Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 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 7:8-10 (NIV)
Read: Ezra 7
Consider: Ezra was in exile in Babylon and God laid it on his heart to go up to Jerusalem to be involved in the rebuilding of the city and the temple. We are told twice in Ezra 7 that the ‘… hand of the LORD his God was on him’ (7:6, 9). The journey would have been arduous and took four months to complete (7:9). The route probably taken would have covered around 900 miles (1440 km). While the journey could have been undertaken in a shorter time, it took four months because Ezra most likely would have had families, with children and elderly people, amongst those exiles who returned to Jerusalem.
In 7:6 we are told that Ezra was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses. Think about how Jesus referred to the religious leaders of his day in the gospels and you will realise that while they were well versed in the Law, they were considered hypocrites. Jesus criticised them because they had a head knowledge of the Law, but not a heart knowledge. The question for us is could the same be said of Ezra in his day? The obvious answer is ‘No’ because as we’ve already noticed we are told that the hand of God was on him. So what would make the difference?
We can find the answer in 7:10 where we are told ‘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‘. Notice the order here. Ezra firstly studied the Law, then he observed (lived) it and finally he taught it to others. Can you see the implication here for each of us as Christians wanting to share the good news of the gospel with others? Can you see that often people (us included) are tempted to jump straight from the study of God’s Word to sharing it? What is necessary for us all is to avoid hypocrisy by ensuring that we live out what we learn from the Bible on a day-to-day basis. Only when we put into practice ourselves what we want to share with (teach) others, is it likely that we will see the ‘gracious hand’ of God on us.
There is no quick or easy way for this to be done and it means that if you are a church leader, pastor, minister, elder, home group leader or whatever, your life must match what you have discovered in Scripture. Cutting out the step of living it out leads to empty teaching, with little meaning or impact.
Pray: Father, may we learn from the life of Ezra that studying your Word is not enough on its own; we must live it out day-by-day, before we teach it to others. Amen