July 01, 2020
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. (Ezra 7:10)
There are many responsibilities outlined in a pastor's job description. But there is one that stands above all the rest: He is to be a student and communicator of God's Word to his people.
SETTING YOUR HEART
Ezra's determination in this arena was so strong that God described it like this: "Ezra had set his heart." The Bible would later describe Jesus as one who "set his face like flint" to go to Jerusalem, even though He knew the cost. Ezra had made a similar determination.
Any pastor worth his salt is a man who perseveres. Jesus called those who run at the first site of conflict as "hirelings" who are not in it for the long haul. Ezra was carried by a lifelong passion to seek God through His word. And the payoff for him, his people and the kingdom was monumental.
ON THE RIGHT THINGS
Many people have "set their heart" on something. Some have a huge desire for self-comfort or self-glory or self-promotion. They are determined to be known and loved. Power, pleasure, and money are common goals.
But Ezra set his heart on three eternally profitable goals: to study the Word, to do what he would find God telling him to do in the Word, and then to help others do the same. Some men study God's Word, but don't obey. Some study, and obey, but don't disciple others. But Ezra did all of these vital things.This three-fold passion would serve him and his people well for a lifetime.
TO BE USABLE TO THE KING
Ezra was grateful for the favor of an earthly King. It allowed him to return to his land and people after years in Babylonian captivity. This was made possible, though, by the unseen, sovereign hand of the great King he served. "He came to Jerusalem because the good hand of his God was upon him" (vs. 9). Ezra's determined desire was to know and serve this King.
He was used in the lives of the people when he returned to Jerusalem. But his most memorable season came when his friend, Nehemiah, returned and built the wall around Jerusalem in 52 days. At the end of this work, Ezra was called and he was ready.
Nehemiah, Chapter 8 records that they made him a wooden podium, stood him in front of all the people and they "gathered as one man."
Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. (Nehemiah 8:2-3)
The end result of this preaching was one of the greatest national moments of confession, revival, repentance, and restoration in human history. The entire nation came back to God. When the time came, Ezra was ready. Why? For years he had "set his heart" to study, obey, and teach the Word.
Who knows the days of usefulness God may give to any of us? But only the prepared are used as Ezra.
Lord, make me a faithful student of Your Word. Protect me from my own opinion. Let me study diligently to “rightly divide” the Word of truth and give people that which will nourish them for the rest of their lives. And Father, thank You for the privilege of studying and teaching Your Word!
March 29, 2023
As a pastor for the last 55 years, I have had the joy of being encouraged and blessed and prayed for by so many people. It is what carries you in your task of shepherding people. As I look back over five decades of ministry, their love has dramatically enriched my life.
But also, a pastor leads. And when anyone leads, there are almost always some who disagree.
March 28, 2023
March 27, 2023