Today is a marvelous Monday and I am so pleased to have you stop by and visit the blog! I have enjoyed becoming acquainted with the book of Ezra. The book of Ezra is what I usually saw when turning pages to get to Job or Psalms. I’m so glad I finally pulled up in Ezra’s driveway and parked the car! Let’s take a look at what may be a reminder to you, but is new to me.
First, let’s see some of the moments leading up to Ezra’s assignment.
- In 722 B.C. The Assyrians overtook the God’s chosen people in the north-Israel.
- 605-586 B.C. God reprehended his chosen people in the south-Judah by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to overtake them in stages, and they were held in captivity for 70 years.
- 586 B.C.-Destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by Babylon.
- 539 B.C. Cyrus, the Persian king, overtook the Babylonians.
- 538 B.C. The Lord stirred the heart of King Cyrus to allow all of God’s chosen people who were led to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua.
- After multiple attempts to thwart the building of the temple in Jerusalem by neighboring authorities, the work had finally been accomplished in 515/516 B.C.
- 458 B.C. King Artaxerxes sent Ezra to lead a group of Jews to join the other returned exiles in Jerusalem to re-establish the Jews in the ways of their God.
Who was Ezra?
Ezra was a Jewish scribe and priest (a descendant of Aaron, the chief priest) who was part of the Jewish nation taken into Babylonian captivity during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. He was well-versed in the Mosaic law, the first five books of the Bible. Here in chapter 7 verse 10, the Bible says: “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” (emphasis added). Even though Ezra was not in his homeland, he held to the ways and teaching of the Lord.
From the Inside Out
I don’t know about you, but when I think of a scribe, I am more familiar with the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. This is what our Lord had to say about them:
Matthew 23:27, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness”.
Remember the crash-test commercial, “You can learn a lot from a dummy“? Jesus is telling us in Matthew 23:27, “what NOT to do” and “don’t try this at home”. No matter what the season and position God has placed you in life he wants your devotion, not your duty. Jesus doesn’t want a filled head and an empty heart. I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes putting God’s word first is not as much of a priority in my life, so it was very refreshing for me to get to know Ezra. More about him in part 2 of this blog!
Now let’s go to the book of James:
James 1:22 says, But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Again, Ezra got it right! He held to God’s teaching and lived it out, even though he was in a foreign land with pagan customs. Both in the Old Testament (Ezra) and the New Testament (James), God’s view of true devotion has not changed with time! James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us that God wants our hearts as well as our heads. God never meant for our study of him to be a rote exercise, but instead a vibrant life of worship to our Lord based on a growing understanding of who he is.
So, let me ask, how do you approach your study of the bible?
Do the words you say about what you know parallel the life you are living?
Your Esteem or God’s?
Jerry Bridges in his book The Discipline of Grace, said we need to “work at ensuring that our commitment to holiness is a commitment to God, not to our own self-esteem.” Bridges then summarized writings by Frederick W. Farber:
“When we sin we are more vexed at the lowering of our self-esteem than we are grieved at God’s dishonor. We are surprised and irritated at our own lack of self-control in subjecting ourselves to unworthy habits…The first cause of this self-love, which is unable to stand the disappointment of not seeing ourselves in time of trial come out beautiful, erect, and admirable” (Farber, Growth in Holiness pg. 93).
Is there more of a concern about your reputation or God’s glory? This hits me right between the eyes! Why? Because just being a mom brings with it a temptation to hold to a certain “mom” standard. And, that’s just one area. What is an area for you?
How to get to a place of devotion
We will continue next week in part 2 of Ezra where we will get more insight into how he arrived at such a devoted place. Don’t be discouraged or defeated! God knows that you cannot become devoted by your own strength and wisdom. Our Father doesn’t have VIP access tickets that he only reserves for certain ones, like pastors, elders, and deacons for example. No, no…partiality is what mankind is good at! God is NOT partial to his access. He wants you to be close to him. What a comfort to know! Stay with the blog as we learn more about God through Ezra’s life, and remember that Jesus wants to be the keeper of your heart!
Let’s pray for God’s help with scripture…
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation Psalm 25:4-6.
I realize that I can try to change my conduct, but only you can change my heart. The whole reason you came to earth to save me was so that I can be transformed into your image and spend eternity with you. Thank you for the continual work that can only come from your Holy Spirit, and help me love you more and to be motivated by that love to obey you; for it’s not about rules or formulas with you. For my joy and your glory!
In Jesus’ name, Amen