“For Ezra had 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)
I love this character, Ezra. He was an honorable man, chosen by God to lead in the rebuilding of the Temple. He was not a warrior or a king; nor even a thundering prophet. He was a “plain” man, faithful to his calling as “a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses” (v 6). In other words, he was a “workman in the Word” (see 2 Timothy 2:15).
Note what verse 10 says. Ezra gave himself with a serious commitment to “seeking”, “doing” and “teaching” the Word of God. Some people might see these skills, this occupation, as mundane and unglamorous, but God seeks out such a servant to use for His purposes – for “He has magnified His Word above all His Name.” (Psalm 138:2)
Ezra’s distinction was in his devotion to his calling. He “prepared his heart” for it. A lot of people have been deemed great Christian leaders for their charisma or natural leadership ability, but the Christians who have changed the course of world history for God’s glory have been those that have buried themselves in the Word of God, seeking to know His message, and have meticulously applied it to their own lives to be changed by it, and only then have emerged to teach it to others. This is the only right order – “SEEKING” (studying) … “DOING” … then “TEACHING”.
Think of St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, and others, who “though dead yet still speak”...men bent over parchments and books by lamplight, wrestling with the great truths of God, and emerging broken and humbled, walking with a spiritual “limp” as real as Jacob’s physical limp after his wrestling match with God (Genesis 32). And only then did they dare to open their mouths and with trembling lips instruct others.
What a contrast to the flippancy of our day. The spotlight seems to fall on any novice who can tell a joke with good timing. If a preacher comes out with something that seems ”new” and pithy, it is received with oohs and aahs, regardless of whether it has any substantive basis in rightly interpreted Scripture.
Thank God there are still Ezras. In fact, there is a growing column of “soldiers of the Book”, who love God’s Word and are dedicated to SEEKING, DOING and only then TEACHING it. We need more.
There is a clear challenge here, of course, to pastors and preachers. But not exclusively. Every Christian ought to be a seeker, a doer, and a teacher of God’s Word.
Can I challenge you with the following:
- Avoid “soundbyte” Christianity, where we live on a diet of sermonettes and bumper sticker slogans. Don’t look for “3 steps to a happier life” – learn everything God’s Word has to say about living for His glory. It will take you a lifetime.
- Prayerfully read God’s Word every day. Learn to study God’s Word (take some training in how to rightly interpret the Bible. CLICK HERE for a resource I highly recommend).
- Eagerly participate in Bible Study opportunities at your church. Be there when it's being taught, sit up the front, take notes; be determined to get everything you can!
- Be sure to put what you are learning into practice in your own life; don’t allow hypocrisy in your life by “knowing and teaching” but not LIVING it.
- Share the truth with others. Tell the gospel to unbelievers, and share the encouragement and correction of God’s Word with other committed Christians to build them up.
Phil Morgan is the senior pastor at First Assembly of God in Brookfield, Connecticut.