One of my favorite characters in the Old Testament is Ezra. As the Jews returned from their 70-year exile, Ezra was the pioneer God used to help reestablish the temple practices so that the returned exiles could worship God the way he designed.
Notice how this great hero of the Faith is described in Ezra 7:6, 9-10,
“Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him…For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
The first thing to notice here is that Ezra was “skilled” in the Law of Moses. During the captivity, Ezra diligently studied the Torah to the point that he was “skilled” in it.
“The word translated ‘skilled’ has at its root the idea of speed. He was so conversant with his material that he could make considered judgments rapidly. And this level of expertise had been achieved because ‘he had set his heart to study the law of the Lord.’” (McConville)
I love that description. He studied the Word to the point that he could quickly use it to govern his life and help others understand and live it. This is a great challenge for me and should be for all of us. I need to be so familiar with the Word that I can navigate it with ease.
The second thing that stood out to me in this passage is that Ezra “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord.” This is describing the motivation of Ezra. He had a strong desire to do this. He was not complacent or riding on the coattails of others.
Finally, he did not just desire to study it; he wanted to practice and live it out in his life! McConville rights observes,
“How readily the means can become the end! The business of study itself, or the mere mechanics of any area of Christian service, can be so attractive that it can cease to be subjected to the governing hand of God. Ezra, however, had not only ‘set his heart to study the law of the Lord’, but also ‘to do it.’. . For Ezra, to know the law of God was to know his mind, both in terms of promise and expectation, for his people. It was impossible, therefore, merely to study it. It had to be lived.”
Father, thank you for the great model of Ezra. He was a passionate follower of you. He sought to know your will by studying your Word. BUT, he did not study to know more, he studied to live more in line with your will. His model of study and application served to be the foundation of his teaching. Help me to be as passionate about knowing your will as Ezra so that I can live as you desire and help others do the same.
Following Jesus with you,