved."
I answered and said, "Then drink your fill of understanding, a O my soul, and drink wisdom, O my heart.
For not of your own will did you come into the world, b and against your will you depart, for you have been given only a short time to live.
O Lord above us, grant to your servant that we may pray before you, and give us a seed for our heart and cultivation of our understanding so that fruit may be produced, by which every mortal who bears the likeness c of a human being may be able to live.
For you alone exist, and we are a work of your hands, as you have declared.
And because you give life to the body that is now fashioned in the womb, and furnish it with members, what you have created is preserved amid fire and water, and for nine months the womb d endures your creature that has been created in it.
But that which keeps and that which is kept shall both be kept by your keeping. e And when the womb gives up again what has been created in it,
you have commanded that from the members themselves (that is, from the breasts) milk, the fruit of the breasts, should be supplied,
so that what has been fashioned may be nourished for a time; and afterwards you will still guide it in your mercy.
You have nurtured it in your righteousness, and instructed it in your law, and reproved it in your wisdom.
You put it to death as your creation, and make it live as your work.
If then you will suddenly and quickly f destroy what with so great labor was fashioned by your command, to what purpose was it made?
And now I will speak out: About all humankind you know best; but I will speak about your people, for whom I am grieved,
and about your inheritance, for whom I lament, and about Israel, for whom I am sad, and about the seed of Jacob, for whom I am troubled.
Therefore I will pray before you for myself and for them, for I see the failings of us who inhabit the earth;
and now also g I have heard of the swiftness of the judgment that is to come.
Therefore hear my voice and understand my words, and I will speak before you." The beginning of the words of Ezra's prayer, h before he was taken up. He said:
"O Lord, you who inhabit eternity, i whose eyes are exalted j and whose upper chambers are in the air,
whose throne is beyond measure and whose glory is beyond comprehension, before whom the hosts of angels stand trembling
and at whose command they are changed to wind and fire, k whose word is sure and whose utterances are certain, whose command is strong and whose ordinance is terrible,
whose look dries up the depths and whose indignation makes the mountains melt away, and whose truth is established l forever—
hear, O Lord, the prayer of your servant, and give ear to the petition of your creature; attend to my words.
For as long as I live I will speak, and as long as I have understanding I will answer.
O do not look on the sins of your people, but on those who serve you in truth.
Do not take note of the endeavors of those who act wickedly, but of the endeavors of those who have kept your covenants amid afflictions.
Do not think of those who have lived wickedly in your sight, but remember those who have willingly acknowledged that you are to be feared.
Do not will the destruction of those who have the ways of cattle, but regard those who have gloriously taught your law. m30
Do not be angry with those who are deemed worse than wild animals, but love those who have always put their trust in your glory.
For we and our ancestors have passed our lives in ways that bring death; n but it is because of us sinners that you are called merciful.
For if you have desired to have pity on us, who have no works of righteousness, then you will be called merciful.
For the righteous, who have many works laid up with you, shall receive their reward in consequence of their own deeds.
But what are mortals, that you are angry with them; or what is a corruptible race, that you are so bitter against it?
For in truth there is no one among those who have been born who has not acted wickedly; among those who have existed o there is no one who has not done wrong.
For in this, O Lord, your righteousness and goodness will be declared, when you are merciful to those who have no store of good works."
He answered me and said, "Some things you have spoken rightly, and it will turn out according to your words.
For indeed I will not concern myself about the fashioning of those who have sinned, or about their death, their judgment, or their destruction;
but I will rejoice over the creation of the righteous, over their pilgrimage also, and their salvation, and their receiving their reward.
As I have spoken, therefore, so it shall be.
"For just as the farmer sows many seeds in the ground and plants a multitude of seedlings, and yet not all that have been sown will come up p in due season, and not all that were planted will take root; so also those who have been sown in the world will not all be saved."
I answered and said, "If I have found favor in your sight, let me speak.
If the farmer's seed does not come up, because it has not received your rain in due season, or if it has been ruined by too much rain, it perishes. q44
But people, who have been formed by your hands and are called your own image because they are made like you, and for whose sake you have formed all things—have you also made them like the farmer's seed?
Surely not, O Lord r above! But spare your people and have mercy on your inheritance, for you have mercy on your own creation."
He answered me and said, "Things that are present are for those who live now, and things that are future are for those who will live hereafter.
For you come far short of being able to love my creation more than I love it. But you have often compared yourself s to the unrighteous. Never do so!
But even in this respect you will be praiseworthy before the Most High,
because you have humbled yourself, as is becoming for you, and have not considered yourself to be among the righteous. You will receive the greatest glory,
for many miseries will affect those who inhabit the world in the last times, because they have walked in great pride.
But think of your own case, and inquire concerning the glory of those who are like yourself,
because it is for you that paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the age to come is prepared, plenty is provided, a city is built, rest is appointed, t goodness is established and wisdom perfected beforehand.
The root of evil u is sealed up from you, illness is banished from you, and death v is hidden; Hades has fled and corruption has been forgotten; w54
sorrows have passed away, and in the end the treasure of immortality is made manifest.
Therefore do not ask any more questions about the great number of those who perish.
For when they had opportunity to choose, they despised the Most High, and were contemptuous of his law, and abandoned his ways.
Moreover, they have even trampled on his righteous ones,
and said in their hearts that there is no God—though they knew well that they must die.
For just as the things that I have predicted await x you, so the thirst and torment that are prepared await them. For the Most High did not intend that anyone should be destroyed;
but those who were created have themselves defiled the name of him who made them, and have been ungrateful to him who prepared life for them now.
Therefore my judgment is now drawing near;
I have not shown this to all people, but only to you and a few like you." Then I answered and said,
"O Lord, you have already shown me a great number of the signs that you will do in the last times, but you have not shown me when you will do them."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (New Revised Standard w/ Apocrypha)