A Brief Background and History
Ezra was a priest and scribe at the time the captivity of Israel and Judah was coming to an end. He was also a descendant of Aaron. Because of Israel and Judah’s unfaithfulness to God, they were conquered and taken into captivity for 70 years as prophesied by Jeremiah. After the 70 years, King Artaxerxes of Persia released a large company of Israelites, allowing them to return to Jerusalem. However, after they returned, they would have many lessons from Ezra that would shape their future to look very different from their past.
Who is Ezra?
Ezra was skilled in the Law of Moses. This is typically the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Because of Ezra, Israel experienced reform after returning from exile. Throughout the exile, he preserved and taught the law in Jewish history, and most likely he was the author of the book of Ezra, as well as the books of the Chronicles. He is thought to be the final editor of the Old Testament. From him, we gain the most information about the first return from exile of the Jewish nation. And we can learn four important lessons to apply to our own lives as we learn about his character.
Lessons from Ezra: #1. Preparing Our Hearts
Before he did anything else, Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord. Seeking God often begins with preparing our heart. However, it is also an ongoing process. Every year, here in Florida, we prepare for the Hurricane season, meaning we set everything in order. We pack our hurricane supply kits, make sure generators have gas, ensure we have plenty of water to drink, that medications are packed for an evacuation, windows are boarded up, sandbags are laid down to help prevent water from entering our home, etc. Once we are prepared, we do just sit back and wait out the hurricane season. We keep ourselves prepared.
When we prepare our heart for God, we set things in order and make ourselves ready for God to work in our lives. It is preparing our heart to agree with whatever God says – not trying to get God to agree with what we have already decided to do. If we are willing to abandon our plans and prepare our heart to accept God’s plan, amazing things can happen.
Another part of preparing our heart, is to make sure we have emptied our hearts of things such as envy, bitterness, anger, resentment, and stubbornness. When we clean these things out there is more room for Jesus.
Lastly, a heart that is prepared for God, is a heart that is ready to repent of any sin that might be revealed as we go through the process of preparing our hearts.
Ezra would lead Israel to prepare their hearts for seeking God.
Lessons from Ezra: #2. Seek God’s Word
Second, Ezra sought the Law of the Lord. Many of us, when we find ourselves in a mess, begin to seek the Lord. The Israelites were in captivity – that’s a pretty big mess! As soon as God grants some relief, we quickly go back to our old stinkin’ habits, forgetting God or maybe just returning to a “Sunday Only Christian” lifestyle. The Israelites had a pattern of doing just this. They’d get into trouble and cry out to God and God would grant them a victory. Then the next king would come along and they’d all go back to idol worship again, forgetting everything God had done for them in the past. We do the same thing.
Why Seeking God’s Word is Important
Seeking God’s Word is one of the most important things we can do to grow our faith and to mature as a Christian. We learn the truth about God and seek Him through reading His Word. We come to understand how God expects us to live. Through His Word, we come face to face with our sin and need to be forgiven. God’s Word shows us God’s love for us through Jesus redeeming us by giving His life for ours. As we seek God’s Word, we learn about hell and heaven. We’re given glimpses into what both places are like. And we learn about what the future holds when Christ returns to the earth. God also gives us comfort, encouragement, strength, and instruction. Psalm 119:105 tells us: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
If we are going to model God’s Word in how we live and teach God’s Word to others, than we need to be sure we are seeking His Word and know what it says. God will hold each one of us accountable for what we did or did not teach and if we taught it accurately. The only way to know what His Word says, is to be a student of His Word.
Ezra would lead Israel to seek God’s Word.
Lessons from Ezra: #3. Do God’s Word
Ezra, however, didn’t just seek the Law of the Lord, he also set out to do it. We learn so much more by example than by word. Ezra studied the Law of Moses and then he lived it as an example to the people. Perhaps, as he studied the law and looked back over the history of the nation forsaking God, he understood that it wasn’t just enough to know the law. God expected the people to obey it. And He expects us to obey it also.
Knowing About Jesus isn’t enough. Even Satan knows Him.
Similarly, it isn’t enough just to know about Christ. We also have to accept His gift of salvation. After all, even Satan knows Jesus. In fact, Satan probably knows Him better than we do since he was once an angel in heaven. But Satan chose rebellion and now his eternity is hell instead of heaven.
It isn’t baptism that saves us either. We can be baptized so many times that every tadpole knows your name, phone number, and social security number, but you can still die lost and without Jesus as your Savior.
We can’t take what God offers and modify it to fit what we want. God’s way is the only way. Ezra sought to do things God’s way. He sought to follow the commandments God had given. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” God fully expects us to not just read the Bible, but to do what it says. He doesn’t just expect us to hear the preacher on Sunday, but to do what the Holy Spirit convicts us of as He speaks to us through the pastor’s sermon.
Ezra did what the Word said and modeled it for the people to follow.
Lessons from Ezra: #4. Teach God’s Word
Seeking and doing wasn’t enough of Ezra. He also taught the people what God expected of them and how to follow God’s commandments. Through prayer, intercession, and preaching, he achieved some measure of success. In Nehemiah 8, we find that Ezra read the law before all of the people when he re-instituted the Feat of Tabernacles. He had a desire to teach the people what God’s laws were and to help them connect the judgment of their captivity to the past sins they had committed so that they could know how to live as God expected when He brought them back home. After 70 years in captivity, they had to have assimilated some of the culture that surrounded them. If they were going to live God’s way, they had to be taught God’s way. And Ezra was the man for the job.
Ezra: A Model for Us Today
Ezra stands as a model for us today. These four lessons from Ezra show us how to prepare, seek, do, and teach God’s Word to the people God places in our lives. If we want to see a revival in our world today, then we must prepare our hearts, seek the presence of God, do what He tells us in His Word, and then teach it to others. Our world desperately needs some “Ezras” today. Are you an Ezra that God is calling to prepare, seek, do, and teach God’s Word?
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