FOR EZRA HAD SET HIS HEART:
(1Samuel 7:3; 1Chronicles 29:18; 2Chronicles 12:14; 19:3; Job
11:13; Psalms 10:17; 57:7)
calls Ezra 7:10 the "key verse" for he sees this as the key to Ezra's
the "Ezra 7:10 Principle" - the "secret" of Spirit empowered, Word
centered, Christ exalting, God glorifying preaching and "abundant
life" living (John 10:10).
of our heart - At the outset of this exposition, it strikes me
that Ezra's heart was like a compass, ever pointing to God through the
supernatural working of His Spirit and His living and active word. And
it was in this supernatural context of a Word saturated, God centered
heart, that Ezra, a man of the Book and the God of the Book, was
compelled (even impelled) to return to his beloved city of Jerusalem.
May we as believers on this side of the Cross find ourselves so
similarly saturated with God's love letter that it grips our heart
like it did Ezra's, so that we are compelled (even impelled) to live
progressively more and more with a Colossians 3:1, 2, 3, 4/Romans 12:1, 2
and the things of this present world grow strangely dim in the light
of His glory and grace. Amen. (Turn
Your Eyes Upon Jesus - Violin and Video;
O soul, are you
weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
FROM BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY
Context - Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther are the last three books in
the historical section of the Old Testament (Joshua-Nehemiah).
These three books tell us what happened to the Jewish people after the
70 Year Babylonian Captivity and give details of the three stages of
the return of the Jews (538, 458, 445 BC) to their beloved city
Jerusalem. In is interesting to note that there were also three stages
of exile to Babylon - 603, 597 and 586 BC!
THE 3 RETURNS OF THE
JEWS TO JERUSALEM
AFTER THE 70 YEARS OF BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY
= Time Lapse Between Ezra 6 & 7
All the Events of Esther Take Place During this Time
Serves as Priest in Jerusalem for the Intervening 13 Years
Ezra Appears in Nehemiah 8 After Wall Rebuilt - Revival
of the books of Ezra to Nehemiah and Esther - The book of Ezra
is a very interesting book because it is actually two books,
Ezra 1-6 comprising "book one" and Ezra 7-10 comprising
"book two". Between Ezra 6 and 7 there is a time gap of about
58 years! And guess what? During this 58 year time gap all of the
events in the book of Esther took place! Then Ezra 10 is
immediately succeeded by the events in the book of Nehemiah. So
compressed into these last 3 historical books of the Old Testament
canon, are four fascinating stories dealing with God's sovereign,
providential dealings with His chosen people after 70 year period of
punishment as captives in Babylon. In Psalm 137, the psalmist
gives us some insight into how the exiled Jews felt about this time of
exile. As you read these words filled with pathos, ponder the pain and
the pull of homesickness for the city of God that must have gripped
godly leaders like Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah...
Psalm 137:1 By the rivers of
Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 Upon
the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps. 3 For there our
captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, "Sing
us one of the songs of Zion." 4 How can we sing the LORD's song In a
foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget
her skill. 6 May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I
do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Comment: These sad words
give us some insight into the emotions that must have filled and
motivated the hearts of men like Ezra and Nehemiah to resolve to leave
their comfortable conditions in Persia and return to their blessed
city of David. Dear NT believer, let the Spirit birthed yearnings for
our heavenly Zion and our glorious King, motivate and inspire and
compel us to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call
of God in Christ Jesus (see Phil 3:14-note),
not becoming comfortable with this present world which is passing away
and even its lusts (cp 1John 2:15, 16, 17).
Dear Father in heaven, according
to Your great lovingkindness please grant that your redeemed sons and
daughters might have hearts like Ezra and Nehemiah such that we would
continually contemplate and yearn for Mount Zion and the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22-note),
and that this longing and passion might by Your grace cause us to
order our steps ever upward during our short sojourn as aliens and
strangers (1 Pe 2:11-note)
in this present evil age. For Thy glory. Amen.
Kings during the time of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther -
1. CYRUS THE GREAT (550-530
This is the king that Isaiah had
long ago promised would come and deliver the children of Israel
(Isaiah 44:28; 45:1, 2, 3, 4, 5). He conquered the Babylonians and then allowed
the Jews to return to their homeland and to rebuild their temple (Ezra
chapter 1). Daniel was still alive when Cyrus was king (Daniel 1:21;
2. CAMBYSES (530-522 B.C.)
3. SMERDIS (he ruled less than a year)
4. DARIUS THE GREAT (522-486 B.C.)
Darius made a decree that the work
of the temple should be continued without any hindrance (Ezra chapter
6). It was during his reign that the temple was completed (Ezra
Note: Don’t confuse this king with Darius the Mede who is
mentioned in the book of Daniel (see Daniel 5:31; 6:1). Darius the
Mede was the governor of Babylon under Cyrus the Great.
5. AHASUERUS or XERXES (486-464
This is the king that we read about
in the book of Esther. Esther became his queen. He is also mentioned
in Ezra 4:6.
6. ARTAXERXES I (464-423 B.C.)
At first this king sent a decree
ordering the Jews to stop rebuilding the city and the walls (see Ezra
4:6-23). Later, however, he allowed his cupbearer, Nehemiah, to return
to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah chapters 1-2). This
is also the same king who had earlier allowed Ezra to return (Ezra
These were all great kings, but as we read the books of Ezra, Nehemiah
and Esther, we learn that there is a much greater KING in heaven who
is in control of all things! (adapted
from Middletown Bible synopsis)
dictionary discussion for
background on Ezra)
(Hebrew conjunction transliterated as "ki")
Don't miss this conjunction which is used in Hebrew to introduce an explanation
functions similar to a term of conclusion. The New Living
Translation although a paraphrase strongly emphasizes the linkage
between this passage and the preceding passages writing that...
This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the
LORD and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel.
question is "What is this?" or "What does for
explain?" and to answer we need to observe the previous passages where
we find the powerful truth that the good hand of the LORD was upon
For on the first of the first month
he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he
came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon
him. (Ezra 7:9)
rendering (For Esdras had determined in his heart to seek the law,
and to do and teach the ordinances and judgments in Israel.) is
almost identical to the Hebrew rendering. The
renders the Hebrew word
for "good" (tob) with the Greek adjective
agathos which describes that which is
"good" in its character or constitution and beneficial, useful or
profitable in its effect.
Agathos describes that which has the
proper characteristics for performing the expected function in a fully
satisfactory way. What better way to think of the "hand of Jehovah"!
Always sufficient for the need of the moment.
The metaphor of
being in someone's hand (or having their hand on someone) was
common in the OT and spoke of being in the power of that person or
entity. In the present context, the picture is one of God's power (His
"good hand") being upon Ezra the scribe, not to defeat him but to give
him the victory. This same phrase (hand of his God) is repeated several times in Ezra
and gives us a clue to the "secret" behind his strong leadership, his
influence with kings and his soul stirring preaching. Notice the
same phrase earlier in this chapter...
Ezra 7:6 This Ezra went up
from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which
the LORD God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he
requested because the hand of the LORD his God was upon him.
Comment: Why did this pagan
king grant Ezra his request? The Scripture clearly states "because the
hand of the LORD his God was upon him."
Here are the
other occurrences of the phrase the good hand of the LORD in
the book of Ezra...
Ezra 7:27 Blessed be the
LORD (the result of God's hand being upon him granting him favor was
to break out in a chorus of praise and thanksgiving, giving glory to
the only One Who should receive glory! As we experience His blessing
and hand upon us, may we also imitate Ezra's response!), the God of
our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to
adorn the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, 28 and has
extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and
before all the king's mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened
according to the hand of the LORD my God upon me, and I gathered
leading men from Israel to go up with me.
Comment: This passage makes
it clear that it was God Who put such a thing into this pagan king’s
heart to allow Ezra and his fellow Jews to return and beautify the
house of the Lord in Jerusalem. As noted above (Ezra 7:6) Ezra still
had to go and ask for this favor (man's responsibility), even though
God had placed it in the king's heart (God's sovereignty). To go
before such a powerful monarch and ask for such extravagant
provisions for his people who were in captivity and whom the king
easily could have exterminated took courage. Where did Ezra derive
that courage? Read verse 28 again, which clearly states the source of
Ezra’s strength! There is an interesting principle here that God's
blesses but some of his blessings entail men fulfilling their
responsibility, the very principle Paul explains in the New
Testament (see notes
Ezra 8:18 And according to
the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of
insight of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel,
namely Sherebiah, and his sons and brothers, 18 men;
Prayer and Fasting and
The Good Hand of the Lord
Ezra 8:22 For I was ashamed
to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the
enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, "The hand of our
God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him (exactly what
Ezra had purposed in his heart in Ezra 7:10), but His power and His
anger are against all those who forsake Him." 23 So we
fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to
Comment: This passage adds
another facet to the Ezra 710 principle (set heart, study, do, teach)
by emphasizing the role of prayer and fasting. This is not
surprising because intake of the pure Word into a godly heart will
stimulate Word centered, God exalting prayer.
Ezra 8:31 Then we journeyed
from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to
Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He
delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way.
Summary of Effect of
God's Good Hand on Ezra
Ezra 7:27, 28
Fear of the LORD and
The Good Hand of Jehovah
Here is another passage
that teaches a similar truth using a different anthropomorphism (eye
instead of hand)...
Behold, the eye of the LORD (cp
"hand of the LORD") is on
those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to
deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine
(blessed = fully satisfied independent of the circumstances).
(Psalm 33:18, 19)
Comment: Deliverance from
evil does not come by military power, manpower, or horsepower but
spiritual power. And so we see that the Psalmist amplifies the Ezra
710 principle (set heart, study, do, teach, prayer and fasting in
Ezra 8:22, 23) with an individual's volitional choice to fear
(reverentially awe) Jehovah. (cp Ps 128:1, 2)
The Good Hand of Jehovah
Here are the other 2 uses of the
phrase "hand of Jehovah" or variation thereof in the life of Nehemiah, another OT saint
whom God used mightily to accomplish His work on earth...
Nehemiah 2:7 And I (Nehemiah)
said to the king (see ISBE article on
"If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of
the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through
until I come to Judah, 2:8 and a letter to Asaph the keeper of
the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the
gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the
city, and for the house to which I will go." And the king granted them
to me because the good hand of my God was on me.
Nehemiah 2:18 And I told
them (the Jews who would help build the wall) how the hand of my
God had been favorable to me (literally "the hand of my God
that is good upon me"), and also about the king's words which he
had spoken to me. Then they said, "Let us arise and build." So they
put their hands to the good work.
MISSING THE BLESSING
OF THE GOOD HAND OF THE LORD
This principle regarding the good hand of the LORD is
seen in the prophets words to King Asa (who sadly ignored them to
2Chronicles 16:9 For
the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may
strongly support (cp "good hand of Jehovah") those whose heart is
completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on
you will surely have wars.
Comment: Note that this
verse also begins with for indicating that the writer is
explaining something previously stated, in context explaining why the
LORD had delivered Asa's (and Israel's) enemies into his hand or
power. Notice how King Asa serves as an example (cp 1Cor 10:6,
11) of one who clearly experienced the the good hand of the LORD upon
him as king over Judah giving him victories over his adversaries (read
2Chronicles 15:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16,
17, 18, 19 and 2Chr 16:1ff for the historical context). Don't miss how
Asa's "success" (cp "good hand of the LORD") was integrally associated
with his hearing (and welcoming) the word of Jehovah through the
prophet Azariah (cp Ezra's setting his heart to study and practice the
Law of the LORD) in 2Chronicles 15. Then contrast the time of
blessing ("good hand upon") of Jehovah in 2Chronicles 15:15, with
the consequences of refusing to receive and practice the Word of God
delivered to King Asa through Hanani the seer in 2Chronicles 16:1, 2,
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. The upshot - you can experience the good hand
of the LORD for a season and you can lose it by failing to continue to
let the word of Christ dwell in you richly! (see Col 3:16-note)
If any may thinks he stands, he had better take heed lest he fall. God
is opposed to ("stiff arms"!) the proud (cp "the heavy hand of
Jehovah") but gives grace to the humble ("the good hand").
righteous man (clearly a true believer - see 2Pe 2:6-note;
is another sad example of a man who missed the blessing of the good
hand of the LORD. In Genesis 13 the growth of the flocks of Abram and
Lot led to strife and the need for them to separate. Abram gave Lot
"first choice", a choice which resulted in Lot's missing the "good
hand of the LORD". Note the progression in the following passages...
Genesis 13:10 And Lot
lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that
it was well watered everywhere—this was before the LORD destroyed
Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt
as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself
all the valley of the Jordan; and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they
separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of
Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and
moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were
wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
looked, chose, and settled ("became comfortable"
rather than living as an alien and stranger - see 1Pe 1:1-note;
1 Peter 2:11-note) and
missed the good hand of the LORD. In Genesis 19:16 we see that Lot
was so settled in Sodom that the hand of God's angels
had to yank he and his whole family out of that moral cesspool! Let us
remember Lot's example, lest our looking and choosing in this fleeting
life cause us to miss the good hand of the Lord on our life, our
family, our ministry! Or as Jesus commanded his listeners in (Luke
= keep on remembering. Why? Because our tendency is to drift, to
forget!) Lot's wife" because she lingered and looked back (Ge 19:26)
and paid for her disobedience with her life.
May God grant us each grace and
mercy so that we as godly men and leaders of our churches and families
will not forget these tragic OT examples of men who missed the
blessing of the good hand of the LORD! Amen
A MAN OF ONE BOOK
good hand was clearly associated with the provision, power and
protection in Ezra's ministry. And as we see seen the root of divine
blessing was that Ezra was a "man of the book" (scratch him
anywhere and he "bled Bible"), a
man like Apollos who was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). Ezra
is a worthy model for any preacher who desires to be used mightily by
Commentary comments on the good hand of the LORD upon Ezra
His (Ezra's) soul felt the
quickening touch of the Divine finger, and it kindled with a sacred
glow of piety and zeal. He was moved of God to attempt great things,
and helped of God to achieve them. His life flowed on like a
fertilizing river (Ed: cp Ps 1:2), and did so because “all his springs
were in God” (Ps 87:7). Our character may contain much that is
excellent, and our lives include much that is honourable, but except
the “hand of the Lord our God be upon us,” renewing our heart
and blessing our life, we shall not be or do that which is pleasing to
him or useful to our fellows (Ed: Cp Jesus' words in John 15:5). (The
Pulpit Commentary: Ezra. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.)
(1) Ezra “sought the law of the Lord.” No study more remunerative—more
ennobling—more pleasing to God.
(2) He sought it in earnest. “prepared his heart,” viz., by raising it
above impure prejudices; by seeking the light of the great Inspirer in
(3) He reduced it to practice. He prepared his heart “to do it.”
Glorious example. His life was therefore righteous, and his influence
consequently great—viz., (a) With God. (b) With the king. (c) With the
(4) And “he taught it to Israel.” He taught Israel the “statutes,”
viz., precepts and “judgments,” viz., sanctions (1 Kings 6:12; Ezek.
11:12). What a degenerate succession from the noble Ezra were the
scribes of our Lord’s day! Let us emulate his qualities.—J. A. M. (The
Pulpit Commentary: Ezra. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.)
Ezra: his character and work.
The study of human character and of human life is not only an
essential part of human knowledge, but of spiritual culture. Biography
is a means of grace. We do well to follow in thought the lines along
which the noblest of our race have moved: we are thereby attracted
toward them, and grow up toward their spiritual stature. We may learn
from the life and character of Ezra by considering—
I. What we know he was and did.
1. A priest, claiming
descent, as we see, from Aaron (Ezra 7:5); and we doubt not that he
discharged, faithfully and conscientiously, the duties of the
priesthood. He was, moreover, what came to be called—
2. A scribe (Ezra 7:6),
i.e., (1) a student, (2) an interpreter, and (3) a copyist of the law.
Ezra “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it,
and to teach,” etc. (Ezra 7:10).
These three functions of the scribe
include the three most important duties a man can undertake: viz.,
(1) his duty of himself, in
studying the will of God as revealed in his word, that he may have it
in his own heart; and,
(2) his duty to his own generation,
in teaching his fellows what he has learned: in interpreting, in
“giving the sense” (Neh. 8:8), in “teaching statutes and judgments”
(Ezra 7:10), i. e. in declaring and enforcing the great truths which
God had revealed, especially those which affected the duty and the
prospects of the Jewish people; and
(3) his duty to his race, in
copying, and thus multiplying and preserving intact the word and the
very words of God. Ezra “gave his heart” to this (Ezra 7:10), and the
result was that he did it with conspicuous and commanding ability
(Neh. 8). He was a “ready scribe” (Ezra 7:6).
3. Administrator and
reformer. He conducted the party whom he headed to Jerusalem in
peace and safety (Ezra 7:8); there he established himself as leader of
the people, and set about the work of reforming abuses with a vigorous
hand. His ardour led to a serviceable organisation and reform. He
seems also to have been, as few strong-willed men are, a co-operator
with others. He acted with Nehemiah, the governor, and it may well
have been difficult to define strictly their respective offices.
4. Man of influence with his
fellows. There was that about him, due to the elevation and
disinterestedness of his character as well as to the vigour and
robustness of his mind, which gave him strange influence with the
king, so that he gave him leave to lead out a large return party, and
also entrusted him with large powers in the commission. Men who, like
Ezra, earnestly seek the will of God and do what they know to be right
(Ezra 7:10), and lay themselves out for “doing good and communicating”
(Heb. 13:16), are likely to have power with men.
5. Man through whom God wrought.
“The hand of the Lord his God was upon him” (Ezra 7:6, 9,
etc.). His soul felt the quickening touch of the Divine finger, and it
kindled with a sacred glow of piety and zeal. He was moved of God to
attempt great things, and helped of God to achieve them. His life
flowed on like a fertilizing river (Ed: cp the man of Ps 1:2),
and did so because “all his springs were in God” (Ps 87:7). Our
character may contain much that is excellent, and our lives include
much that is honourable, but except the hand of the Lord our God be
upon us, renewing our heart and blessing our life, we shall not be
or do that which is pleasing to him or useful to our fellows.
II. Generally received tradition
It is commonly believed among the
Jews that he instituted the Great Synagogue, that he settled the canon
of Scripture, that he himself wrote the books of the Chronicles, Ezra,
Nehemiah, and (perhaps) Esther, and that he established the system of
synagogue worship. This last arose about his time, and, if indeed due
to him, is a work which laid his countrymen, and indeed us all (for
had not the forms of the synagogue something, if not much, to do with
the forms of the early Church?), under a heavy debt of gratitude. Ezra
was a holy and zealous man, with a strong mind and a firm will,
exercising a commanding influence on his contemporaries, making the
word of God the basis and mainspring of his action, seeking and
striving for the purity of the people of God. Some things he did we
know. Others we know not of. We may not be so great and distinguished
as he was. It may not be in our power to render such signal services
as he did, or to leave behind us such a reputation as he has left. Yet
in the essentials of his character and work we may be like him. We
(1) Be devout students of God’s
will as revealed in his word—“preparing our heart to seek the law of
the Lord, and to do it.”
(2) Open our hearts to receive
heavenly influences; gain by humility, docility, and prayer” the hand
of the Lord our God upon us,” so that he will dwell in us and work
(3) Make known the will of God to
others, teaching in some sphere, higher or humbler, the word of God
and the truth of Jesus Christ.
(4) Co-operate cheerfully with
others, yielding our preferences to theirs, being “of the same mind in
the Lord” with those who are our fellow-labourers in the field of
Christian work. And if we do this as did Ezra, we shall, like him,
(5) do that which men will mark and
praise, but much more that they will not record; much, however, that
will not be unwritten in some book of God, and that will “in no wise
lose its reward.”—C. (The Pulpit Commentary: Ezra. H. D. M.
To reiterate, God’s sovereign
hand of blessing and empowerment was on Ezra because
he was a "Word saturated man" one who "marinated" himself in
the pure milk of the Word and then lived out what the Spirit taught
him in his studies.
As Horatio Bonar once
We must study the Bible more. We
must not only lay it up within us, but transfuse it through the whole
texture of the soul.
Thus it was not
so much that Ezra had gone through the Book so many times, but more
that the Book had coursed through his heart and soul to the point that
his will was in synch with will of God which is always most
clearly revealed in the Word of God. Ezra was "in touch" with
the Father's heart, through His Word and the teaching ministry of His
Spirit, and as a result had as his heart's desire to see God glorified
in his life (cp notes on same principle in the NT - letting your light
Cole introduces his message on Ezra 7:1-28
that God Blesses
with the following words...
Over thirty years ago, I read a
sermon that has impacted my life as much or more than any of the
thousands of sermons that I have read. It is titled, “Expecting the
Lord’s Blessing,” by the late Chinese evangelist Watchman Nee (in
Twelve Baskets Full [Hong Kong Church Book Room], 2:48-64). That
sermon, based on the Lord’s feeding of the 5,000, has affected the
entire direction and motivation of my personal life and my ministry.
Nee hammers home a simple but profound truth: “Everything in our
service for the Lord is dependent on His blessing” (p. 48). He
observes that in the feeding of the 5,000, the supply in hand was
totally inadequate to meet the demand, and yet the demand was met. He
says, “The meeting of need is not dependent on the supply in hand, but
on the blessing of the Lord resting on the supply” (ibid.). That leads
Nee to ask a question that I want you to ponder seriously: “Do we
really prize the Lord’s blessing?” (p. 49). Do you really want and
seek God’s blessing on your personal life, your family, your service
for the Lord, and on His church?
We all know the right answer to
that question. Few would be so brazen as to say, “No, I don’t want
God’s blessing. I’d rather try to make my own blessings apart from
God!” But I don’t want you to give a knee-jerk “yes” answer just
because it is the obviously correct answer. I want you to think about
the implications of the question before you answer.
There are a number of men in
Scripture whom God blessed: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and David are
prominent examples. But Ezra is also a man whom God blessed, even
though he is not so well known as those other men are. We first meet
him in chapter 7 of the book that bears his name. There is a 57-58
year gap between the events in chapters 6 and 7. The temple had been
rebuilt under the ministries of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, aided by the
preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The exiles that had
returned to Israel during that first wave were either dead or very old
by now. They had settled into the land and, as we will see, in many
cases had begun to blend together with the pagans of the land. The
walls of Jerusalem had not been rebuilt, leaving the city vulnerable
to attack. God raised up Ezra and Nehemiah to bring spiritual reform
to His people.
Both men were born in Babylon and
had close connections with King Artaxerxes. No doubt they both enjoyed
comfortable living conditions there. But both men were burdened with
the low spiritual state of the exiles that had returned to the land.
Both men were willing to give up their comfortable situations in
Babylon and endure the hardship and hassles to bring reform to God’s
people. But how could they accomplish this overwhelming task? The
answer occurs in a phrase that first occurs three times in our
chapter, and then five times in the rest of Ezra and Nehemiah: God’s
hand was on these men (Ezra 7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31; Neh 2:8, 18).
God’s hand is another way of saying God’s blessing. God blessed these
two men and their labors for Him. If we want His blessing or hand to
rest on us, we would do well to study their lives. We could add more
factors, but limiting ourselves to Ezra 7, we learn that…
To have God’s hand of blessing on
us, we must study and obey His Word, with a view to teaching others
and glorifying God for everything.
That theme is stated in Ezra 7:10,
which explains why “the good hand of his God was upon him” (7:9): “For
Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice
it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” The
connection between Ezra and God’s Word is repeated no less than eight
times (Ezra 7:6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 21, 25, 26)! There is a definite
correlation between our commitment to know and obey God’s Word and His
hand of blessing being upon us. (The Life
that God Blesses
- if you are not familiar with Pastor Cole's teaching ministry, you might read
some of his excellent expositional sermons which function much like
Had set his heart
head but his heart!)
Had prepared (kuwn) his heart.
(kuwn) means to set up, to make firm, to establish, to prepare. The
primary action of this verb is to cause to stand in an upright position,
and thus kuwn can also mean fixed or steadfast. This same verb is used to
describe God establishing the heavens (Pr 3:19).
The picture of kuwn in the
present context is that of preparing one's heart, in this case to
seek, to study, to receive the Word of Truth. Compare a similar use of
kuwn in the case of Solomon's successor to the throne
of whom the chronicler records...
And he did evil because he did not
set (Kuwn - "prepared not" = KJV) his heart to seek the Lord. (2Chr 12:14)
Kuwn is used one other time in Ezra
chapter 3, and this literal use provides an illustration of the figurative
use in the present passage...
Ezra 3:3 So they set up (kuwn)
the altar on its foundation, for they were terrified because of the
peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD,
burnt offerings morning and evening.
One could also read the text of Ezra 7:10
as stating that Ezra had ”Set his heart firmly" which gives the
idea that Ezra was inwardly determined or resolutely steadfast. He was
determined and this determination was directed toward studying, obeying,
and teaching God’s Law to others—Mark it down! This pattern while not a
"formula", is to be sure an inviolable order for a Spirit empowered
ministry! You cannot teach with power until you yourself have practiced
(obeyed) what you have studied. Do be otherwise deluded (cp James 1:22-note).
We as NT believers, like the OT
believer Ezra, must continually set (because the flesh, the world and the
devil continually tempt us to "veer off course") our hearts to
seek, do, and teach the Word of God, for no one accidentally becomes a
faithful student of God's Word. We must each make a daily deliberate
decision of our will (continual choosing) to lay aside lesser
things and/or things that hinder us (see Hebrews 12:1-note) in order to seek the best.
I Packer emphasizes the critical need for each of us to prepare
our hearts before we seek God in His Word noting that...
One of the many divine qualities of
the Bible is this: that it does not yield its secrets to the
irreverent and censorious.
Spurgeon issues a similar caveat declaring that...
God sends every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest.
One is reminded of Solomon's wise advice concerning godly
wisdom, noting that...
If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures
then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge
Daniel was without question one of the
greatest of the Old Testament saints (cp Ezekiel 14:14) and was one who
able to live godly in a radically ungodly, idolatrous culture (sound
What was Daniel's secret? Daniel
1 explains that Daniel's secret was the same as Ezra's in that it has to
do with the choices one makes in one's heart. In Daniel chapter 1 we read
the key (in my opinion) to his long godly life in which he repeatedly
experienced the good hand of the LORD upon all of his endeavors...
But Daniel made up
his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food
or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the
commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Note that Daniel 1:7 begins with
Daniel" which begs the question of what is being contrasted? The previous
section gives the
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the
chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including
some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4 youths in whom was no
defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of
wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had
ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them
the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for
them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he
drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end
of which they were to enter the king's personal service. 6 Now among them
from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 Then
the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel
he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael
Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego (Daniel 1:3-7)
Daniel 1 Commentary
So we see that Daniel made a choice
that could have cost him his life. The phrase "made up his mind" is
more literally "placed it upon his heart", where the heart reflects
the "control tower" so to speak of one's life. The
(Greek translation of the Hebrew text)
translated into English reads...
And Daniel himself (reflexive = he
initiated the action and participated in the results) placed it upon
his heart that he would absolutely not (double negative in the
BGT [TH], the strongest way to express negation in Greek) be polluted
(defiled) in the king's banquet...
Isn't life really nothing but a series
of (sometimes hard) "heart choices"? Perhaps
what you are considering is not sinful, but is it God's best? Is it
something that will allow you to redeem the time knowing how precious are
these few years we have on earth in light of our eternity in God's
May God give each of us the grace
that Daniel possessed to assess our "life options" and choose to lay on
our heart those options which are the most God glorifying. In Jesus' Name.
In summary, to set one’s heart is to “direct his
heart constantly towards”.
WHAT IS THE DIRECTION
OF YOUR HEART?
PONDER WHERE IT WILL TAKE YOU
IN THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES...
Scripture has a number of passages that
use the identical phrase (same verb and noun in Hebrew) of directing
Then Samuel spoke to all the house of
Israel, saying, "If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the
foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts
to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand
(paraphrase = "from the power") of the Philistines." (1Samuel 7:3,4) (What
is the promise?...Man's responsibility? Note the verbs - return...
remove... direct... deliver)
(David's prayer for Israel and his son
Solomon) O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (he is making his
appeal based on the
our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Thy
people, and direct their heart to Thee (see 2 Chr 20:3
below) and give to my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep Thy
commandments, Thy testimonies, and Thy statutes, and to do them all, and
to build the temple, for which I have made provision." (1 Chronicles
And he (King
Rehoboam) did evil because
he did not set his heart (Hebrew word here is not lebab but
related noun leb -
03820) to seek the LORD. (2 Chronicles
12:14) (Why did he do evil? What do we have to do before we can truly
"seek God"? Dear God, deliver us from this subtle trap in our own lives -
let it be not our way, but Thine. Amen)
the prophet speaking and
denouncing the king) But there is some good in you (King
Jehoshaphat), for you have
removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart
to seek God." 4 So Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem and went out again
among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought
them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. (2Chronicles 19:3, 4)
The high places, however, were not
removed; the people had not yet directed their hearts to the
God of their fathers. (2Chronicles 20:33)
Comment: 2 Chronicles 17:6 says
removed the high places and Asherim from Judah, but this verse indicates
that apparently the people of Israel had otherwise resisted Jehoshaphat's
(Speaking of the generation to come,
Asaph says they should be taught to remember and obey God) And not be like
their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did
not prepare its heart, and whose spirit was not faithful to
God. (Psalm 78:8)
Comment: Note how unfaithfulness
to God parallels not preparing one's heart!
Spurgeon adds... "They had no
decision for righteousness and truth. In them there was no preparedness,
or willingness of heart, to entertain the Saviour; neither judgments, nor
mercies could bind their affections to their God; they were fickle as the
winds, and changeful as the waves." (Ref)
Here are some other excellent cross
references related to setting one's heart. If you have time study
to see implications of preparing one's
2Chronicles 11:16, 30:19, Job 11:13,
Psalms 10:17, 57:7, 62:10, 78:8, 37, 108:1, 112:7,8, 1Corinthians 15:58,
Ezra's heart was undoubtedly prepared
to receive the Word implanted by confession of his sins for it is impossible to study the Scriptures profitably with an impure mind.
Therefore putting aside (decisively
casting off sins as one would a filthy, odoriferous garment!) all
filthiness (Greek rhuparia from rhupos = wax in one's ear!) and all that
remains of wickedness, in humility receive (accept deliberately and
readily, receive kindly, as one would put out a welcome mat for guests!)
the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (see James 1:21-note)
Comment: While this "salvation"
could refer to our initial salvation (justified or declared righteous by
faith), it could also refer to our daily salvation (progressive
sanctification) of which all believers stand in continual need.
Therefore, putting aside (casting these
off like a "dirty, filthy" garment) all malice and
all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (note the "all's"
- 1Jn 1:9 says when we confess God cleanses us from all
unrighteousness!), like newborn babes, long
for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to
salvation (See 1Pe 2:1-note;
Sin will keep you from the Bible or
The Bible will keep you from sin.
The phrase set his heart conveys
the idea of being firmly committed to a particular course of action with
unwavering steadfastness. The verb signifies being “established, prepared,
fixed” in a determined pursuit. The same root word is used to
portray God’s establishment of the heavens (Pr 3:19;
8:27). Thus the expression carries the idea of a determined purpose and
unwavering resolution to act in a prescribed way to bring something to
To paraphrase this verse in modern
terms Ezra's heart...
was zeroed in on the primary goal of
studying God’s Word.
The more you read it, the more you love it;
The more you love
it, the more you read it.
In Psalm 1 guarding ourselves
from wickedness (not walking, standing or sitting) precedes delighting
in the Word which leads to meditating on the Word. (See exposition
of Psalm 1:1-note;
Ps 1:3-note) And the more we
meditate on it, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, the more we
delight in it, etc.
kardia - see word study) refers not
only to his
intellect per se only but in Hebrew speaks of that which rules
one's very being, the very center of human life -- the seat of affections,
emotions, desires. The heart,
in which Ezra purposed to study the Scriptures connotes “the totality of
man’s inner or immaterial nature”
Ezra, or anyone who would follow his
example, would direct the core of their being constantly toward the task
of studying and pouring over the Scriptures. But to say that this function
was Ezra's “ministry” would be missing emphasis of Ezra 7:10. More to the
point, one might say that the study of the Scriptures was his life—his
all-consuming passion. Little else commanded his attention like the task
that God had set before him. Ezra gave his best effort to study, practice,
and teach God’s law, each activity being observed completely and in order.
At this point, we must each do personal inventory and ask -
Do I truly give God my best efforts
in this area? If we "stop"
up the fountain, the source of life in His living and active word, we
short circuit the Spirit's power in our life and ministry. Being "anemic"
ourselves, we have little power and passion to pass on to those we are
called to disciple.
I remember reading about John
MacArthur's interview (my details may not be completely accurate) to take
the lead pastor position at Grace Community Church. As I recall the story,
he said that he would take the position on the condition (what I would
call an "Ezra 7:10" condition) that the church would guarantee that he had
30 hours of uninterrupted study time during the week in which he could
on the Word so that he would have truth from God to
bring to the congregation on Sunday. Let me ask you...Has the good hand
of the LORD been upon Dr John MacArthur's ministry? I think the
evidence speaks for itself. I love the heading on his website -
"Unleashing God's truth one verse at
A similar story could surely be told
about another well known American pastor, Dr John Piper, a
mighty expositor of God's Word, one who has diligently practiced the Ezra
7:10 principle and as a result has clearly experienced the good hand of
the LORD on his ministry. May Dr MacArthur's and Dr Piper's tribe
In summary, both Dr MacArthur and Dr
Piper have "bought in" (in my opinion) to the "Ezra 7:10" principle of
church growth, feeding their sheep pure milk (see 1Pe 2:2-note)
and solid food (see Hebrews 5:14-note)
and thereby growing their flocks mightily in the grace and knowledge of
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory to God in the highest!
With such God glorifying results
promised to those who practice the "Ezra 7:10 principle", why do we see so
few "Ezras" in the pulpits across America today?
I do not know the answer but I feel that part of that answer is that many
don't truly believe Luke 1:37 which the ASV renders as...
No word from God shall be void of
In this Luke passage, the Greek word
for "no" is the strongest word for no that Luke could have used --
absolutely no Word of God is impotent! Do we really believe this is
true? Do we really believe that diligent study, practice and teaching of
the eternal, inherently powerful word will unleash the power of God's hand
upon us, upon our ministry and upon those we pastor? If this is your
desire, perhaps you need to reorder priorities if you are the lead pastor
or teacher. Perhaps you need to go to the elders and request a block of
absolutely, immutably uninterrupted time during the week in order to begin
to apply the "Ezra 7:10 principle". If you should be one of those
who does make this decision, your church will never be the same as it
begins to experience the reality of the supernatural reality of the
good hand of the LORD upon it's various ministries.
Revive your shepherds, O LORD,
According to Thy word. Amen.
(based on Ps 119:25)
Now, let us return to the study of our
passage and reiterate that the Hebrew word for heart represents
the center or middle of something, and can indeed refer to the physical heart,
organ which pumps blood to supplies life for the entire body. Of the some 850
uses of heart (lebab) in the Old Testament, the most
common meaning is figurative and signifies a person’s inner
being including one's mind, emotions, will, etc. Thus the heart denotes the
intellect, by which one thinks, analyzes, compares, and understands a
matter (1Kings 3:12; 2Kings 5:26; 2Chr 9:23; Pr 11:12; 16:23),
the emotions, or the deepest innermost feelings of a person (Pr 17:22,
25:20); and the volition, the seat of the will where choices are made
(Nu 16:28; Judges. 9:3; 2Chr 12:14). When Ezra set his heart to
study the Word, the study of Scripture absolutely consumed his life. And
even as a healthy physical heart is vital to one's overall physical
health, so too the spiritual condition of our heart affects the vitality
of our entire being. Little wonder that Scripture is replete with
encouragements and admonitions that relate to our spiritual heart,
one of my favorites being...
(Hebrew verb here is a command - it is "imperative" that we continually stand guard on the
watchtower; the Greek Lxx uses
tereo [see word study]
= this command which speaks of
our continual need to keep our eye upon the citadel of our heart, guarding
over it in order to protect it from the variegated noxious agents
which the world, the flesh and/or the devil would seek to attack us with) over your heart with all diligence (Solomon uses a word
related to that which describes a prison guard keeping watch over a
prisoner in a cell), (why?) for from it flow the springs of life (Life is
the ability to exercise all one's vital power to the fullest; death is the
opposite - Jesus said from our "innermost being shall flow rivers of
living water" speaking of the Spirit Who gives life, cp John 7:38, 39,
6:63. A short, but pithy paraphrase would be "Keep your "river" from being polluted!").
The New Living paraphrase
accurately conveys the thrust of this Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for
it affects everything you do."
Just as the physical heart must be in
good shape for our body to be healthy, so too must our spiritual heart be
in good condition for optimum functioning in the spiritual realm. When the
Spirit of God measures the ''worth'' of a man's life He puts the measuring
tape around his heart, not around his head. Be a man after God's Own
heart (cp the heart of David, Acts 13:22, not a perfect man but one who
offered God a "broken and a contrite heart", Ps 51:17 - "A heart
crushed is a fragrant heart. Men contemn those who are contemptible in
their own eyes, but the Lord seeth not as man seeth. He despises what men
esteem, and values that which they despise. Never yet has God spurned a
lowly, weeping penitent, and never will he while God is love, and while
Jesus is called the man who receiveth sinners. Bullocks and rams he
desires not, but contrite hearts he seeks after; yea, but one of them is
better to him than all the varied offerings of the old Jewish sanctuary."
Matthew Henry commenting on
Proverbs 4:23 wrote that "We must keep a watchful eye and a
strict hand upon all the motions of our inward man. ... God, who gave us
these souls, gave us a strict charge with them. We must set a strict
guard, accordingly, upon all the avenues of the soul; keep our hearts from
doing hurt and getting hurt, from being defiled by sin and disturbed by
trouble; keep out bad thoughts; keep up good thoughts; keep the affections
upon right objects and in due bounds.
If we would "keep" our hearts "with all
diligence", we wouldn't be careless, for example, about what gets into our
hearts through the "eye-gate". We'd "censor" our own television viewing
out of a greater concern to "watch" our own heart. And we'd even be
willing to get rid of our television if it's affecting us negatively. We
would rid our homes of any visual images or literature that incline us
toward sexual immorality or sin of any kind. We'd not only guard
what might come in; but also what might come out. We would keep our own
attitudes in check, so that the words that come out of our mouths aren't
reflective of evil in our heart. We'll be like David, when he prayed
(Psalm 141:3 -
O child of God, guard well your eyes
From anything that stains the heart;
Forsake those things that soil the mind--
Your Father wants you set apart. --Fasick
If you effectively protect your car
from theft, your home from burglary, your property from damage, your
financial interests from failure, and your body from personal illness and
injury, and even our borders from terrorist attacks - and yet fail in
protecting this one, all-important thing as the Bible warns us - that
singular failure will effect all other areas of life.
The heart of man is the worst
part of his being before his conversion, and the best afterwards. It is
the fountain of all his actions. The eye of God is always fixed on the
heart. And believers should be carefully watchful of their hearts.
Christianity is a religion of the heart. It is not a system of moral
conduct. It is the life of Christ in a man's soul. Salvation is the work
of God in a man's heart. The conviction of sin, repentance, faith, and,
worship are all works of the heart. The kingdom of God is not in meat and
drink, things of the body; but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the
Holy Spirit. These are things of the heart. There is no responsibility
placed upon the shoulders of a believer of greater importance than the
keeping and proper government of his heart in all conditions, by faith in
Christ the Lord. If we truly learn to guard our hearts, this
practice will bring the beauty of holiness into our lives, and sweeten our
spirits with the grace of heaven. (see
here for more detail on "the heart")
John Flavel wisely observed that
"The greatest difficulty in conversion
is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion
is to keep the heart with God."
John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's
Progress, like Ezra was consumed with the study of God’s
Word. C H Spurgeon read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress every year on
one occasion remarking that "He had studied our Authorized Version... till his
whole being was saturated with Scripture; and through his writings... he …
[makes] us feel and say ‘Why, this man is living Bible! Prick him
anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of
the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his
soul is full of the Word of God.’
Ralph Davies - Note the initial
ki (for, because) in the Hebrew text. It explains why the good hand
of his God was upon him (Ezra 7:9). God prospered the venture because of
Ezra's purpose. This then is a warning against sloth and carelessness, and
a sloppy view of grace. The subject comes before the verb in the Hebrew
text, so there is some stress on "Ezra." On "setting the heart," the
Hiphil of kun plus leb, see Psalm 78:8; 2 Chronicles 12:14 20:33(all
negative); and 1 Samuel 7:3; 2 Chronicles 19:3; 30:19. The language of
verse 10 speaks of a ministry that is focused in its objective (set his
heart) and intense in its labor (to seek). It is both anchored and
vigorous, not content with a little ministerial piddling. Note that Ezra
purposes a total ministry: seek, do, teach; the cognitive, the
experiential, and the didactic. Note that there are both academic and
existential qualifications before teaching. The process, ever repeated,
is: concentration (seek), consistency (do), communication (teach). (Ezra-Nehemiah,
If a Christian is careless in Bible reading,
He will care less about
TO STUDY THE LAW OF THE LORD:
(Ezra 7:6; Psalms 1:2; Ps 19:7; 119:45,96, 87, 98, 99, 100)
See Related Topics:
Inductive Bible study
Observation of the Word of God
Interpretation of the Word of God
KJV = seek, a word which conveys
the idea of searching for what is lost (cp "paradise lost"), in context
describing man's quest for God and what can only be obtained from Him.
Seeking necessitates diligent effort in order to obtain. In regard to the
Scripture the goals are to obtain the truth about God and the truth about
man and then walk in light of that truth as Ezra did.
I'm not sure if R A Torrey's
percentages are correct but there is still some convicting truth in his
Ninety-nine Christians in every
hundred are merely playing at Bible study; and therefore ninety-nine
Christians in every hundred are merely weaklings when they might be
J. I. Packer is surely
correct when says that...
If I were the devil, one of my
first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible.
Alan Redpath (past pastor at
Moody Bible Church) once advised believers to "wreck" their Bible
every 10 years! Do you use your Bible every day until it eventually falls
Give me the insight, Lord,
As I read Your Word today,
So I will truly understand
Your message and Your way.
Francis Bacon said...
Let no man think or maintain that a
man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's
word or in the book of God's works. (Amen!)
Christian author Jerry Bridges
As we search the Scriptures, we
must allow them to search us, to sit in judgement upon our character
A W Pink
speaking of the work of Bible Study wrote that...
No verse of Scripture yields its
meaning to lazy people.
Bob Smith in his practical
Basics of Bible Interpretation
God wants everyone to be able to
understand the Bible, for its message is essentially how we can have
and enjoy the greatest kind of life, free from the futility of
pointlessness, free from the limitations of our human, earthly thought
patterns, free from the fear of death and dying. Not everyone
understands it this way. In fact, many are so convinced they can't
understand the Bible that they never give it a second look. It's
strange how we will study most any other subject with diligence only
to have the acquired knowledge perish with us. But the words of the
Bible are words of life!
Scripture's precious store
As a miner digs for ore;
Search, and you will surely find
Treasures to enrich your mind.
Study (01875) (darash)
is a Hebrew verb which conveys the sense of seeking with care, of inquiring,
of pursuing or of searching, each of these activities giving us a
good picture of how Ezra approached the law of the LORD. The
the verb "zeteo" (see Mt 6:33-note)
which conveys the idea of attempting to learn something by careful
investigation or searching (cf Proverbs 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
In David's initial encounter with
Bathsheba we find an interesting use of darash that helps give us a sense
of what it means to "study" something...
So David sent and inquired
(darash) about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the
daughter of Eliam, the wife
of Uriah the Hittite?" (2Sa 11:3)
for example this word was used when
Moses “searched carefully” to find out what happened to the sin offering
(Lev 10:16) or when David “inquired” to find out who Bathsheba was (2Samuel
11:3). Ezra studied the Word by carefully searching it (cp
Bereans Acts 17:11), investigating its
truths, probing its parts, surveying its whole (see
observation), striving to understand its
Interpretation), being concerned to grasp its message, leaving no stone unturned.
He was not content to skim the surface and gain a superficial knowledge of
Darash - 152 verses in NAS - Gen
9:5; 25:22; 42:22; Exod 18:15; Lev 10:16; Deut 4:29; 11:12; 12:5, 30;
13:14; 17:4, 9; 18:11, 19; 19:18; 22:2; 23:6, 21; Judg 6:29; 1 Sam 9:9;
28:7; 2 Sam 11:3; 1 Kgs 14:5; 22:5, 7f; 2 Kgs 1:2f, 6, 16; 3:11; 8:8;
22:13, 18; 1 Chr 10:13f; 13:3; 15:13; 16:11; 21:30; 22:19; 26:31; 28:8f; 2
Chr 1:5; 12:14; 14:4, 7; 15:2, 12f; 16:12; 17:3f; 18:4, 6f; 19:3; 20:3;
22:9; 24:6, 22; 25:15, 20; 26:5; 30:19; 31:9, 21; 32:31; 34:3, 21, 26;
Ezra 4:2; 6:21; 7:10; 9:12; 10:16; Esth 10:3; Job 3:4; 5:8; 10:6; 39:8; Ps
9:10, 12; 10:4, 13, 15; 14:2; 22:26; 24:6; 34:4, 10; 38:12; 53:2; 69:32;
77:2; 78:34; 105:4; 109:10; 111:2; 119:2, 10, 45, 94, 155; 142:4; Prov
11:27; 31:13; Eccl 1:13; Isa 1:17; 8:19; 9:13; 11:10; 16:5; 19:3; 31:1;
34:16; 55:6; 58:2; 62:12; 65:1, 10; Jer 8:2; 10:21; 21:2; 29:7, 13; 30:14,
17; 37:7; 38:4; Lam 3:25; Ezek 14:3, 7, 10; 20:1, 3, 31, 40; 33:6; 34:6,
8, 10f; 36:37; Hos 10:12; Amos 5:4ff, 14; Mic 6:8; Zeph 1:6
NAS = ask(1), avenge(1),
calls(1), care(1), cares(3), comes the reckoning(1), consult(2), consulted
by them at all(1), demand(1), inquire(33), inquired(5), inquirer(1),
investigate(3), investigated(1), looks(2), making inquiry(1),
questioned(1), require(7), required(1), requires(1), resort(3), search(6),
searched(1), searched carefully(1), searches(2), seek(53), seek after(1),
seeking(2), seeks(3), sought(18), studied(1), study(1), surely require(1).
German theologian Johann Bengel
(1687-1752) aptly described Ezra (and his kind) as...
like a maker of a well who brings
no water to his source but allows the water he finds there to flow freely
without stoppage, diversion, or defilement.
In his studies of the Scriptures, Ezra
undoubtedly followed Thomas Watson's exhortation to...
Leave not off reading the Bible till
you find your hearts warmed. Let it not only inform you but inflame you.
Regarding the pastor's (and all
believers') need to focus on
the pure milk of the Word, Puritan Richard Baxter explained how
this truth finally dawned on him writing that...
Till at last, being by my sickness cast
far from home, where I had no book but my Bible, I set to study the truth
from thence, and so, by the blessing of God, discovered more in one week
than I had done before in seventeen years’ reading, hearing, and
John Piper wisely warns all who
proclaim God's Word that...
We must beware of the temptation to
replace the study of Scripture with the reading of good books about the
Scripture. If you want to know if a man has studied well, don’t ask him to
show you his library. Ask him to show you his personal notebooks where he
has recorded his own authentic insights into the Word of God.
We make a great mistake when we think
that study consists mainly in reading (as commonly understood)—even
reading the Bible. Many think they have studied well when they have spent
the morning reading through some worthy book of divinity. And thus the
measure of our study becomes the number of books that we have read.
But my own conviction is that fruitful
study is primarily thinking not reading. My guess is that reading, which
was meant to become a stimulus and guide to independent thinking, usually
becomes a substitute for it. The evidence for this is how many books we
read and how little we write down. Fresh thinking must always be put down
on paper to get it clear and preserve it for use. Much reading and little
thinking makes for a second-hand pastor. And it is not easy to preach and
teach second-hand truths with power.
The ministry of the Word is a ministry
of study. And the ministry of study should be devoted primarily to the
Bible. And the study of the Bible should consist very much in thinking and
writing about what it says.
In another writing Piper says...
If we are going to feed our people, we
must ever advance in our grasp of Biblical truth. We must be like
Jonathan Edwards who resolved in his college days, and kept the
resolution all his life,
Resolved: To study the
Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find,
and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
(The seventy resolutions of the young Edwards are found in Sereno Dwight,
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1
Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, xx–xxi. This is resolution 28
from page xxi.)
J. Brothers, we are not professionals : A plea to pastors for radical
The Law of the LORD - The Law of
Jehovah (see study of this great
Name of God).
The Law (08451)
(torah) means basically "teaching" and in simple terms represent
God's instructions to His people regarding how they should live,
especially how they should live in covenant with a holy God. The torah was
to saturate one's total way of life, permeating every decision, every
thought, etc. The torah was given to make known the way men should walk or
conduct their lives.
Ezra's "Bible" would have been
the first five books (the
and the Book of Joshua, which was in existence in his day.
God, motivated by love, reveals to man
basic insights into how to live with each other and how to approach God.
Through the law God shows His interest in all aspects of man's life which
is to be lived under His direction and care. The Law of God stands
parallel to Word of the Lord to signify that law is the revelation of
God's will. In this capacity the Law became the nation of Israel's wisdom
and understanding so that the pagans would marvel at the quality of
Israel's distinctive life style (cp Deut 4:6).
The psalmist's attitude toward the Law
in Psalm 119:97 surely reflected Ezra's heart attitude...
O how I love Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.
He loves so much that he must express
his love, and in making the attempt he perceives that it is inexpressible.
We obey the law out of love, and even when it chides us for disobedience
we love it none the less. It is my meditation all the day. He meditated on
God’s Word because he loved it, and then loved it the more because he
meditated in it. In his worldly business he still kept his mind saturated
with the law of the Lord. Familiarity with the Word of God breeds
affection, and affection seeks yet greater familiarity. When thy law and
my meditation are together all the day, the day grows holy, devout, and
happy, and the heart lives with God. (See
Spurgeon's complete note)
(See related topics -
Primer of Biblical Meditation
Quiet Musing by Spurgeon)
Amy Carmichael gives us a good
caution for our day when more Christian books are being published then at
any other time in the history of the world...
Never let good books take the place of
the Bible. Drink from the Well, not from the streams that flow from the
Well. (Amen and amen!)
Martin Luther wrote that...
When I was young, I read the Bible over
and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I
could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been
Luther also wrote
For a number of years I have now
annually read through the Bible twice. If the Bible were a large, mighty
tree and all its words were little branches, I have tapped at all the
branches, eager to know what was there and what it had to offer.
Luther is reported to have said
concerning his own study of the Scriptures that...
I study my Bible as I gather apples.
First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then I shake
each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every
twig. Then I look under every leaf. I shake the Bible as a whole, like
shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb—study book after book.
Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters when they do
not break the sense. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the
paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings. (Ed:
Sounds like he practiced the discipline of inductive Bible study).
John Piper writes,
At the heart of every pastor’s work is
bookwork. Call it reading, meditation, reflection, cogitation, study,
exegesis, or whatever you will—a large and central part of our work is to
wrestle God’s meaning from a book, and then to proclaim it in the power of
the Holy Spirit.
The best thing to do with the Bible is
to know it in the head, stow it in the heart, sow it in the world, and
show it in the life.
AND TO PRACTICE IT:
(Deuteronomy 16:12; Matthew 5:19-note;
John 13:17; Revelation 22:14
(cp 1Timothy 4:12-note,
1Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:7
In John Jesus emphasizes the importance
of applying truth received and the result of such application...
If you know these things, you are
blessed if you do them. (John 7:24)
In Matthew Jesus again emphasizes the
importance of obedient application declaring that...
everyone who hears these words
of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who
built his house upon the rock. (see note
James wrote of the deception of
hearing but not doing and the blessing of seeing and doing...
imperative = command
to make this your habitual practice - when you hear truth obey it without
delay for delay is disobedience) yourselves doers (poietes - performers
but like those who are actors for that would define a hypocrite) of the
word, and not merely hearers (Greek word = hose who sat passively in an
audience and listened to a singer or speaker - like one who audits a
college class, but which they are not required to do outside study, etc
and are not held accountable for what they hear) who delude (fascinating
word - paralogizomai from para = beside + logizomai = reason - means to
reason besides oneself - and so to betray oneself by false reasoning)
themselves. (see note
But (note the striking contrast
- for context read v23-24) one who looks intently at the perfect law, the
law of liberty (Liberty is not the right to do as you please, but the
power [grace] to do as you should!), and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but
an effectual doer (poietes - same word as v22 - a genuine performer of the
Word), this man shall be blessed (fully satisfied independent of
the circumstances) in what he does (which was the
testimony of Ezra). (see note
See related topic:
Application of the Word of God
Study the Bible to be wise
to be safe
Practise it to be holy
1 Ti 4:16
Pay close attention
imperative = command
to continually paying attention!) to
yourself and to your teaching;
imperative = command
to continually paying attention!) in these things; for as you do
this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear
Apply yourself to the Scriptures
The Scriptures to yourself.
Will H. Houghton espoused
the Ezra 7:10 approach, encouraging each of us to...
Lay hold on the Bible
until the Bible lays
hold on (us).
- The Hebrew
word for “practice” carries the idea of expending energy in the pursuit of
something. Live it
out. Let the "rubber meet the road". Put shoe leather to the
Scriptural truth taken into your heart. Unhesitatingly obey the truth learned.
And remember that
like a compass, the Bible always points you in the right direction.
We see this pattern of studying
leading to practice in other
passages, for example in the Pentateuch (of which Ezra was well versed)
Assemble the people, the men and the
women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that they
may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe
all the words of this law. (Deut 31:12) In other words...
Hear the word
Learn the word
Fear the LORD
Practice the Word
In the well known passage in Joshua
God instructs His young servant leader...
This book of the law shall not depart
from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night (STUDY),
so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it (PRACTICE);
for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success
(EXPERIENCE THE GOOD HAND OF THE LORD!). (Joshua 1:8)
Bible study for Ezra was not
merely an intellectual discipline (cp the Pharisee in Jesus' day) but had
the goals of life change and discipleship. If our Bible study only makes
us smarter sinners, then we are studying for the wrong reason. Our motive
should always be to study in such a way that we are transformed from glory
to glory, progressively being conformed to the image of our Savior.
A good leader is one who...Knows the way, Goes the way,
and Shows the way. Knowing without doing is arrogance not
A good pattern for ministry -- learn
it, live it, and let it out.
How interesting to hear the "wisdom" of
one of the secular world's esteemed "scribes", George Bernard Shaw,
who once said...
He who can, does. He who cannot
Shaw clearly did not know about the
life of the esteemed Jewish scribe Ezra and why he had experienced the
good hand of God!
In his article in Master's Seminary
Journal (volume 2), Richard Mayhue adds that...
When each phase of Ezra’s example is
kept completely and ordered correctly, following his threefold commitment
will prevent many expositional shortcomings: “Study is saved from
unreality, conduct from uncertainty, and teaching from insincerity and
shallowness.” [Quoted from Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah (Downers
Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1979) 62]
Lawson writes that...
Ezra mastered the Word, but more
importantly the Word
mastered him. And so his careful study led to a holy life. His personal integrity
became the platform from which he carried out his public teaching
ministry. What Ezra learned in the Scriptures, he lived out in his daily
Pattern of Biblical Preaching BSac 158:632 Oct 01 p. 461)
Of great significance is the fact that
Ezra’s reading and exposition was used by God to catalyze a revival. Why? Well, one reason
surely was because the good hand of the LORD was upon him!
Ezra obeyed the Word with the same
“heart” devotion with which he studied it. In striking contrast were the scribes in
Jesus’ day who sought to follow the Law from the head but not from the heart. With full
heads but empty hearts, they attempted to teach the Word, but Jesus saw
their hearts and declared
This people honors Me with their lips,
but their heart is far away from Me (Mt 15:8).
Ezra, however, was a scribe who
wholeheartedly kept the Word, not with mere external ritual or empty
routine like the scribes and Pharisees, but from his heart.
Moody rightly said that...
God did not give us the Scriptures to
increase our knowledge but to change our lives
Tozer was even more blunt
Theological truth is useless until it
is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.
Thomas Adams had a picturesque
description writing that...
True obedience has no lead at its
Thomas Brooks wrote
No man obeys God truly who does not
endeavor to obey God fully.
Lorne Sanny rightly said that...
Luke summarizes his Gospel this way:
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do
and to teach" (Acts 1:1, emphasis mine). Jesus' deeds matched His words
and His words matched His deeds. Often His teaching was merely the
explanation of a deed. Doing preceded teaching.
When the apostles returned from a ministry trip, they reported "all they
had done and taught" (Mark 6:30, emphasis mine).
We who speak and teach must be careful. We are asked to speak on a topic,
but that topic has not been part of our doing. So we gather Bible verses
and quotes from books, and our message becomes book-born, not life-born.
Ezra prepared his heart "to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to
teach" (Ezra 7:10, NKJV). To go straight from the study to the platform
without the theme having gone through our lives is perilous—for us and for
E. Stanley Jones wrote concerning teaching that is divorced from doing:
The Word doesn't take shoes and walk,
it takes wings and flies, over their heads. It is transcendental, but not
transforming. It is geared into ideas, but not into life. Hence those
interested in living pass it by.
Paul's response on the Damascus road was not, "What shall I preach on,
Lord?" but rather, "What shall I do, Lord?" The doing would then
authenticate his preaching.
All good teaching and preaching is essentially testimony—not of what we've
done for God, but of what God has done for us when we've obeyed Him. To
preach only what you practice limits the range, but it does increase the
power (see note
1Thessalonians 1:5). (Discipleship Journal)
Lawson sums up Ezra's obedience
writing that "The one who brings the Word must bow
first before the Word and fully keep it. Selective obedience is no
obedience. Partial obedience is nothing more than disguised disobedience.
To be compelling in the pulpit, preachers must be complete in obedience.
The Pattern of Biblical Preaching BSac 158:632 Oct
01 p. 461)
Chuck Smith EZRA 7:6, 9, 10, 28
"THE GOOD HAND OF THE LORD"
I. THE NEED FOR THE HAND OF GOD ON OUR LIVES.
A. Favor with God brings favor with man. Ezra 7:6.
1. Life moves on two planes, vertical and horizontal.
a. The vertical is the axis upon which our lives revolve, thus more
b. If the center of my life is out of kilter the circumference is bound to
c. So many today think their greatest problem is human relations.
1. It is divine relations.
d. We try to balance our lives from the outside in.
e. My relation with God must have top priority.
1. "Seek ye first."
B. The good hand of God brings us to our desired goals. Ezra 7:9
1. Man has two basic goals: satisfaction and joy.
a. Someone says, "I'm seeking success."
b. If you attain it you will be disappointed, it will not bring you what
you thought it would.
1. You thought it would bring satisfaction.
2. Neither can be attained apart from God.
a. You can find happiness, elation. (Just scored winning touchdown.
b. Solomon's vain pursuit for satisfaction.
C. God's hand means strength. Ezra 7:28.
1. In many trials it was only His hand that sustained me.
a. My strength and resources were gone.
2. Joseph's bow abode in strength.
3. Have you ever been in a place of distress and fear? You wonder, "What
can I do?" Then suddenly feel the presence of God.
a. The tension and strain leaves and a beautiful peace and confidence
Il. HOW TO EXPERIENCE THE HAND OF GOD ON YOUR LIFE.
A. The Lord is with you if you'll be with Him, and if you seek Him.
1. We must come to God and ask Him.
a. God comes to you only by invitation.
b. He will not intrude uninvited
B. Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord Ezra 7:10.
1. Our hearts are prepared through quiet times of study.
a. The Word of God prepares my heart for the work of God.
2. Quiet times of prayer prepare me for the work of God has for me to do.
C. Take time out for your busy lives to cultivate and develop your
relationship with God.
1. Quiet time while you wait on Him will be the best spent time of the
whole day. (Sermon
Warning: Bible study
can be habit-forming. Putting the principles into practice can cause loss of anxiety, decreased appetite for
lying, cheating, stealing, hating and "symptoms" of growing sensations of love,
peace, joy, compassion.
Mom's Translation - Four pastors
were discussing the merits of the various translations of the Bible. One
liked a particular version best because of its simple, beautiful English.
Another preferred a more scholarly edition because it was closer to the
original Hebrew and Greek. Still another liked a contemporary version
because of its up-to-date vocabulary.
The fourth minister was silent for a moment, then said, "I like my
mother's translation best." Surprised, the other three men said they
didn't know his mother had translated the Bible. "Yes," he replied. "She
translated it into life, and it was the most convincing translation I ever
Instead of discussing translation preferences, this pastor reminded them
that the most important focus should be learning God's Word and doing it.
That was the top priority of Ezra's life. As a scribe, he studied the Law,
obeyed it, and taught it to the Israelites (Ezra 7:10). For example, God
commanded His people not to intermarry with neighboring nations who served
pagan gods (Ezra 9:1-2). Ezra confessed the nation's sin to God (Ezra
9:10-12) and corrected the people, who then repented (Ezra 10:10-12).
Let's follow Ezra's example by seeking the Word of God and translating it
into life. —Anne Cetas (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
When we take time to read God's Word,
Our heart is filled with pleasure;
So let's relate the truth we've heard-
With others share the treasure. -Hess
The best commentary on the Bible
is a person who puts it into practice.
had it right when he said that..
The Bible was not written to satisfy
your curiosity, but to make you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you
a smarter sinner, but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head
with a collection of biblical facts, but to transform your life. (Living by the Book)
Hendricks went on to add that...
Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives.
In fact, you are either in the Word and the Word is conforming you to
the image of Jesus Christ, or you are in the world and the world is
squeezing you into its mold. (ibid)
The Bible gives us all we
To live our lives for God each day;
But it won't help if we don't read
And follow what its pages say
Backsliders begin with dusty Bibles
and end with filthy garments.
C H Spurgeon
AND TO TEACH HIS STATUTES AND ORDINANCES IN ISRAEL:
(Ezra 7:25; Deuteronomy 33:10; 2Chronicles 17:8,9; 30:22; Nehemiah
8:1-9; Malachi 2:7; Acts 1:1; 1Timothy 3:2; 2Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:1,15)
May Ezra's tribe increase!
(lamad) conveys the idea of training as well as educating. Biblical
teaching seeks to guide people to follow the will of God, not by offering
mere human opinions or suggestions but by bringing “the authoritative
declaration of the Word of God.
If you don’t have a man who is living
the Word, then you don’t have a man who can teach the Word. You cannot
(and should not) teach what you are not living.
Lamad - 80 verses in NAS
- Deut 4:1, 5, 10, 14; 5:1, 31; 6:1; 11:19; 14:23; 17:19; 18:9; 20:18;
31:12f, 19, 22; Judg 3:2; 2 Sam 1:18; 22:35; 1 Chr 5:18; 25:7; 2 Chr 17:7,
9; Ezra 7:10; Job 21:22; Ps 18:34; 25:4f, 9; 34:11; 51:13; 60:1; 71:17;
94:10, 12; 106:35; 119:7, 12, 26, 64, 66, 68, 71, 73, 99, 108, 124, 135,
171; 132:12; 143:10; 144:1; Prov 5:13; 30:3; Eccl 12:9; Song 3:8; 8:2; Isa
1:17; 2:4; 26:9f; 29:13, 24; 40:14; 48:17; Jer 2:33; 9:5, 14, 20; 10:2;
12:16; 13:21; 31:18, 34; 32:33; Ezek 19:3, 6; Dan 1:4; Hos 10:11; Mic 4:3.
NAS renders Lamad -
accept(1), expert(1), instruct(1), instructors(1), learn(15), learned(5),
really learn(1), skillful(1), taught(15), teach(30), teachers(1),
teaches(3), teaching(1), teaching and again(1), train(1), trained(2),
Jesus' parting command to His disciples
and by way of application to believers today still rings true in regard to
the importance of teaching what you learn to others...
Go therefore and
imperative = this is
the only command in His commission) disciples (learners) of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo,
I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Mt 28:16-18)
translates the Hebrew
verb for teach with didasko (from dáo= know or
teach) which means to provide instruction in a formal or informal setting.
teaching as a continual, even lifelong process. Continually teaching the
saints is especially the responsibility of church leaders for as Paul
wrote “An overseer, then, must be…able to teach” (1Timothy 3:2). Why must we
continually teach sound, Biblical doctrine? Simply put, heresy flourishes
when sound doctrine fades! The idea of didasko is to hold discourse with
others in order to instruct them by word of mouth (tutor, direct, advise,
put in mind). In the NT almost without exception didasko refers to the
teaching of groups. Didasko means to teach a student in such a way
that the will of the student becomes conformed to the teaching taught
(which is why it is vital to make sure the Word of God is rightly
divided). The teacher teaches in such a way that as the student is taught,
he or she now changes their mind saying in essence ''I won't do it this
way, but I will do it this way because I've learned this Biblical doctrine
or this Biblical truth.'' Doctrine determines the direction of our
behavior -- we need to ask ourselves are we being conformed to the world
or transformed and conformed into the image of the Son of God?
Pastor Steven Cole
entire sermon) rightly
not everyone is gifted to teach in a
public setting. But whatever you have gleaned from God’s Word and
incorporated into your daily life ought to be passed on to others whom God
puts in your circle of influence. If you teach others what you know in
your head but do not practice in your life, you become like the scribes
and Pharisees of Jesus’ day—hypocrites. This does not mean that you must
be perfect before you teach God’s Word, but it does call for the integrity
of admitting your shortcomings and the honest effort to apply it to
One of the occupational hazards of
preaching God’s Word each week is that I can easily fall into the
trap of studying the Word so that I can tell everyone else how they should
live, but not applying it to myself.
I often think of what John Calvin
It would be better for the preacher to
break his neck going into the pulpit than for him not to be the first to
follow God (cited by J. I. Packer, in a sermon in Anaheim, California,
Or, as Charles Spurgeon put it,
If any man’s life at home is unworthy,
he should go several miles away before he stands up to preach, and then,
when he stands up, he should say nothing. (The Soul Winner [Eerdmans], p.
Stott suggests that in Ezra 7:10
to open the inspired text with such
faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey
Many preachers bear more resemblance to
entertainers than expositors, stand-up comics rather than knee-shaking
servants. God-fearing, Scripture-reverencing men remain the need of the
hour in pulpits today.
As A T Robertson once quipped...
One proof of the inspiration of the
Bible is that it has withstood so much poor preaching.
John Knox, the great Scottish
I have never once feared the devil, but
I tremble every time I enter the pulpit.
Where are the men like Knox, who tremble when they open the Word of God?
God is ever looking for such men, declaring in Isaiah...
For My hand made all these things, thus
all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I
will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who
trembles at My word." (Isaiah 66:2, cp Isa 66:5)
In later chapters Ezra writes...
Then everyone who trembled at the
words of the God of Israel on account of the unfaithfulness of the
exiles gathered to me, and I sat appalled until the evening offering.
So now let us make a covenant with our
God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel
of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God;
and let it be done according to the law. (Ezra 10:3)
Statues (02706) and ordinances
scribes in the early years at the time of Ezra and before were so devoted
to not putting an error in the Scriptures that they would copy the
Scriptures with such fastidiousness it is beyond belief. Some scribes would write one letter, take a bath,
change their clothes, get a new pen, write another letter, take a bath,
change their clothes, get a pen, write another letter. They didn't get a
lot done but what they got done was correct. There was a tremendous
fastidiousness to the completion of the inerrant text and its
This comprehensive threefold
designation—the Law of the Lord, statutes, and ordinances—indicates that
he studied all facets of God’s Word. Tradition says he was the founder of
the Great Synagogue where the Old Testament canon was first recognized. A
number of scholars feel Ezra is the author of Psalm 119 which deals with
the Word of God in virtually all 176 verses.
In Nehemiah we see an example of
Ezra teaching the Word...
And Ebzra opened the book in the sight
of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he
opened it, all the people stood up (sign of reverence and humility). Then
Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen,
Amen!" while lifting up their hands (A symbol of receiving God's
blessing); then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to
the ground (in reverence, awe, and adoration). Also Jeshua, Bani,
Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah,
Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, explained the law to the people
while the people remained in their place. And they read from the book,
from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood
the reading. (Nehemiah 8:5-8)
When one considers the role of Ezra
(and those like him in our modern church), to be sure, every person is important to God and
God’s work; but, as Dr. Lee Roberson said "Everything rises and falls with
McConville has written - The model teacher in Ezra is a doer.
And the doer can be no mere demonstrator. He must be what he would have
his disciples be. (Ed: "Doer" not in the sense of "busyness" but in
the sense of practicing what he preaches.)
Every preacher should follow Ezra’s
example and be committed to the study of the Scriptures in a way that is
consuming, careful, and comprehensive. Pastors must guard their hearts
against the seemingly endless, mounting pressures placed on them to
sacrifice the study of the Word of God upon the "altar" of their growing list of "priorities." The day the preacher
ceases to diligently study
God’s Word, whether he realizes it or not, is the day he begins losing
spiritual passion and power in his preaching.
Shrinking study time in the
will result in
Shrinking power in the pulpit!
Billy Graham was asked, "If you had to live your life over
again, what would you do differently?
His answer might surprise you - "One of my great regrets is that I have
not studied enough, I wish I had studied more and preached less. People
have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying
Phillip Ryken on Ezra 7:10 -
This verse is one of the Bible’s best summaries of what it means to be a
faithful servant of God’s Word. It is a wonderful verse for pastors, for
seminary students, for theology professors—really, it is a wonderful verse
for everyone. I know this from experience because I embraced this verse
early in my time at seminary. I wrote it out on a note card and tucked it
into the little Bible I carried in my briefcase. From time to time I would
pull it out and meditate on it or pray over it. Over time, God used it to
shape my understanding of what it meant to be a student and a teacher, a
husband and a pastor. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he can use it to
shape your life and ministry, too. The logic of this verse is impeccable.
There were three things that Ezra was committed to doing, and he had them
in the proper order, like “A-B-C” or “1-2-3.” In fact, Ezra had them in
the only order that makes any sense: he had his heart set on studying,
doing, and teaching the Word of God. This was his heart commitment, the
direction of his life, the settled intention of his soul.
3.1. Studying God’s Word - Start with studying. Before we can do
what God wants us to do, or teach anyone else what God wants them to do,
we need to know what God wants us to do, and that means studying God’s
Word. Ezra had committed himself to doing that. We do not know his study
habits, but we know that he was skilled in the Law of Moses. His “delight
was in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditated day and night” (Ps
1:2). Since he was raised in a family of priests, he had studied the
Scriptures from his earliest childhood. He undoubtedly spent hours each
day reading the Bible, pondering its meaning, and discussing its
implications with other students and scholars. In those days, a scribe of
Ezra’s stature would have committed large portions of Scripture to memory.
The unrelenting ambition of his life was to know the Word of God.
After seminary I spent several months as an intern with William Still, the
great Scottish minister who served in downtown Aberdeen. When I met him,
Mr. Still was continuing the weekly preaching ministry he had exercised in
the same pulpit for more than fifty years. Every day I would go and meet
with him in his home to talk about pastoral ministry and the Christian
life. One of the most amazing things about Mr. Still was his voracious
appetite for learning something new from the Word of God. Here was a man
who was well into his eighties, yet he had a boyish enthusiasm for any
fresh insight into biblical truth. “We’re always learning, Philip,” he
would say to me, “we’re always learning.” That is the kind of Bible
scholar that Ezra was and that I hope to become: someone who is keen to
learn God’s Word all the way through life.
3.2. Living by God’s Word - But Ezra did not stop there. He did not
want merely to learn the Bible; he wanted to live it. So the Scripture
says that he set his heart to do the law that he had studied. This meant
loving the Lord his God with all his strength and loving his neighbor as
himself. It meant keeping the Ten Commandments. It meant following all the
regulations for priestly holiness and public worship. It meant doing
everything he could to live by God’s law. Ezra understood that the only
true theology is applied theology. I am reminded of the parishioner who
met the preacher at the door after the service and said, “Pastor, that was
a wonderful sermon.” To which the pastor replied, “Well, that remains to
be seen, doesn’t it?” This was Ezra’s approach exactly. What good is it to
study the Bible, unless we also live by it?
3.3. Teaching God’s Word - Then there was a third step: teaching
God’s statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra would have taken issue with the
famous advertising slogan: Just Do It! “No,” Ezra, would have said, “I
can’t just do it. If I want to learn how to do it, I have to study it
first, and then if it’s worth doing, I will be compelled to teach other
people how to do it, too.” His slogan went more like this: “Don’t just do
it! Study it, do it, teach it.”
Notice as well the scope of Ezra’s vision for ministry. He wanted to teach
God’s law “in Israel.” He wanted to reach his entire nation with the Word
of God. He saw that he had a responsibility to the wider spiritual
community. It was his calling and privilege to spend long periods of time
studying God’s Word. But this was not for his benefit alone; it was for
the edification of the people of God. Eventually God granted Ezra his
heart’s desire. When he read the Book of the Law to all the people in
Jerusalem, he was teaching God’s statutes and rules in Israel—the Bible
teacher for the kingdom.
But all of that came later. Ezra did not begin as a teacher; he became
one. Sometimes people feel called to a teaching ministry, and they get
right into teaching before they have done the hard work of really
mastering the Bible. Then all they have to offer is their own spiritual
experience; they cannot share the deepest riches of God’s Word. Or
sometimes—and this is especially tempting for seminary students and
pastors—they go right from studying to teaching without having the Word of
God really transform their lives. It goes from the mind to the mouth
without ever passing through the heart.
All of this is easy to apply. Like Ezra, you are called to be a student of
God’s Word. We are all called to study God’s Word, and to do it, and as we
have the opportunity, to teach it to others. This means spending time
reading the Bible every day—not in an academic way, but in a devotional
way, nurturing our love relationship with Jesus Christ. It means
meditating on Scripture and memorizing it. It means devoting the very best
of our powers to learning what God has said in his Word.
It also means paying special attention to new areas of personal obedience.
We want to do more than study the Bible; we want to live by it. So what is
God saying to you today that you need put into practice in your daily
life? What will he say to you tomorrow and the day after that? Do not be
content with what you have already attained, but strive to grow in
godliness. Experience the fresh power of the Word of God.
Then once you start living the truth, then and only then can you be
trusted to teach it to others. But bear in mind that this is the goal of
all your studies. You do not study God’s Word for your own benefit, but
for the sake of others. The knowledge you gain is a sacred trust that God
has given you in order that you might give it away. So set your heart to
study the Word of God, and to do it, and to teach it to wherever God calls
you. (Read the full article in Themelios -
Ezra According to
the Gospel - Ezra 7:10)
Donald Grey Barnhouse said that
if he knew the Lord was coming in three years, he would spend two of them
studying and one preaching!
The modern church desperately needs more men like John
Wesley, the Spirit anointed eighteenth-century preacher who was so passionate for
the Word of God (Brethren,
could this have anything to do with His "Spirit anointing"?)
that he once crying out...
O give me that Book!
At any price, give
me the book of God.
Tony Bell writes that...
Greatness in the Kingdom of God can
start nowhere else than with a deep commitment to the Word of God. Several
times throughout the book of Ezra the writer points out that "the good
hand of his God was on him." The reason? "For Ezra had devoted himself to
the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its
decrees and laws in Israel" (Ezra 7:10). Even King Artaxerxes, ruler of
the vast empire where Ezra lived, recognized the source of Ezra's strength
and greatness. In a letter to Ezra (Ezra 7:11–26), he instructed him "to
inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God,
which is in your hand" (Ezra 7:14). He addressed Ezra in the same letter
as "a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven" (Ezra 7:21), and he
credited Ezra with "the wisdom of your God" (Ezra 7:25). The source of
Ezra's greatness lay in his love for the Scriptures, his absolute
commitment to them, and his passion for teaching them.
But what does it mean to be devoted to
the Word of God? It means that the Bible becomes the standard for our
lives. The norms of the Scriptures are the norms that we live by, and we
dedicate ourselves to finding out what those norms are. We commit
ourselves to study the Bible and to fellowship with like-minded people. We
look for people who can help us and teach us how to incorporate the
Scriptures into our lives. We learn its principles and memorize its words.
We pray over it and dialogue with its Author. Like Jeremiah, we "devour"
its words. And like Ezra, who "set his heart to teach its decrees and laws
in Israel," we seek to transmit to others the importance and the authority
of the Scriptures, both by our lives and by our words. (Discipleship
Journal) (Bolding added).
Read it through
Work it out
Pass it on!