Monday, April 25
Reader: “Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord . . .”
Response: “and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.”
Scripture: Ezra 7:1-10
Many years later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, there was a man named Ezra. He was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the high priest.
This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. Some of the people of Israel, as well as some of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and Temple servants, traveled up to Jerusalem with him in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes’ reign.
Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August of that year. He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.
This is an interesting reading today because I’m guessing you are wondering about all the unusual names, a travel itinerary, and a work plan. I don’t see many parents looking at a newborn and naming him Uzzi or Bukki! So what is there in today’s pericope? It turns out, quite a bit.
Since Ezra is probably not one of the better known characters in the Bible, a little background can give us a little more insight into this passage. You’ll recall that Aaron, the Levite, Moses’ brother, was the first high priest appointed by God during the forty year desert wanderings. The succeeding priests by Law needed to come from the priestly line of Aaron through Zadok, the priest during the reigns of King David and Solomon. Tracing his lineage back to Aaron, Ezra gives us his pedigree as a priest. In addition, we learn he is a scribe. Scribes were much more than copyists. A scribe was a student of the Torah and was qualified to teach, preach, and interpret the Scriptures. Ezra was both a priest and a scribe. In the New Testament a scribe was perceived in a negative light, but not so in the First Testament where he was respected.
King Artaxerxes, king of Persia, was a strong supporter of Ezra, as “God’s hand was upon him.” We read this phrase twice in this passage. Ezra clearly submitted himself to the will of God. The result was Ezra got what he asked for from the king in various kinds of support as he journeyed from Babylon back to Jerusalem. The lesson here is the hand of God resting upon an enterprise will always succeed because it is accomplishing God’s desire. You can be sure Ezra had conversed with the Lord about this endeavor. The result of his return to Jerusalem was a revival among God’s people. Sin was confronted and repentance followed.
I want to center in on a powerful commentary on Ezra which challenges each one of us. Note the last sentence. There are four guiding words for us―determined, study, obey, and teach. Ezra was determined: he was unwavering in his self discipline. We are challenged to embrace a deep study of the Scriptures, without which our understanding will be shallow, weak, thin, and often skewed. Ezra was determined to obey what he was learning through his study. We are challenged to apply what we discover through our study to our own lives. Failure to implement what has been discovered will lead to a theoretical, intellectual, esoteric, or academic understanding which results in a hypocritical position. We may gain factual knowledge, but fail to experience the transformational fruit that obedience provides. Finally, as a scribe, Ezra was committed to teaching the people of Israel what he was learning and experiencing in his own life.
Again, we are challenged to teach the Scriptures to those around us, to share the fruit of God’s word growing out of our own lives. There are those who are teachers of the Bible, but in another sense we all teach when we share with one another our experiences with the Lord or something we’ve discovered in our study of his word. Again, the purpose of these devotionals is to do exactly what Ezra is determined to do: study, apply, teach. Teaching can even be as simple as sharing the link with someone else who may benefit from a daily time with the Lord in his word. (sharpdevotional.com)
(Some insights gained from Daniel Block’s, For the Glory of God, p.350,& NLB,p.800)
Music: “Lord, Speak to Me that I May Speak” Riverside Choir
(A text that expresses and applies today’s devotional.)
Prayer:Almighty God, our heavenly Father, without whose help labor is useless, without whose light search is vain, invigorate my studies, and direct my inquiries, that I may, by due diligence and right discernment, establish myself and others in Thy holy faith. Take not, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit from me; let not evil thoughts have dominion in my mind. Let me not linger in ignorance, but enlighten and support me, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ―Samuel Johnson from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.22