For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. – Ezra 7:10
What are you devoted to? Let’s look for a few clues… What kinds of things do you enjoy reading about or watching? How do you spend most of your “free time”? What kind of stuff do you collect? What do you like to think about? Where does most of your discretionary money go? What do you like to talk with others about?
The people of Ezra’s day had some special needs. They were a nation who had been given a second chance in spite of heir lack of devotion to God that resulted in their expulsion from the land of Israel and subsequent captivity in Babylon (later overtaken by Persia). God raised up King Cyrus, who issued a decree that they could return to the land, complete with financial backing from the Persian government.
These people needed a fresh start and they needed leaders who were devoted, not to self, not to riches, not to fame, but to a holy God. They had one such man in Ezra. He was devoted to the Lord, particularly to the study, practice, and teaching of God’s Word.
We need such men to stand in pulpits and in church leadership roles today. We do not need more men devoted to self, like a hireling. We do not need more men devoted to duplicating a business model in ministry. We do not need more men devoted to fortune and fame and the applause of the world. In the midst if people tempted to be devoted to everything but God, we need men true God-devoted men. To that end, let’s consider: what are the marks of such men?
We Need Men Devoted to the Study of God’s Word
We find, first of all, that Ezra had prepared his heart, totally devoting himself to seek, or study, the Law of the LORD. While the term “the Law of the LORD” may encompass all of the Old Testament writings completed and available to Ezra, it refers, at the very least, to the Hebrew Torah, or Pentateuch (that is, the five books of Moses, comprised of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in our English Bibles).
Ezra committed himself to diligently search the Scriptures. He became deeply familiar with the content of God’s Word. This was not a cursory or occasional glance at the Bible, but rather an intentional, repeated exposure to God’s Word. He would have known well the history of God’s creation, the entrance of sin into the world, the worldwide flood God sent to judge the world, the dispersion by language at Babel, the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants, as well as the history of Abraham’s family line. He would have known God’s great deliverance of the nation, the giving of the Law, the instructions and construction of the tabernacle, and the detailed instructions for priests, feasts, and the worship of God. He would have known of the grumbling of and wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness and the instructions to the new generation who would finally enter Canaan, the land God had promised Abraham. He would have known the warning that if Israel would not keep God’s commands, God would send them out of the land and into captivity. The revelation of God’s character, man’s sin, how to relate to a holy God, how God redeems, the abiding relevance of God’s covenant promises, and how to live in light of His instruction were all important aspects of what Ezra studied and learned.
Today, churches need men who know their Bibles. There is a temptation to pursue many studies other than the one Book that stands over all other books. Preachers can be ignorant about many things, but they must not be ignorant of the Bible. We need men who want to read, dig into, and diligently study their Bibles. These men will know what the Bible says, how the parts relate to a whole, the unfolding history of God’s plan, how Christ fulfills the promises of God, and the life-changing power of the Word of God.
We Need Men Devoted to the Practice of God’s Word
Second, we see that Ezra was devoted to do God’s Word. Ezra knew the Bible’s life-changing power. He was devoted to doing what God’s Word says, taking it seriously and living a life of holiness and obedience to God. When we read through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we find Ezra taking seriously the Word of God, addressing such matters as marriage, the practice of the festivals, and the renewal of the public worship of God. He sought God through prayer and devoted himself to a life of obedience to God.
God has called us to obedience as well, not to become his children, but as a consequence of knowing Him. First of all, He wants as to repent of our sin and trust in Jesus Christ, believing on Him alone for our salvation. But He also has good works prepared for us, which are the fruit of a living relationship with Him and our cooperation with His indwelling Spirit.
Today, churches need men who not only know what the Bible says, but who obey its teachings — men who practice what they preach. We need men who study God’s Word and discover its implications for living, and seek to please God personally and model that before others. Ponder the fact that the lists of qualification for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 focus more on these matters of character and obedience than anything else!
We Need Men Devoted to the Teaching of God’s Word
Finally, we see that Ezra had devoted himself to teach God’s statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra was not merely concerned for his own life. He identified with the people of God. Their lack of understanding and the disobedience obvious in some many lives were matters that greatly troubled him. He was concerned for the honor of God and the good of His people. So, he devoted himself to teaching to the nation what he had personally studied and practiced – God’s rules and instructions. This teaching was not merely informational, but was transformational. As he taught what the Word of God said, people had to consider the implications for their own lives, and how they needed to change, forsaking sin and pursuing righteousness.
Today, churches need men who will devote themselves to the teaching of God’s Word. God has not created us as individuals who are islands to ourselves, but as a body, as a community. We need one another, and we need men who have diligently pursued a study of the Bible and are seeking to walk with God in obedience who are able and willing to communicate the truth of God to His people and the world. Our world and our churches are full of people who do not understand or have lost sight of what and Who really matters. We need men who will teach a class or preach a sermon that instructs those who have little or no knowledge of the Bible and Christ. We need men who will teach and preach to people who have knowledge of the Bible and the Lord. All need to be instructed in the truths of God and how we should respond to these truths in our own lives and relationships with one another.
What Are You Devoted to?
Ezra devoted himself to studying God’s Word, practicing God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word. What are you devoted to? What are you diligently studying, trying to get good at, and have a passion for sharing with others? We need men devoted to the Scriptures, obedience, and teaching and preaching of the Word.