Wonder of the Word
Ezra - ‘With Wholehearted Devotion’
“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 (NIV)
When you think of iconic Bible figures, what parade of heroes marches through
your mind? Abraham? Moses? Ruth? Daniel? Paul? It remains without contest that
these are among the greatest “ordinaries” who loved and obeyed God only to
become extraordinary. However, as with many areas in life, the Holy Word of God is
filled with numerous unpopular heroes, whose submission left an amazing testimony
of how to serve and live a God-pleasing life amid unfavorable circumstances.
For the premiere issue, we decided to give you a rare glimpse into the character
and heart of one such servant named Ezra. This scribe, prophet and priest totally
immersed himself into studying the Word of God (which, in his day, was the
Pentateuch or the first five books of the Old Testament), applying its principles to
his own life, and unselfishly teaching it others.
A Winding Road
Let us rewind to get an idea of the conditions under which Ezra served. Picture it,
Babylon, 458 B.C.: The second group of Israelites was ready to return to their
promised land, Jerusalem, after being taken away into captivity. Ezra – who was well-
versed in the Word and upon whom God’s hand of favor and protection rested –
was selected to lead this group of exiles back to their homeland, so that they could
worship their God. His knowledge of Scripture and his devotion to obeying and
teaching it were apparent to his contemporaries and to the pagan king.
The people had assembled to embark on a four-month pilgrimage – during which
Ezra halted their progress to collectively fast and pray for three days for God’s
extended grace and covering as they traveled. Ezra and his crew of about 1,500
finally arrived in Jerusalem, only to discover that those who traveled before them,
had indulged themselves in the sins of the surrounding pagan nations. While the
newly-built temple was gorgeous and ready for corporal worship, their personal lives
were in shambles.
Ezra, who descended from the priestly lineage of Aaron, immediately lamented for
the sins of the Israelites. (During the pre-Messianic period, it was the priests’ role to
approach the Holy God on behalf of the people and their sins.) Ezra’s humble
confession, when he had personally done no wrong, eventually led to national
Long before his public ministry began, God had privately molded him so that Ezra
would be responsible to use his position of influence well. As a skilled scribe, Ezra
dedicated himself to carefully learn the Word of God – with the passion and intent to
obey. The Amplified® Bible says that “Ezra prepared and set his heart,” not that
God forced him to spend time in the Word. I’m almost certain that Ezra went out of
his way to devote quality time to Scripture; much like in the New Testament, we find
Jesus often slipping away from the crowd to devote time to the Father.
A Friend of God
Ezra’s consistent plea was for his people to wholeheartedly worship the Lord God –
who had been so many things (including everything) to them – not only in public
assemblies, but through non-blemished living. I’m sure he hadn’t expected
perfection, because he was not; but what he did call for was sincerity of heart and
resistance to a lifestyle of habitual, deliberate wrongdoing. Ezra made it clear that
he stood for whatever God stood for – in the face of an entire people who were
known for their waywardness.
We live in a world where compromise and settling for mediocrity are commonplace.
Although there’s room for human error on Ezra’s part, the Bible does not record
anywhere that Ezra compromised God’s standards of righteousness. Ezra had
honored God throughout his life and God chose to honor him. In chapter seven,
Scripture shows how he could have assumed that his own greatness and charisma
had won over the pagan king, but Ezra understood clearly that all credit went to
God. He constantly vocalized the reverence he had for God’s gracious hand upon
him (and the people). Although he didn’t meet the physical deity, Ezra would have
unarguably been dubbed a true friend of the Messiah. Today, God can use
awesomely one whose whole heart desires knowledge of Him and His word like Ezra.
While God was processing him, Ezra had to have known that something greater was
in him; and required of him; and something greater had to come out of him. He had
to have known that there was a distinction in the way the majority of his people were
treacherously living, and the way that something else was drawing him toward
righteousness. He had to have known from personal devotion and experience that
“the God thing” worked. It had to have produced enough substance (faith) in him to
accept the assignment to convince a nation of double-minded citizens of God’s way.
This inner-knowing must have pushed Ezra harder.
Although we don’t have the identical assignment Ezra had, and we don’t live in the
same culture, the orders from God are no different. Be Holy. Love (Him and all
mankind). Preach. Share with those who don’t know, or who are backslidden, etc.
Specific to our day, each of us possesses the God-given ability to influence those to
whom we are assigned…but the measure of our effectiveness begins with
For a complete study on Ezra, refer to the books of Ezra (ch. 7 – 10) and
Nehemiah (ch. 8 – 12).
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