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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Feb. 18, 2008

  • 2008 Feb 18
  • COMMENTS
 

Ezra: A Faithful Example

 

God wants to do something in you that only you and He together

can accomplish. He wants to write Himself across all the pages of your

life, which happens when you allow His Word to take control of your

heart, mind, and life. Ezra experienced this when he … prepared his

heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes

and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10). As he zealously studied God’s

Word, and faithfully practiced it, Ezra then led others to do the same.

 

Ezra was a testimony of how to faithfully live a Word filled life.

Until I began studying Ezra’s life in depth, I never knew much

about him. I always thought: Ezra? That is one of the more boring

books of the Old Testament. What’s the deal with Ezra? As a result

of my studies, however, he has become a monumental person in my

mind. Finally, I understand why, to the Jews, only Moses eclipses

Ezra in Jewish history.

 

Ezra’s life has touched each Jew and every Christian to this day.

The Jewish people revere him as the one who launched the Jewish

synagogues and perpetuated the study of the Word of God. In fact,

synagogues still follow the reading schedule Ezra devised 2,500

years ago. They read in a certain spot every time they gather in an

ongoing through-the-Scripture study. And it is Ezra who copied all

the Scriptures into the Hebrew form we have today. The entire Old

Testament is the product of his careful work.

 

Under the inspiration of God, Moses began recording the Bible

3,500 years ago. Since Moses was from Egypt, he wrote from his

basic understanding of language learned in the Egyptian schools.

After Moses, 500 years later, David wrote another large portion of

the Bible under the influence of the Phoenicians in whose realm he

lived. The Mosaic writing in that Egyptian and the Phoenician–style

Hebrew all came to be the collection of books we now know as the

Old Testament.

 

As time progressed, except for the scholars, the old forms of written

Hebrew became unreadable to later generations. At that moment

in Jewish history one man stepped forward to remedy this problem—

Ezra. He copied every word of the Old Testament canon into what we

now call Biblical Hebrew. God used him to pull together the group

we know as the scribes, men who faithfully and tirelessly copied the

Word. Ezra captured the Biblical Hebrew, codified it, made it consistent,

and brought it forth to be copied, and recopied, again and again,

until the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and modern manuscripts from

which we get our present-day Bible.

 

It is interesting that Ezra wasn’t in school when he did this.

God told him, “Leave what you are doing and travel up through

the Fertile Crescent, and then down to the heart of the land of My

people, Israel. I want you to minister to the remnant of people

who are there.” Ezra was in Persia (modern-day Iran) when he

walked 975 miles to get to Jerusalem. There, he worked with about

50,000 people, a worldly congregation saturated in the ways of

Babylon and Persia.

 

Some of them, abandoned by the Babylonians, left to till the land;

others were returnees with Zerubbabel; and about 5,000 of them

(1,500 of them men) came with Ezra. But a very worldly Babylonian

group of people, some of which had basically lost their faith, had

been so deeply affected by the Babylonian and Persian influence they

barely knew or believed in God.

 

What if you and I had to go face 50,000 or more people like that?

What would we do? Ezra 7:10 reveals the proper answer, and not just

for Ezra 2,500 years ago, but for all who desire to do what God has

planned only for them.

 

I have a simple philosophy of life: planned neglect. I purposefully

plan to neglect everything except what God wants me to do. Why? I

can only achieve well what God wants me in particular to accomplish.

Ezra also had a very simple philosophy of life: “If I am going to bring

lasting change to those I am called to serve, I will have to start with

my own life.” He lived out that philosophy by learning to point his

heart frequently toward doing God’s will.

 

Ezra 7:10 defines the secret of his towering success:

 

… Ezra had prepared … [to establish, set up, accomplish, make

firm; to direct toward (moral sense); to arrange, order]: Ezra just

packed up and got ready to go. He prepared by meditating on God’s

Word so everything was put in order in his heart, to make him receptive

to what God wanted.

… his heart to seek … [to resort to, frequent (a place); to consult,

investigate, to ask for, require; to practice, study, follow]: Ezra learned

from the Lord, and readied his heart to follow God. That is a great

way to look at what God wants from us.

… the Law of the LORD, and to do it … [to observe, celebrate,

to acquire]: “Do” is an interesting word. Ezra wanted to observe and

celebrate the Lord, acquire Truth from Him, and then live it so he

would be prepared to teach others.

… and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. After learning

the Word, and living by it, he wanted to fulfill God’s calling by leading

others to follow what he had learned.

What was the result of Ezra’s deep commitment to the Word of

the Lord? I personally believe the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm

119, is Ezra’s testimony of the effects in his life from meditating on

God and His Word. I have read every available commentator and

commentary on this subject, and opinions vary. Mostly, they say

Psalm 119 could have been written by David, Hezekiah, Nehemiah,

or perhaps Daniel. But, after much research, and forty years of reading

this psalm, I am persuaded the one man who copied every single

character of the text of every single book of that Old Testament, and

brought it into uniform ancient Biblical Hebrew, was Ezra, chief of

the scribes, who started the synagogues and the reading of the Word

of God. Hence, references to Ezra throughout this book will be from

this frame of reference.

 

Not only am I persuaded Psalm 119 is Ezra’s testimony, but I

believe it is also the probable content of his teaching and preaching

to the exiles who came home to Jerusalem to seek the Lord.

Psalm 119 beautifully reveals Ezra’s Word filled life and, by both

example and instruction, he exhorted others to do the same. That

worshipful love for God and His Word led to radical changes not

only in Ezra’s life but also in countless other lives for the past 2,500

years. Just these verses alone should be enough to convince anyone of

Ezra’s deep devotion and commitment to the Lord: (Emphasis added

to the verses below.)

 

I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when

I learn Your righteous judgments (v. 7).

I will keep Your statutes; oh, do not forsake me utterly! (v. 8).

I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways (v. 15).

I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word (v. 16).

I will run the course of Your commandments,

for You shall enlarge my heart (v. 32).

I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts (v. 45).

I will speak of Your testimonies also before

kings, and will not be ashamed (v. 46).

I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love (v. 47).

My hands also I will lift up to [in my hands I will carry] Your

commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your

statutes (v. 48). Literally, God’s Word was close at hand!

 

 

For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit  discoverthebook.org.

 

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