Ezra was a priest and scribe. He was a descendent of Aaron. Because of Israel and Judah’s unfaithfulness to God, they were conquered and taken into captivity as prophesied by Jeremiah. Their captivity lasted 70 years. King Artaxerxes of Persia released a large company of Israelites, allowing them to return to Jerusalem. Ezra was one of the people that returned. He was skilled in the Law of Moses and because of Ezra, Israel experienced reform after returning from 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.
First, he had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord. Seeking God, often begins with preparing our heart, which is 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. If 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, 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.
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.
Ezra, however, didn’t just seek the Law of the Lord, he also set out to do it. 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. 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 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.
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 the Ezra read the law before all of the people when he reinstituted 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 as God had 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 stands as a model for us today. Each of us need to prepare our hearts, study His word, do His Word, and then teach others.
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Julia is CEO of Wellspring Christian Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people and couples develop a passionate relationship with God. A public speaker, conference trainer, event planner, and blog writer, Julia is a two-time graduate from Grand Canyon University with a bachelor in Psychology and a masters in Professional Counseling. Saved as a child and raised in church and in a Christian home and private Christian School as a Pastor’s kid, Julia has taught Sunday school, led music, played the piano, served as Children’s Director, and engaged her gifts in many other areas of church life. Previously employed with the Florida Baptist Convention, Julia organized events and led conferences for church ministry assistants.
Julia enjoys sharing her journey as a growing Christian with others looking for a deeper connection with God. Through Bible study and her own life experiences, God has given Julia a passion to help couples understand God’s design for marriage while they learn to place God first in their marriage, cultivate meaningful relationships, build intimacy, and address the tougher issues that come in every marriage so that they can experience a marriage that honors and glorifies God. Julia also loves mentoring, teaching, and working with women to help them learn to live as Godly women.
With her history and experience growing up in both small and large churches, Julia enjoys bringing top level quality events to churches of all sizes. Her father largely pastored small churches and therefore she understands that these vital parts of the believing community need to be good stewards of the resources God provides them with. This knowledge inspires her passion for being available with a fresh perspective for those who want to provide their congregations with meaningful spiritual growth opportunities.