The Hand of God is a section of commentary on Ezra from the Holman Commentary. But it isnt just commentary. The Holman Series goes more in-depth with background and application, in a very easy -to-follow way—more than most commentaries. So check out this excerpt to see what were talking about!
This content is adapted from the Holman Commentary Series.
Almost sixty years lapsed between the completion of the temple and the journey to Jerusalem by Ezra, the priest and scribe. Like those before him, the new Persian king, Artaxerxes, responded favorably to Jewish religious interests.
The Wrong Neighborhood
Location, location, location.
Success, so they say, depends on it. Whether one wants to start a business, advance a career, raise a family, or sell a house—location tops the list of critical considerations. The experts, armed with charts and statistics, point to business visibility, traffic patterns, purchasing habits, networking, safety—and the list goes on. This may explain why so many Christians equate finding Gods will with where they should live, work, or attend school. After all, its all about location.
Or is it?
In B.C., when the temple in Jerusalem was completed, priests and Levites were installed in their duties, and the rituals of the law were inaugurated. The environment for spiritual development couldnt have been better. The holy city was reoccupied by consecrated priests and Levites. They served in the temple courts, offered the daily sacrifices, safeguarded the golden vessels, and conducted the annual feasts; these were men of good position. Yet, in less than sixty years, the community developed spiritual problems.
In spite of their prime location, the Jerusalem priests remained a peripheral element in the coming spiritual renewal. Instead, it was Ezra who initiated reform—a man trained and sharpened for service not in Jerusalem but in Babylon.
But, of course, the issue was not where Ezra lived but how he lived. Known for his devotion and integrity, Ezra understood the heart of God and was prepared to serve him anywhere. He knew that Gods will was resolved not in a particular location but in holiness and faithfulness, which could be practiced anywhere. Ezras “success” was rooted not in the neighborhood but in piety.
The Hand of God
MAIN IDEA: Gods grace flows perpetually; he works from an economy of generosity and renewed opportunities. Once again a group of Jews prepared to leave Babylonia and journey to Jerusalem, led this time by Ezra, a priest and devout teacher of the Mosaic Law.
SUPPORTING IDEA: Ezras priestly heritage served as a backdrop for presenting his devotion and integrity. Recounting his lineage also connected him in history to other great priests and validated his authority.
1. Ezras background ()
The writers aim was to track the Jews spiritual history, not to trace the tides of social or political change. Consequently, the concluding years of Darius and the entire reign of Xerxes (nearly sixty years) were relegated to silence. The narrative fast-forwards to the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia.
It was imperative for the Persian government to solidify Jerusalem and Judea as a temple state. So for this task Ezra was commissioned. But to the Jewish mind, the next essential step after completing the temple was religious purity as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. In order to establish Ezras qualifications, a genealogical sketch was amended to the text. Though incomplete compared to 1 Chronicles 6, the genealogy in Ezra is accurate. The main purpose of the record was to establish connecting points of authority, going back to Phinehas … Eleazar … and Aaron the chief priest.
Ezra was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The term teacher can also translate as “scribe,” denoting a person skilled in the study, practice, and teaching of the Torah. It was a position that gained importance in the postexilic community and increased in influence through the time of Jesus. Ezras highest commendation was that he was a skilled student of the Pentateuch, an honorable practitioner of its commands, and an effective teacher of its laws.
Ezra stood in favor with God and man: The king had granted him everything he asked. It remains uncertain what Ezra requested, but the statement indicates the high regard in which the Persian court held him in. Even so, the ultimate determination of blessing and judgment rested with God. Ezra received what he requested because the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
2. A summary of the mission ()
Ezra was not alone. In his company were Israelites—priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants. Over the years several waves of Jews had returned to Jerusalem. But, for whatever reasons, many faithful, obedient Jews remained in Babylon. Some returned now, with Ezra, but other faithful Jews stayed behind.
Ezra and his caravan arrived in Jerusalem in August (the fifth month) B.C. (the seventh year of the king), having left their Babylonian homes in April (the first month). Leaving on the first day of the first month may have been the plan, but as recorded in Ezra , they left for Jerusalem “on the twelfth day of the first month,” having spent twelve days by “the canal that flows toward Ahava” (Ezra ). Ezras journey lasted fourteen weeks, and it took the caravan through nine hundred miles of harsh countryside and treacherous lands. Their safe arrival in Jerusalem was attributed to Gods guidance and protection.
Ezra was not only skilled in scholarship and knowledge of the law but in living according to its mandates and spirit. His life was held in balance by a devotion to wisdom, a commitment to righteousness, and a desire to teach others the ways of God.
The commentary continues through verse However, there are so many great sections following the commentary, that we are going to skip ahead. You can purchase the Ezra volume of the Holman Commentary to read the sections we skipped.
Hundreds of years before Ezras time, Joshua stood on the banks of the Jordan River ready to lead the Israelites into the promised land. God called him to act courageously. He knew that Joshua would face danger, difficulties, even uncertainty and loneliness. To persevere he needed courage. Each directive of God—“be strong and courageous”—was founded on one of three critical elements.
First, his courage rested on Gods promise that Joshua would “lead these people to inherit the land” (Josh. ). He was participating in Gods design; he was a partner in Gods work. Joshua could lead confidently because he believed God was trustworthy, and he knew he was centered in the divine will.
Second, Joshuas courage issued from his own obedience (Josh. ). While the foundation for Joshuas courage rested on Gods character, he was responsible to act in harmony with Gods instructions; he was to obey. Obedience was evidence of trust; it complemented Gods guidance and compassion.
Third, a relationship was established. This intimacy armed Joshua with courage because he knew God would never leave him or forsake him (Josh. ). As Joshua headed into the unknown, the God who ruled the nations defended and loved him.
In the spring of B.C., Ezra assembled a small group of Jews on the banks of a Babylonian canal (). The return of the people seemed less threatening than similar events from the early pages of Jewish history. But for Ezra and those with him, it was no small mission. Ahead stretched nine hundred miles of hostile territory and uncertainty about how the people would receive them. Even so, according to Ezras journal, he was full of courage because “the hand of the LORD my God was on me” (Ezra ).
Ezra rediscovered the truths declared to Joshua. He saw Gods sovereign power at work in the heart of Artaxerxes, the supply of materials, and the gathering of exiles. He recognized divine providence and Gods faithfulness to his people. Assured of Gods nearness, Ezra set his face toward Jerusalem.
- The righteous and unrighteous alike live under Gods sovereign rule.
- Gods will is not confined to a place or religious form. His will for righteousness, mercy, justice, and love applies to all peoples.
- Courage comes from deepening intimacy with God—being confident in his character and obedient to his commands.
- Christians should be known for their integrity.
- God deserves all praise.
- Guard your heart. Be persistent in seeking God through prayer and Bible study.
- Forge a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness. Speak honestly with others; never gossip or complain.
- Devote yourself to practicing the will of God.
- Act with courage. Rather than allowing circumstances to determine your response, obey Gods revealed will.
- Cultivate the habit of praising God. Establish a time each day for private worship, and each week attend a local church to join in praising God with others.
We are skipping section four, Life Application. It contains a story about a bridge collapsing over the Tacoma Narrows in Western Washington. Although beautiful, the architecture lacked integrity, not being able to withstand pressure. In contrast, Ezra had integrity that allowed him to maintain firmness to withstand outside pressure.
Lord, each day the lure of compromise pushes, pulls, and presses us. Establish us in your truth, strengthen us by your Spirit, and grant us clarity of mind that we may live in unwavering obedience, worthy of your love. Amen.
We are opting to skip sections 6 and 7, Deeper Discovers and Teaching Outline, respectively. These sections also have great content and insights. You can read them by purchasing the Ezra volume of the Holman Commentary.
8. ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION
- What are some elements of personal integrity? In what ways might Christian character be distinctive?
- Define piety. How does our culture view it? How can a Christian develop a proper piety?
- Artaxerxes expected the Jews to offer sacrifices and prayers for him and the empire. What responsibility does the Christian have to government? How should we pray for leaders and governments
- Share experiences in which you believe you have seen the hand of God working through circumstances.
This commentary on Ezra is from the Holman Commentary Series. The Old and New Testament Set comes with 32 volumes. But you can also purchase the volumes separately, like this Ezra volume, to get started.
Each volume includes:
- In a Nutshell summary of the content and teaching of the chapter.
- Verse-by-verse commentary.
- Bible principles and specific contemporary applications.
- A brief prayer to aid in daily life commitment to the principles and applications of the chapter.
- Deeper Discoveries for more personal, deeper study of the words, phrases, and themes of Gods Word.
- A teaching outline to assist the teacher in group Bible studies.
This resource for local church Bible teaching will enrich the ministry of group and individual Bible study, and lead Gods people to truly be people of the Book, living out what God calls us to be.
Get more commentary on Ezra and the rest of the Bible with the Holman Commentary Series.
Related PostsSours: https://www.olivetree.com/blog/commentary-on-ezra-holman/
Click charts to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Introduction and Chart of Ezra - Swindoll
|CHRONOLOGICAL RELATIONSHIP OF|
|Ezra||Book of Esther||Ezra||Book of Nehemiah|
of Jews from
of Jews from Babylonian Exile
of Jews from
RESTORATION AND REFORM
|Restoration of the Temple|
|Reform of the People|
of the People
|Key Passages: Ezra , Ezra , Ezra , 22, Ezra |
Key Words: Went up (Ezra , , 6, 7, ), Jerusalem (48x), Decree (17x), House of the LORD (Ezra , 5, 7, , , 11, , ), Law (of the LORD, of Moses, of God) (Ezra , , 10, 12, 14, 21, 26, )
Ezra 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. (NASB: Lockman) (Read context )
Greek (Septuagint): hoti Esdras edoken (AAI) (active voice = Ezra made a volitional choice in his heart to seek the law, etc) enkardiaautouzetesai (AAN) tonnomonkaipoiein (PAN) kaididaskein (PAN) enIsrael prostagmata kaikrimata
My rendering of Greek: Because (for) Ezra had made a personal choice, a choice of his will to give (devote) his heart to seek after the law and to continually practice (present tense) it and to continually teach (present tense) it in Israel (both) the ordinances and the decrees.
Amplified: For Ezra had prepared and set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord [to inquire for it and of it, to require and yearn for it], and to do and teach in Israel its statutes and its ordinances. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
ASV: For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances.
KJV: For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
NLT: This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the LORD and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Young's Literal: 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.
FOR EZRA HAD SET HIS HEART:
- 1Samuel ; 1Chronicles ; 2Chronicles ; ; Job ; Ps ;
William Orr calls Ezra the "key verse" for he sees this as the key to Ezra's character. (Reference) Indeed, is this not the key to every godly man and woman's character, to have our heart set on taking in the Word of the Lord and thereby be enabled to hear the voice of the Lord?
Exposition of the "Ezra Principle" - herein lies the "secret" of Spirit empowered, Word centered, Christ exalting, God glorifying preaching and "abundant life" living (John ).
The "setting" of our heart - At the outset of this exposition, it strikes me that Ezra's heart was like a compass, ever pointing to God through the supernatural working of His Spirit and His living and active word. And it was in this supernatural context of a Word saturated, God centered heart, that Ezra, a man of the Book and the God of the Book was compelled (even impelled) to return to his beloved city of Jerusalem. May we as believers on this side of the Cross find ourselves so similarly saturated with God's love letter that it grips our heart like it did Ezra's, so that we are compelled (even impelled) to live progressively more and more with a Colossians , 2, 3, 4/Romans , 2 mindset ("heart set") (see notes on Col ; ; ; ; Ro ;) and the things of this present world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Amen. (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus - Violin and Video; Cyberhymnal - "And Step by Step You will lead me and I will follow you all of my days") And notice also that God is not some distant Divine Being to Ezra but is "up close and personal" for He is referred to as "his God" in Ezra , and "my God" in Ezra (cf Ezra , 6). Is He your God? Do you have a personal relationship with the Holy One of Israel? Is He your Father (Jn , Mk , Ro , Gal ).
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
3 JEWISH RETURNS
FROM BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY
Historical Context - Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther are the last three books in the historical section of the Old Testament (Joshua-Nehemiah). These three books tell us what happened to the Jewish people after the 70 Year Babylonian Captivity and give details of the three stages of the return of the Jews (, , BC) to their beloved city Jerusalem. In is interesting to note that there were also three stages of exile to Babylon - , and BC!
THE 3 RETURNS OF THE JEWS TO JERUSALEM
58 Years = Time Lapse Between Ezra 6 & 7
Ezra Serves as Priest in Jerusalem for the Intervening 13 Years
Relationship of the books of Ezra to Nehemiah and Esther - The book of Ezra is a very interesting book because it is actually two books, Ezra comprising "book one" and Ezra comprising "book two". Between Ezra 6 and 7 there is a time gap of about 58 years! And guess what? During this 58 year time gap all of the events in the book of Esther took place! Then Ezra 10 is immediately succeeded by the events in the book of Nehemiah. So compressed into these last 3 historical books of the Old Testament canon, are four fascinating stories dealing with God's sovereign, providential dealings with His chosen people after 70 year period of punishment as captives in Babylon. In Psalm , the psalmist gives us some insight into how the exiled Jews felt about this time of exile. As you read these words filled with pathos, ponder the pain and the pull of homesickness for the city of God that must have gripped godly leaders like Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah…
Psalm By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 Upon the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps. 3 For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." 4 How can we sing the LORD's song In a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill. 6 May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Comment: These sad words give us some insight into the emotions that must have filled and motivated the hearts of men like Ezra and Nehemiah to resolve to leave their comfortable conditions in Persia and return to their blessed city of David. Dear NT believer, let the Spirit birthed yearnings for our heavenly Zion and our glorious King, motivate and inspire and compel us to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (see Phil note), not becoming comfortable with this present world which is passing away and even its lusts (cp 1John , 16, 17).
Dear Father in heaven, according to Your great lovingkindness please grant that your redeemed sons and daughters might have hearts like Ezra and Nehemiah such that we would continually contemplate and yearn for Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb note), and that this longing and passion might by Your grace cause us to order our steps ever upward during our short sojourn as aliens and strangers (1 Pe note) in this present evil age. For Thy glory. Amen.
The Persian Kings during the time of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther -
1. CYRUS THE GREAT ( B.C.).
This is the king that Isaiah had long ago promised would come and deliver the children of Israel (Isaiah ; , 2, 3, 4, 5). He conquered the Babylonians and then allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and to rebuild their temple (Ezra chapter 1). Daniel was still alive when Cyrus was king (Daniel ; ).
2. CAMBYSES ( B.C.)
3. SMERDIS (he ruled less than a year)
4. DARIUS THE GREAT ( B.C.)
Darius made a decree that the work of the temple should be continued without any hindrance (Ezra chapter 6). It was during his reign that the temple was completed (Ezra chapter 6).
Note: Don’t confuse this king with Darius the Mede who is mentioned in the book of Daniel (see Daniel ; ). Darius the Mede was the governor of Babylon under Cyrus the Great.
5. AHASUERUS or XERXES ( B.C.)
This is the king that we read about in the book of Esther. Esther became his queen. He is also mentioned in Ezra
6. ARTAXERXES I ( B.C.)
At first this king sent a decree ordering the Jews to stop rebuilding the city and the walls (see Ezra ). Later, however, he allowed his cupbearer, Nehemiah, to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah chapters ). This is also the same king who had earlier allowed Ezra to return (Ezra ).
These were all great kings, but as we read the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, we learn that there is a much greater KING in heaven who is in control of all things! (adapted from Middletown Bible synopsis)
TERM OF EXPLANATION
For Ezra - see dictionary discussion for background on Ezra.
Don't read too fast or you will miss the little conjunction "for." For is a strategic term of explanation (and there are over "for's" in Scripture, and some "because's" which is also a term of explanation) and if the context indicates, as it does in this passage, that the "for" is a term of explanation, pause and ask yourself what is the Spirit seeking to explain? Consider the "5P's" - Pause to Ponder the Passage then Practice it in the Power of the Spirit.
The New Living Translation although a paraphrase strongly emphasizes the linkage between this passage and the preceding passages writing that…
This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the LORD and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel.
The natural question is "What is this?" (NLT) or "What does for explain?" To answer we need to observe the previous passages (context) where we find the powerful truth that the good hand of the LORD was upon Ezra..
For (term of explanation - this will force you to the previous passage to see what is being explained) on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because (another term of explanation) the good hand of his God was upon him. (Ezra )
Comment: Notice that by observing the context of the "for" in Ezra , we discover two additional terms of explanation in Ezra which we can examine and interrogate. Do you see how this simple maneuver serves like a "hinge on a door" to allow you to open the door (so to speak) and see more fully into the riches of these passages? This is a discipline (pausing to ponder the terms of explanation) which will always bear fruit and in some cases as in this passage, fruit that is abundant! Let this simple discipline change the way you do your morning devotionals as you meet on your knees with Your Father. You will be richly rewarded and your fellowship with the Father will be sweet!
The Septuagint rendering (For Esdras had determined in his heart to seek the law, and to do and teach the ordinances and judgments in Israel.) is almost identical to the Hebrew rendering. The Septuagint renders the Hebrew word for "good" (tob) with the Greek adjective agathos which describes that which is "good" in its character or constitution and beneficial, useful or profitable in its effect. Agathos describes that which has the proper characteristics for performing the expected function in a fully satisfactory way. What better way to think of the "hand of Jehovah"! Always sufficient for the need of the moment. Let us always be alert to the good hand of the Lord in our life that we might give Him thanks and praise.
The metaphor of being in someone's hand (or having their hand on someone) was common in the OT and spoke of being in the power of that person or entity. In the present context, the picture is one of God's power (His "good hand") being upon Ezra the scribe, not to defeat him but to give him the victory. This same phrase (hand of his God) is repeated several times in Ezra and gives us a clue to the "secret" behind his strong leadership, his influence with kings and his soul stirring preaching. Notice the same phrase earlier in this chapter…
Ezra This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the LORD his God was upon him.
Comment: Why did this pagan king grant Ezra his request? The Scripture clearly states "because the hand of the LORD his God was upon him."
Here are the other occurrences of the phrase the good hand of the LORD in the book of Ezra…
Ezra Blessed be the LORD (the result of God's hand being upon him granting him favor was to break out in a chorus of praise and thanksgiving, giving glory to the only One Who should receive glory! As we experience His blessing and hand upon us, may we also imitate Ezra's response!), the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to adorn the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, 28 and has extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king's mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the LORD my God upon me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
Comment: This passage makes it clear that it was God Who put such a thing into this pagan king’s heart to allow Ezra and his fellow Jews to return and beautify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. As noted above (Ezra ) Ezra still had to go and ask for this favor (man's responsibility), even though God had placed it in the king's heart (God's sovereignty). To go before such a powerful monarch and ask for such extravagant provisions for his people who were in captivity and whom the king easily could have exterminated took courage. Where did Ezra derive that courage? Read verse 28 again, which clearly states the source of Ezra’s strength! There is an interesting principle here that God's blesses but some of his blessings entail men fulfilling their responsibility, the very principle Paul explains in the New Testament (see notesPhilippians ; 13)
Ezra And according to the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of insight of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, and his sons and brothers, 18 men;
Prayer and Fasting and
The Good Hand of the Lord
Ezra For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, "The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him (exactly what Ezra had purposed in his heart in Ezra ), but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him." 23 So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.
Comment: This passage adds another facet to the Ezra principle (set heart, study, do, teach) by emphasizing the role of prayer and fasting. This is not surprising because intake of the pure Word into a godly heart will stimulate Word centered, God exalting prayer.
Ezra Then we journeyed from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way.
Summary of Effect of
|Ezra , 28||Power|
Fear of the LORD and
The Good Hand of Jehovah
Here is another passage that teaches a similar truth using a different anthropomorphism (eye instead of hand)…
Behold, the eye of the LORD (cp "hand of the LORD") is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine (blessed = fully satisfied independent of the circumstances). (Psalm , 19)
Comment: Deliverance from evil does not come by military power, manpower, or horsepower but spiritual power. And so we see that the Psalmist amplifies the Ezra principle (set heart, study, do, teach, prayer and fasting in Ezra , 23) with an individual's volitional choice to fear (reverentially awe) Jehovah. (cp Ps , 2)
The Good Hand of Jehovah
Here are the other 2 uses of the phrase "hand of Jehovah" or variation thereof in the life of Nehemiah, another OT saint whom God used mightily to accomplish His work on earth…
Nehemiah And I (Nehemiah) said to the king (see ISBE article on King Artaxerxes), "If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city, and for the house to which I will go." And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.
Nehemiah And I told them (the Jews who would help build the wall) how the hand of my God had been favorable to me (literally "the hand of my God that is good upon me"), and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, "Let us arise and build." So they put their hands to the good work.
MISSING THE BLESSING
OF THE GOOD HAND OF THE LORD
This principle regarding the good hand of the LORD is seen in the prophets words to King Asa (who sadly ignored them to his detriment)…
2 Chronicles For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support (cp "good hand of Jehovah") those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.
Comment: Note that this verse also begins with for indicating that the writer is explaining something previously stated, in context explaining why the LORD had delivered Asa's (and Israel's) enemies into his hand or power. Notice how King Asa serves as an example (cp 1Cor , 11) of one who clearly experienced the the good hand of the LORD upon him as king over Judah giving him victories over his adversaries (read 2Chronicles , 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 2Chr ff for the historical context). Don't miss how Asa's "success" (cp "good hand of the LORD") was integrally associated with his hearing (and welcoming) the word of Jehovah through the prophet Azariah (cp Ezra's setting his heart to study and practice the Law of the LORD) in 2Chronicles Then contrast the time of blessing ("good hand upon") of Jehovah in 2Chronicles , with the consequences of refusing to receive and practice the Word of God delivered to King Asa through Hanani the seer in 2Chronicles , 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. The upshot - you can experience the good hand of the LORD for a season and you can lose it by failing to continue to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly! (see Col note) If any may thinks he stands, he had better take heed lest he fall. God is opposed to ("stiff arms"!) the proud (cp "the heavy hand of Jehovah") but gives grace to the humble ("the good hand").
Lot, a righteous man (clearly a true believer - see 2Pe note; 2Pe note; 2Pe note; 2Pe note) is another sad example of a man who missed the blessing of the good hand of the LORD. In Genesis 13 the growth of the flocks of Abram and Lot led to strife and the need for them to separate. Abram gave Lot "first choice", a choice which resulted in Lot's missing the "good hand of the LORD". Note the progression in the following passages…
Genesis And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan; and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
Lot looked, chose, and settled ("became comfortable" rather than living as an alien and stranger - see 1Pe note; 1 Peter note) and missed the good hand of the LORD. In Genesis we see that Lot was so settled in Sodom that the hand of God's angels had to yank he and his whole family out of that moral cesspool! Let us remember Lot's example, lest our looking and choosing in this fleeting life cause us to miss the good hand of the Lord on our life, our family, our ministry! Or as Jesus commanded his listeners in (Luke ) "Remember (present imperative = keep on remembering. Why? Because our tendency is to drift, to forget!) Lot's wife" because she lingered and looked back (Ge ) and paid for her disobedience with her life.
May God grant us each grace and mercy so that we as godly men and leaders of our churches and families will not forget these tragic OT examples of men who missed the blessing of the good hand of the LORD! Amen
A MAN OF ONE BOOK
God's good hand was clearly associated with the provision, power and protection in Ezra's ministry. And as we see seen the root of divine blessing was that Ezra was a "man of the book" (scratch him anywhere and he "bled Bible"), a man like Apollos who was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts ). Ezra is a worthy model for any preacher who desires to be used mightily by the Lord.
The Pulpit Commentary comments on the good hand of the LORD upon Ezra writing that…
His (Ezra's) soul felt the quickening touch of the Divine finger, and it kindled with a sacred glow of piety and zeal. He was moved of God to attempt great things, and helped of God to achieve them. His life flowed on like a fertilizing river (Ed: cp Ps ), and did so because “all his springs were in God” (Ps ). Our character may contain much that is excellent, and our lives include much that is honourable, but except the “hand of the Lord our God be upon us,” renewing our heart and blessing our life, we shall not be or do that which is pleasing to him or useful to our fellows (Ed: Cp Jesus' words in John ). (The Pulpit Commentary: Ezra. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.)
(1) Ezra “sought the law of the Lord.” No study more remunerative—more ennobling—more pleasing to God.
(2) He sought it in earnest. “prepared his heart,” viz., by raising it above impure prejudices; by seeking the light of the great Inspirer in prayer.
(3) He reduced it to practice. He prepared his heart “to do it.” Glorious example. His life was therefore righteous, and his influence consequently great—viz., (a) With God. (b) With the king. (c) With the people.
(4) And “he taught it to Israel.” He taught Israel the “statutes,” viz., precepts and “judgments,” viz., sanctions (1 Kings ; Ezek. ). What a degenerate succession from the noble Ezra were the scribes of our Lord’s day! Let us emulate his qualities.—J. A. M. (The Pulpit Commentary: Ezra. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.)
Ezra: his character and work. The study of human character and of human life is not only an essential part of human knowledge, but of spiritual culture. Biography is a means of grace. We do well to follow in thought the lines along which the noblest of our race have moved: we are thereby attracted toward them, and grow up toward their spiritual stature. We may learn from the life and character of Ezra by considering—
I. What we know he was and did.
1. A priest, claiming descent, as we see, from Aaron (Ezra ); and we doubt not that he discharged, faithfully and conscientiously, the duties of the priesthood. He was, moreover, what came to be called—
2. A scribe (Ezra ), i.e., (1) a student, (2) an interpreter, and (3) a copyist of the law. Ezra “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach,” etc. (Ezra ).
These three functions of the scribe include the three most important duties a man can undertake: viz.,
(1) his duty of himself, in studying the will of God as revealed in his word, that he may have it in his own heart; and,
(2) his duty to his own generation, in teaching his fellows what he has learned: in interpreting, in “giving the sense” (Neh. ), in “teaching statutes and judgments” (Ezra ), i. e. in declaring and enforcing the great truths which God had revealed, especially those which affected the duty and the prospects of the Jewish people; and
(3) his duty to his race, in copying, and thus multiplying and preserving intact the word and the very words of God. Ezra “gave his heart” to this (Ezra ), and the result was that he did it with conspicuous and commanding ability (Neh. 8). He was a “ready scribe” (Ezra ).
3. Administrator and reformer. He conducted the party whom he headed to Jerusalem in peace and safety (Ezra ); there he established himself as leader of the people, and set about the work of reforming abuses with a vigorous hand. His ardour led to a serviceable organisation and reform. He seems also to have been, as few strong-willed men are, a co-operator with others. He acted with Nehemiah, the governor, and it may well have been difficult to define strictly their respective offices.
4. Man of influence with his fellows. There was that about him, due to the elevation and disinterestedness of his character as well as to the vigour and robustness of his mind, which gave him strange influence with the king, so that he gave him leave to lead out a large return party, and also entrusted him with large powers in the commission. Men who, like Ezra, earnestly seek the will of God and do what they know to be right (Ezra ), and lay themselves out for “doing good and communicating” (Heb. ), are likely to have power with men.
5. Man through whom God wrought. “The hand of the Lord his God was upon him” (Ezra , 9, etc.). His soul felt the quickening touch of the Divine finger, and it kindled with a sacred glow of piety and zeal. He was moved of God to attempt great things, and helped of God to achieve them. His life flowed on like a fertilizing river (Ed: cp the man of Ps ), and did so because “all his springs were in God” (Ps ). Our character may contain much that is excellent, and our lives include much that is honourable, but except the hand of the Lord our God be upon us, renewing our heart and blessing our life, we shall not be or do that which is pleasing to him or useful to our fellows.
II. Generally received tradition respecting Ezra.
It is commonly believed among the Jews that he instituted the Great Synagogue, that he settled the canon of Scripture, that he himself wrote the books of the Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and (perhaps) Esther, and that he established the system of synagogue worship. This last arose about his time, and, if indeed due to him, is a work which laid his countrymen, and indeed us all (for had not the forms of the synagogue something, if not much, to do with the forms of the early Church?), under a heavy debt of gratitude. Ezra was a holy and zealous man, with a strong mind and a firm will, exercising a commanding influence on his contemporaries, making the word of God the basis and mainspring of his action, seeking and striving for the purity of the people of God. Some things he did we know. Others we know not of. We may not be so great and distinguished as he was. It may not be in our power to render such signal services as he did, or to leave behind us such a reputation as he has left. Yet in the essentials of his character and work we may be like him. We also may—
(1) Be devout students of God’s will as revealed in his word—“preparing our heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it.”
(2) Open our hearts to receive heavenly influences; gain by humility, docility, and prayer” the hand of the Lord our God upon us,” so that he will dwell in us and work through us.
(3) Make known the will of God to others, teaching in some sphere, higher or humbler, the word of God and the truth of Jesus Christ.
(4) Co-operate cheerfully with others, yielding our preferences to theirs, being “of the same mind in the Lord” with those who are our fellow-labourers in the field of Christian work. And if we do this as did Ezra, we shall, like him,
(5) do that which men will mark and praise, but much more that they will not record; much, however, that will not be unwritten in some book of God, and that will “in no wise lose its reward.”—C. (The Pulpit Commentary: Ezra. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.)
To reiterate, God’s sovereign hand of blessing and empowerment was on Ezra because he was a "Word saturated man" one who "marinated" himself in the pure milk of the Word and then lived out what the Spirit taught him in his studies.
As Horatio Bonar once advised…
We must study the Bible more. We must not only lay it up within us, but transfuse it through the whole texture of the soul.
Thus it was not so much that Ezra had gone through the Book so many times, but more that the Book had coursed through his heart and soul to the point that his will was in synch with will of God which is always most clearly revealed in the Word of God. Ezra was "in touch" with the Father's heart, through His Word and the teaching ministry of His Spirit, and as a result had as his heart's desire to see God glorified in his life (cp notes on same principle in the NT - letting your light shine Matthew )
Pastor Steven Cole introduces his message on Ezra The Life that God Blesses with the following words…
Over thirty years ago, I read a sermon that has impacted my life as much or more than any of the thousands of sermons that I have read. It is titled, “Expecting the Lord’s Blessing,” by the late Chinese evangelist Watchman Nee (in Twelve Baskets Full [Hong Kong Church Book Room], ). That sermon, based on the Lord’s feeding of the 5,, has affected the entire direction and motivation of my personal life and my ministry. Nee hammers home a simple but profound truth: “Everything in our service for the Lord is dependent on His blessing” (p. 48). He observes that in the feeding of the 5,, the supply in hand was totally inadequate to meet the demand, and yet the demand was met. He says, “The meeting of need is not dependent on the supply in hand, but on the blessing of the Lord resting on the supply” (ibid.). That leads Nee to ask a question that I want you to ponder seriously: “Do we really prize the Lord’s blessing?” (p. 49). Do you really want and seek God’s blessing on your personal life, your family, your service for the Lord, and on His church?
We all know the right answer to that question. Few would be so brazen as to say, “No, I don’t want God’s blessing. I’d rather try to make my own blessings apart from God!” But I don’t want you to give a knee-jerk “yes” answer just because it is the obviously correct answer. I want you to think about the implications of the question before you answer.
There are a number of men in Scripture whom God blessed: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and David are prominent examples. But Ezra is also a man whom God blessed, even though he is not so well known as those other men are. We first meet him in chapter 7 of the book that bears his name. There is a year gap between the events in chapters 6 and 7. The temple had been rebuilt under the ministries of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, aided by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The exiles that had returned to Israel during that first wave were either dead or very old by now. They had settled into the land and, as we will see, in many cases had begun to blend together with the pagans of the land. The walls of Jerusalem had not been rebuilt, leaving the city vulnerable to attack. God raised up Ezra and Nehemiah to bring spiritual reform to His people.
Both men were born in Babylon and had close connections with King Artaxerxes. No doubt they both enjoyed comfortable living conditions there. But both men were burdened with the low spiritual state of the exiles that had returned to the land. Both men were willing to give up their comfortable situations in Babylon and endure the hardship and hassles to bring reform to God’s people. But how could they accomplish this overwhelming task? The answer occurs in a phrase that first occurs three times in our chapter, and then five times in the rest of Ezra and Nehemiah: God’s hand was on these men (Ezra , 9, 28; , 22, 31; Neh , 18). God’s hand is another way of saying God’s blessing. God blessed these two men and their labors for Him. If we want His blessing or hand to rest on us, we would do well to study their lives. We could add more factors, but limiting ourselves to Ezra 7, we learn that…
To have God’s hand of blessing on us, we must study and obey His Word, with a view to teaching others and glorifying God for everything.
That theme is stated in Ezra , which explains why “the good hand of his God was upon him” (): “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.” The connection between Ezra and God’s Word is repeated no less than eight times (Ezra , 10, 11, 12, 14, 21, 25, 26)! There is a definite correlation between our commitment to know and obey God’s Word and His hand of blessing being upon us. (The Life that God Blesses - if you are not familiar with Pastor Cole's teaching ministry, you might read some of his excellent expositional sermons which function much like commentaries)
Here are just a few additional passages on which to meditate regarding the hand of the Lord
Ex Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.
Ex “And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.
Ex “And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.
Ex “So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”
Ex “Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.
Ex “You stretched out Your right hand, The earth swallowed them.
1 Chr ("Prayer of Jabez") - Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested.
Acts And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
1 Peter Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
Had set his heart (not his head but his heart!)
Had prepared (kuwn) his heart. (see below)
Set() (kuwn) means to set up, to make firm, to establish, to prepare. The primary action of this verb is to cause to stand in an upright position, and thus kuwn can also mean fixed or steadfast. This same verb is used to describe God establishing the heavens (Pr ).
The picture of kuwn in the present context is that of preparing one's heart, in this case to seek, to study, to receive the Word of Truth. Compare a similar use of kuwn in the case of Solomon's successor to the throne Rehoboam of whom the chronicler records…
And he did evil because he did not set (Kuwn - "prepared not" = KJV) his heart to seek the Lord. (2Chr )
Kuwn is used one other time in Ezra chapter 3, and this literal use provides an illustration of the figurative use in the present passage…
Ezra So they set up (kuwn) the altar on its foundation, for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, burnt offerings morning and evening.
One could also read the text of Ezra as stating that Ezra had ”Set his heart firmly" which gives the idea that Ezra was inwardly determined or resolutely steadfast. He was determined and this determination was directed toward studying, obeying, and teaching God’s Law to others—Mark it down! This pattern while not a "formula", is to be sure an inviolable order for a Spirit empowered ministry! You cannot teach with power until you yourself have practiced (obeyed) what you have studied. Do be otherwise deluded (cp James note).
We as NT believers, like the OT believer Ezra, must continually set (because the flesh, the world and the devil continually tempt us to "veer off course") our hearts to seek, do, and teach the Word of God, for no one accidentally becomes a faithful student of God's Word. We must each make a daily deliberate decision of our will (continual choosing) to lay aside lesser things and/or things that hinder us (see Hebrews note) in order to seek the best.
J I Packer emphasizes the critical need for each of us to prepare our hearts before we seek God in His Word noting that…
One of the many divine qualities of the Bible is this: that it does not yield its secrets to the irreverent and censorious.
Spurgeon issues a similar caveat declaring that…
God sends every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest.
One is reminded of Solomon's wise advice concerning godly wisdom, noting that…
If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God.
DANIEL'S SECRET OF SUCCESS
Daniel was without question one of the greatest of the Old Testament saints (cp Ezekiel ) and was one who able to live godly in a radically ungodly, idolatrous culture (sound familiar?).
What was Daniel's secret? Daniel 1 explains that Daniel's secret was the same as Ezra's in that it has to do with the choices one makes in one's heart. In Daniel chapter 1 we read the key (in my opinion) to his long godly life in which he repeatedly experienced the good hand of the LORD upon all of his endeavors…
ButDaniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Note that Daniel begins with "but Daniel" which begs the question of what is being contrasted? The previous section gives the context…
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4 youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king's personal service. 6 Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego (Daniel )
So we see that Daniel made a choice that could have cost him his life. The phrase "made up his mind" is more literally "placed it upon his heart", where the heart reflects the "control tower" so to speak of one's life. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew text) translated into English reads…
And Daniel himself (reflexive = he initiated the action and participated in the results) placed it upon his heart that he would absolutely not (double negative in the BGT [TH], the strongest way to express negation in Greek) be polluted (defiled) in the king's banquet…
Isn't life really nothing but a series of (sometimes hard) "heart choices"? Perhaps what you are considering is not sinful, but is it God's best? Is it something that will allow you to redeem the time knowing how precious are these few years we have on earth in light of our eternity in God's presence? May God give each of us the grace that Daniel possessed to assess our "life options" and choose to lay on our heart those options which are the most God glorifying. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
In summary, to set one’s heart is to “direct his heart constantly towards”.
WHAT IS THE DIRECTION OF YOUR HEART?
PONDER WHERE IT WILL TAKE YOU IN THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES…
Scripture has a number of passages that use the identical phrase (same verb and noun in Hebrew) of directing one's heart…
Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, "If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand (paraphrase = "from the power") of the Philistines." (1Samuel ,4) (What is the promise?… Man's responsibility? Note the verbs - return… remove… direct… deliver)
(David's prayer for Israel and his son Solomon) O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (he is making his appeal based on the Abrahamic Covenant), our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Thy people, and direct their heart to Thee (see 2 Chr below) and give to my son Solomon a perfect heart to keep Thy commandments, Thy testimonies, and Thy statutes, and to do them all, and to build the temple, for which I have made provision." (1 Chronicles ,19)
And he (King Rehoboam) did evil because he did not set his heart (Hebrew word here is not lebab but related noun leb - ) to seek the LORD. (2 Chronicles ) (Why did he do evil? What do we have to do before we can truly "seek God"? Dear God, deliver us from this subtle trap in our own lives - let it be not our way, but Thine. Amen)
(Jehu the prophet speaking and denouncing the king) But there is some good in you (King Jehoshaphat), for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God." 4 So Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem and went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. (2Chronicles , 4)
The high places, however, were not removed; the people had not yet directed their hearts to the God of their fathers. (2Chronicles )
Comment: 2 Chronicles says King Jehoshaphat removed the high places and Asherim from Judah, but this verse indicates that apparently the people of Israel had otherwise resisted Jehoshaphat's decree.
(Speaking of the generation to come, Asaph says they should be taught to remember and obey God) And not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart, and whose spirit was not faithful to God. (Psalm )
Comment: Note how unfaithfulness to God parallels not preparing one's heart!
Spurgeon adds… "They had no decision for righteousness and truth. In them there was no preparedness, or willingness of heart, to entertain the Saviour; neither judgments, nor mercies could bind their affections to their God; they were fickle as the winds, and changeful as the waves." (Ref)
Here are some other excellent cross references related to setting one's heart. If you have time study them in context to see implications of preparing one's heart --
2Chronicles , , Job , Psalms , , , , 37, , ,8, 1Corinthians ,
Ezra's heart was undoubtedly prepared to receive the Word implanted by confession of his sins for it is impossible to study the Scriptures profitably with an impure mind.
Therefore putting aside (decisively casting off sins as one would a filthy, odoriferous garment!) all filthiness (Greek rhuparia from rhupos = wax in one's ear!) and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive (accept deliberately and readily, receive kindly, as one would put out a welcome mat for guests!) the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (see James note)
Comment: While this "salvation" could refer to our initial salvation (justified or declared righteous by faith), it could also refer to our daily salvation (progressive sanctification) of which all believers stand in continual need.
Therefore, putting aside (casting these off like a "dirty, filthy" garment) all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (note the "all's" - 1Jn says when we confess God cleanses us from all unrighteousness!), like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (See 1Pe note; 1Pe )
Sin will keep you from the Bible or
The Bible will keep you from sin.
The phrase set his heart conveys the idea of being firmly committed to a particular course of action with unwavering steadfastness. The verb signifies being “established, prepared, fixed” in a determined pursuit. The same root word is used to portray God’s establishment of the heavens (Pr ; ). Thus the expression carries the idea of a determined purpose and unwavering resolution to act in a prescribed way to bring something to pass.
To paraphrase this verse in modern terms Ezra's heart…
was zeroed in on the primary goal of studying God’s Word.
The more you read it, the more you love it;
The more you love it, the more you read it.
In Psalm 1 guarding ourselves from wickedness (not walking, standing or sitting) precedes delighting in the Word which leads to meditating on the Word. (See exposition of Psalm note; Ps note; Ps note) And the more we meditate on it, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, the more we delight in it, etc.
Heart() (lebab) (Lxx = kardia - see word study) refers not only to his intellect per se only but in Hebrew speaks of that which rules one's very being, the very center of human life -- the seat of affections, emotions, desires. The heart, in which Ezra purposed to study the Scriptures connotes “the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature”
Ezra, or anyone who would follow his example, would direct the core of their being constantly toward the task of studying and pouring over the Scriptures. But to say that this function was Ezra's “ministry” would be missing emphasis of Ezra More to the point, one might say that the study of the Scriptures was his life—his all-consuming passion. Little else commanded his attention like the task that God had set before him. Ezra gave his best effort to study, practice, and teach God’s law, each activity being observed completely and in order. At this point, we must each do personal inventory and ask - Do I truly give God my best efforts in this area? If we "stop" up the fountain, the source of life in His living and active word, we short circuit the Spirit's power in our life and ministry. Being "anemic" ourselves, we have little power and passion to pass on to those we are called to disciple.
I remember reading about John MacArthur's interview (my details may not be completely accurate) to take the lead pastor position at Grace Community Church. As I recall the story, he said that he would take the position on the condition (what I would call an "Ezra " condition) that the church would guarantee that he had 30 hours of uninterrupted study time during the week in which he could read and meditate on the Word so that he would have truth from God to bring to the congregation on Sunday. Let me ask you… Has the good hand of the LORD been upon Dr John MacArthur's ministry? I think the evidence speaks for itself. I love the heading on his website -
"Unleashing God's truth one verse at a time".
A similar story could surely be told about another well known American pastor, Dr John Piper, a mighty expositor of God's Word, one who has diligently practiced the Ezra principle and as a result has clearly experienced the good hand of the LORD on his ministry. May Dr MacArthur's and Dr Piper's tribe increase!
In summary, both Dr MacArthur and Dr Piper have "bought in" (in my opinion) to the "Ezra " principle of church growth, feeding their sheep pure milk (see 1Pe note) and solid food (see Hebrews note) and thereby growing their flocks mightily in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory to God in the highest!
With such God glorifying results promised to those who practice the "Ezra principle", why do we see so few "Ezras" in the pulpits across America today? I do not know the answer but I feel that part of that answer is that many don't truly believe Luke which the ASV renders as…
No word from God shall be void of power.
In this Luke passage, the Greek word for "no" is the strongest word for no that Luke could have used -- absolutely no Word of God is impotent! Do we really believe this is true? Do we really believe that diligent study, practice and teaching of the eternal, inherently powerful word will unleash the power of God's hand upon us, upon our ministry and upon those we pastor? If this is your desire, perhaps you need to reorder priorities if you are the lead pastor or teacher. Perhaps you need to go to the elders and request a block of absolutely, immutably uninterrupted time during the week in order to begin to apply the "Ezra principle". If you should be one of those who does make this decision, your church will never be the same as it begins to experience the reality of the supernatural reality of the good hand of the LORD upon it's various ministries.
Revive your shepherds, O LORD,
According to Thy word. Amen.
(based on Ps )
Now, let us return to the study of our passage and reiterate that the Hebrew word for heart represents the center or middle of something, and can indeed refer to the physical heart, organ which pumps blood to supplies life for the entire body. Of the some uses of heart (lebab) in the Old Testament, the most common meaning is figurative and signifies a person’s inner being including one's mind, emotions, will, etc. Thus the heart denotes the intellect, by which one thinks, analyzes, compares, and understands a matter (1Kings ; 2Kings ; 2Chr ; Pr ; ), the emotions, or the deepest innermost feelings of a person (Pr , ); and the volition, the seat of the will where choices are made (Nu ; Judges. ; 2Chr ). When Ezra set his heart to study the Word, the study of Scripture absolutely consumed his life. And even as a healthy physical heart is vital to one's overall physical health, so too the spiritual condition of our heart affects the vitality of our entire being. Little wonder that Scripture is replete with encouragements and admonitions that relate to our spiritual heart, one of my favorites being…
Proverbs noteWatch (Hebrew verb here is a command - it is "imperative" that we continually stand guard on the watchtower; the Greek Lxx uses tereo [see word study] also in the present imperative = this command which speaks of our continual need to keep our eye upon the citadel of our heart, guarding over it in order to protect it from the variegated noxious agents which the world, the flesh and/or the devil would seek to attack us with) over your heart with all diligence (Solomon uses a word related to that which describes a prison guard keeping watch over a prisoner in a cell), (why?) for from it flow the springs of life (Life is the ability to exercise all one's vital power to the fullest; death is the opposite - Jesus said from our "innermost being shall flow rivers of living water" speaking of the Spirit Who gives life, cp John , 39, A short, but pithy paraphrase would be "Keep your "river" from being polluted!").
The New Living paraphrase accurately conveys the thrust of this Proverbs "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do."
Just as the physical heart must be in good shape for our body to be healthy, so too must our spiritual heart be in good condition for optimum functioning in the spiritual realm. When the Spirit of God measures the ''worth'' of a man's life He puts the measuring tape around his heart, not around his head. Be a man after God's Own heart (cp the heart of David, Acts , not a perfect man but one who offered God a "broken and a contrite heart", Ps - "A heart crushed is a fragrant heart. Men contemn those who are contemptible in their own eyes, but the Lord seeth not as man seeth. He despises what men esteem, and values that which they despise. Never yet has God spurned a lowly, weeping penitent, and never will he while God is love, and while Jesus is called the man who receiveth sinners. Bullocks and rams he desires not, but contrite hearts he seeks after; yea, but one of them is better to him than all the varied offerings of the old Jewish sanctuary." Spurgeon's Note).
Matthew Henry commenting on Proverbs wrote that "We must keep a watchful eye and a strict hand upon all the motions of our inward man… God, who gave us these souls, gave us a strict charge with them. We must set a strict guard, accordingly, upon all the avenues of the soul; keep our hearts from doing hurt and getting hurt, from being defiled by sin and disturbed by trouble; keep out bad thoughts; keep up good thoughts; keep the affections upon right objects and in due bounds.
If we would "keep" our hearts "with all diligence", we wouldn't be careless, for example, about what gets into our hearts through the "eye-gate". We'd "censor" our own television viewing out of a greater concern to "watch" our own heart. And we'd even be willing to get rid of our television if it's affecting us negatively. We would rid our homes of any visual images or literature that incline us toward sexual immorality or sin of any kind. We'd not only guard what might come in; but also what might come out. We would keep our own attitudes in check, so that the words that come out of our mouths aren't reflective of evil in our heart. We'll be like David, when he prayed (Psalm - Spurgeon's Note).
O child of God, guard well your eyes
From anything that stains the heart;
Forsake those things that soil the mind--
Your Father wants you set apart. --Fasick
If you effectively protect your car from theft, your home from burglary, your property from damage, your financial interests from failure, and your body from personal illness and injury, and even our borders from terrorist attacks - and yet fail in protecting this one, all-important thing as the Bible warns us - that singular failure will effect all other areas of life.
The heart of man is the worst part of his being before his conversion, and the best afterwards. It is the fountain of all his actions. The eye of God is always fixed on the heart. And believers should be carefully watchful of their hearts. Christianity is a religion of the heart. It is not a system of moral conduct. It is the life of Christ in a man's soul. Salvation is the work of God in a man's heart. The conviction of sin, repentance, faith, and, worship are all works of the heart. The kingdom of God is not in meat and drink, things of the body; but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. These are things of the heart. There is no responsibility placed upon the shoulders of a believer of greater importance than the keeping and proper government of his heart in all conditions, by faith in Christ the Lord. If we truly learn to guard our hearts, this practice will bring the beauty of holiness into our lives, and sweeten our spirits with the grace of heaven. (see here for more detail on "the heart")
John Flavel wisely observed that "The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God."
John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, like Ezra was consumed with the study of God’s Word. C H Spurgeon read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress every year on one occasion remarking that "He had studied our Authorized Version… till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and through his writings… he … [makes] us feel and say ‘Why, this man is living Bible! Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.’
Ralph Davies - Note the initial ki (for, because) in the Hebrew text. It explains why the good hand of his God was upon him (Ezra ). God prospered the venture because of Ezra's purpose. This then is a warning against sloth and carelessness, and a sloppy view of grace. The subject comes before the verb in the Hebrew text, so there is some stress on "Ezra." On "setting the heart," the Hiphil of kun plus leb, see Psalm ; 2 Chronicles (all negative); and 1 Samuel ; 2 Chronicles ; The language of verse 10 speaks of a ministry that is focused in its objective (set his heart) and intense in its labor (to seek). It is both anchored and vigorous, not content with a little ministerial piddling. Note that Ezra purposes a total ministry: seek, do, teach; the cognitive, the experiential, and the didactic. Note that there are both academic and existential qualifications before teaching. The process, ever repeated, is: concentration (seek), consistency (do), communication (teach). (Ezra-Nehemiah, part 6)
If a Christian is careless in Bible reading,
He will care less about Christian living.
TO STUDY THE LAW OF THE LORD:
- Ezra ; Ps ; Ps ; ,96, 87, 98, 99, )
See Related Topics:
KJV = seek, a word which conveys the idea of searching for what is lost (cp "paradise lost"), in context describing man's quest for God and what can only be obtained from Him. Seeking necessitates diligent effort in order to obtain. In regard to the Scripture the goals are to obtain the truth about God and the truth about man and then walk in light of that truth as Ezra did.
I'm not sure if R A Torrey's percentages are correct but there is still some convicting truth in his assessment that…
Ninety-nine Christians in every hundred are merely playing at Bible study; and therefore ninety-nine Christians in every hundred are merely weaklings when they might be giants.
J. I. Packer is surely correct when says that…
If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible.
Alan Redpath (past pastor at Moody Bible Church) once advised believers to "wreck" their Bible every 10 years! Do you use your Bible every day until it eventually falls apart?
Give me the insight, Lord,
As I read Your Word today,
So I will truly understand
Your message and Your way.
Francis Bacon - Let no man think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word or in the book of God's works. (Amen!)
Christian author Jerry Bridges writes that "As we search the Scriptures, we must allow them to search us, to sit in judgement upon our character and conduct.
A W Pink speaking of the work of Bible Study wrote that "No verse of Scripture yields its meaning to lazy people."
Bob Smith in his practical book Basics of Bible Interpretation writes that…
God wants everyone to be able to understand the Bible, for its message is essentially how we can have and enjoy the greatest kind of life, free from the futility of pointlessness, free from the limitations of our human, earthly thought patterns, free from the fear of death and dying. Not everyone understands it this way. In fact, many are so convinced they can't understand the Bible that they never give it a second look. It's strange how we will study most any other subject with diligence only to have the acquired knowledge perish with us. But the words of the Bible are words of life!
Search the Scripture's precious store
As a miner digs for ore;
Search, and you will surely find
Treasures to enrich your mind.
Study() (darash) means to seek with care, to inquire, to pursue or to search, each of these verbs giving us a good picture of how Ezra approached the law of the LORD.
Darash is used to describe Moses when he went "to inquire (Lxx = ekzeteo) of God" (Ex ). David said "I sought (Lxx = ekzeteo) the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears." (Ps ) In Deuteronomy 12 darash presents a striking contrast between seeking Jehovah (Dt ) or inquiring after the gods of the land (Dt ) which would result in Israel becoming ensnared and enslaved even asking 'How do these nations serve their gods?" (Dt ) What you seek after will be what you serve. Seek Jehovah that you might be bound to Him as your Master!
Darash is also used of divine vengeance on those who take a life and so we see that God will diligently seek restitution of a life for a life Moses (uses darash 3x and Lxx translates each with the verb ekzeteo - where it carries the sense of "to look for in expectation of fixing blame" [BDAG] or charging someone with a charge as in Lk ) recording "“And surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man." (Ge )
The Septuagint (LXX) uses the verb zeteo (see Mt note) which conveys the idea of attempting to learn something by careful investigation or searching (cf Pr ).
In David's initial encounter with Bathsheba we find an interesting use of darash that helps give us a sense of what it means to "study" something "So David sent and inquired (darash) about the woman (Woe! Not good David!). And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" (2Sa ) Perhaps if David had been actively seeking or inquiring of the Word of the LORD (performing "preventive maintenance"), it is doubtful he would have been inquiring about Bathsheba. In fact one of the clear instructions for kings was to write out a copy of the law and "read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes." In sum, if David had sought the LORD in His Word, he would have had a healthy fear of the LORD, which is a strong motivator to turn away from evil (cp Job , Pr Ne Job Ps 2Co )!
Darash for example this word was used when Moses “searched carefully” to find out what happened to the sin offering (Lev note) or when David “inquired” to find out who Bathsheba was (2Samuel ). Ezra studied the Word by carefully searching it (compare the Bereans in Acts notes), investigating its truths, probing its parts, surveying its whole (see observation), striving to understand its meaning (see Interpretation), being concerned to grasp its message, leaving no stone unturned. Ezra was not content to skim the surface and gain a superficial knowledge of the text.
Baker on darash - Figuratively, it may refer to seeking out or inquiring about lovers (Jer. ) or to care for Zion (Jer. ). It denotes inquiring about persons (2Sam. ) or their welfare (souls)(Ps. ). It indicates the Lord's care for His land (Deut. ). It carries the general sense of seeking out property, such as a lost ox or cattle (Deut. ), or examining a matter (Deut. ; Judg. ; 1 Ki. ) or event. It takes on the meaning of requiring or demanding someone's blood in a moral or legal sense (Gen. ; 2 Chr. ; Ps. ) but also of seeking good itself (Amos ).Its most important theological meaning involves studying or inquiring into the Law of the Lord (Ezra ) or inquiring of God (Gen. ; Ex. ; Deut. ; 1 Ki. ; 2 Ki. ). God's people seek after their God (Deut. ; Hos. ; Amos ). Seeking the Lord will be greatly rewarded (Ps. ). Seeking heathen gods or persons who deal with the dead is to be avoided (1 Sam. ; Isa. ; Ezek. ). The works of God, however, are to be examined and studied (Ps. ). (Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament)
Darash - verses (see verses below)NAS translates darash as = ask(1), avenge(1), calls(1), care(1), cares(3), comes the reckoning(1), consult(2), consulted by them at all(1), demand(1), inquire(33), inquired(5), inquirer(1), investigate(3), investigated(1), looks(2), making inquiry(1), questioned(1), require(7), required(1), requires(1), resort(3), search(6), searched(1), searched carefully(1), searches(2), seek(53), seek after(1), seeking(2), seeks(3), sought(18), studied(1), study(1), surely require(1).
German theologian Johann Bengel () aptly described Ezra (and his kind) as "like a maker of a well who brings no water to his source but allows the water he finds there to flow freely without stoppage, diversion, or defilement."
In his studies of the Scriptures, Ezra undoubtedly followed Thomas Watson's exhortation to "Leave not off reading the Bible till you find your hearts warmed. Let it not only inform you but inflame you."
Regarding the pastor's (and all believers') need to focus on the pure milk of the Word, Puritan Richard Baxter explained how this truth finally dawned on him writing that "Till at last, being by my sickness cast far from home, where I had no book but my Bible, I set to study the truth from thence, and so, by the blessing of God, discovered more in one week than I had done before in seventeen years’ reading, hearing, and wrangling."
The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary -
Dārash occurs over one hundred fifty times and generally means "to seek" or "to inquire." In Lev. the meaning is more intensive. Paired with a modifier, the term describes how Moses seeks to find out in detail what happened to the sin offering, and in 2 Sam. when David sought to find out who Bathsheba was. It also occurs in Jer. when the exiles are told to seek the peace and prosperity of the city in which they have been exiled. It is used negatively in Deut. Moses told the people to seek a treaty with the Ammonites or Moabites. Israel was told to seek carefully the place God would choose for sacrifices (Deut. ) and justice (Isa. ). In the end, Jerusalem, the place no one seeks (Jer. ), will be the place "sought out" (Isa. ).
An important theological theme can be demonstrated around the idea of "seeking," "consulting" or "inquiring" of God. In Gen. , Rebekah inquired of the Lord; in Exo. , Moses told Jethro that the people came to him to seek God's will; in 1 Ki. , Ahab told Jehoshaphat that they may inquire of the Lord through Micaiah. There are also times when the people "inquired" of something else. In 1 Chr. , David told the people they needed to bring back the Ark of the Lord, because they did not inquire of it in the past. In 1 Ki. , Jehoshaphat tells Ahab to inquire of the word of the Lord. In Isa. , instruction is given to inquire of the book of the Lord.
The idea of seeking heathen gods and prophets is also developed with this word in Ezek. which says punishment will come to those who seek false prophets. In 1 Sam. , Saul desired to inquire of a medium. In 1 Chr. , one of the reasons for Saul's death is attributed to his seeking counsel of a medium.
The idea of "seeking" God is also developed through the use of dārash (Deut. ). In fact, the chronicler evaluated the history of Israel in terms of their seeking God (1 Chr. ; ; 2 Chr. ) or idols (2 Chr. ). Isaiah reported Israel's refusal to seek God in spite of divine chastening (Isa. ). Israel was instructed to seek the Lord (Isa. ; Jer. ; Hos. ), but it is the Gentiles who would seek out the messianic King (Isa. ). The people of Israel are reproved for "seeking" Him while continuing in their sins (Isa. ), but are promised blessings if they genuinely seek him (Isa. ).
A person may also seek God through prayer and worship. In Deut. , the people were told that they would find God if they sought Him with all their heart. In Hos. the prophet stated that it was time to seek the Lord. Amos , 6 says that those who seek the Lord shall live.
Theologically, dārash is also used of divine vengeance on those who take a life. God will seek restitution of a life for a life (Gen. ; 2 Chr. , 24). The verb is also used in more common ways. In Deut. , it refers to "looking for" sheep. The Lord "looks for" his sheep (Ezek. , 8, 11). The Lord searches out men's hearts (1 Chr. ). Various matters may be inquired about: a miraculous sign (2 Chr. ) and sin (Job ).
John Piper wisely warns all who proclaim God's Word that…
We must beware of the temptation to replace the study of Scripture with the reading of good books about the Scripture. If you want to know if a man has studied well, don’t ask him to show you his library. Ask him to show you his personal notebooks where he has recorded his own authentic insights into the Word of God.
We make a great mistake when we think that study consists mainly in reading (as commonly understood)—even reading the Bible. Many think they have studied well when they have spent the morning reading through some worthy book of divinity. And thus the measure of our study becomes the number of books that we have read.
But my own conviction is that fruitful study is primarily thinking not reading. My guess is that reading, which was meant to become a stimulus and guide to independent thinking, usually becomes a substitute for it. The evidence for this is how many books we read and how little we write down. Fresh thinking must always be put down on paper to get it clear and preserve it for use. Much reading and little thinking makes for a second-hand pastor. And it is not easy to preach and teach second-hand truths with power.
The ministry of the Word is a ministry of study. And the ministry of study should be devoted primarily to the Bible. And the study of the Bible should consist very much in thinking and writing about what it says.
In another writing Piper says…
If we are going to feed our people, we must ever advance in our grasp of Biblical truth. We must be like Jonathan Edwards who resolved in his college days, and kept the resolution all his life,
Resolved: To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. (The seventy resolutions of the young Edwards are found in Sereno Dwight, Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, , xx–xxi. This is resolution 28 from page xxi.)
(Piper, J. Brothers, we are not professionals : A plea to pastors for radical ministry)
The Law of the LORD -
The Law of Jehovah (see study of this great Name of God).
The Law () (torah) means basically "teaching" and in simple terms represent God's instructions to His people regarding how they should live, especially how they should live in covenant with a holy God. The torah was to saturate one's total way of life, permeating every decision, every thought, etc. The torah was given to make known the way men should walk or conduct their lives.
Ezra's "Bible" would have been the first five books (the Pentateuch) and the Book of Joshua, which was in existence in his day.
God, motivated by love, reveals to man basic insights into how to live with each other and how to approach God. Through the law God shows His interest in all aspects of man's life which is to be lived under His direction and care. The Law of God stands parallel to Word of the Lord to signify that law is the revelation of God's will. In this capacity the Law became the nation of Israel's wisdom and understanding so that the pagans would marvel at the quality of Israel's distinctive life style (cp Deut ).
The psalmist's attitude toward the Law in Psalm surely reflected Ezra's heart attitude…
O how I love Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.
He loves so much that he must express his love, and in making the attempt he perceives that it is inexpressible. We obey the law out of love, and even when it chides us for disobedience we love it none the less. It is my meditation all the day. He meditated on God’s Word because he loved it, and then loved it the more because he meditated in it. In his worldly business he still kept his mind saturated with the law of the Lord. Familiarity with the Word of God breeds affection, and affection seeks yet greater familiarity. When thy law and my meditation are together all the day, the day grows holy, devout, and happy, and the heart lives with God. ( <> Quiet Musing by Spurgeon)
Amy Carmichael gives us a good caution for our day when more Christian books are being published then at any other time in the history of the world…
Never let good books take the place of the Bible. Drink from the Well, not from the streams that flow from the Well. (Amen and amen!)
Martin Luther wrote that…
When I was young, I read the Bible over and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been mentioned.
Luther also wrote
For a number of years I have now annually read through the Bible twice. If the Bible were a large, mighty tree and all its words were little branches, I have tapped at all the branches, eager to know what was there and what it had to offer.
Luther is reported to have said concerning his own study of the Scriptures that…
I study my Bible as I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I shake the Bible as a whole, like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb—study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters when they do not break the sense. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings. (Ed: Sounds like he practiced the discipline of inductive Bible study).
John Piper writes,
At the heart of every pastor’s work is bookwork. Call it reading, meditation, reflection, cogitation, study, exegesis, or whatever you will—a large and central part of our work is to wrestle God’s meaning from a book, and then to proclaim it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The best thing to do with the Bible is to know it in the head, stow it in the heart, sow it in the world, and show it in the life.
AND TO PRACTICE IT:
- Deuteronomy ; Matthew note; Matthew note; John ; Rev -note
- cp 1Timothy note, 1Timothy ; Titus -note
In John Jesus emphasizes the importance of applying truth received and the result of such application…
If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John )
In Matthew Jesus again emphasizes the importance of obedient application declaring that…
everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. (see note Matthew )
James wrote of the deception of hearing but not doing and the blessing of seeing and doing…
Prove (present imperative = command to make this your habitual practice - when you hear truth obey it without delay for delay is disobedience) yourselves doers (poietes - performers but like those who are actors for that would define a hypocrite) of the word, and not merely hearers (Greek word = hose who sat passively in an audience and listened to a singer or speaker - like one who audits a college class, but which they are not required to do outside study, etc and are not held accountable for what they hear) who delude (fascinating word - paralogizomai from para = beside + logizomai = reason - means to reason besides oneself - and so to betray oneself by false reasoning) themselves. (see note James )
But (note the striking contrast - for context read v) one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty (Liberty is not the right to do as you please, but the power [grace] to do as you should!), and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer (poietes - same word as v22 - a genuine performer of the Word), this man shall be blessed (fully satisfied independent of the circumstances) in what he does (which was the testimony of Ezra). (see note James )
See related topic:
Study the Bible to be wise
Believe it to be safe
Practise it to be holy
1 Ti Pay close attention (present imperative = command to continually paying attention!) to yourself and to your teaching; persevere (present imperative = command to continually paying attention!) in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Apply yourself to the Scriptures
The Scriptures to yourself.
Will H. Houghton espoused the Ezra approach, encouraging each of us to…
Lay hold on the Bible until the Bible lays hold on (us).
Practice - The Hebrew word for “practice” carries the idea of expending energy in the pursuit of something. Live it out. Let the "rubber meet the road". Put shoe leather to the Scriptural truth taken into your heart. Unhesitatingly obey the truth learned. And remember that like a compass, the Bible always points you in the right direction.
We see this pattern of studying leading to practice in other passages, for example in the Pentateuch (of which Ezra was well versed) Moses said…
Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. (Deut ) In other words…
Hear the word
Learn the word
Fear the LORD
Practice the Word
In the well known passage in Joshua God instructs His young servant leader…
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night (STUDY), so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it (PRACTICE); for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (EXPERIENCE THE GOOD HAND OF THE LORD!). (Joshua )
Bible study for Ezra was not merely an intellectual discipline (cp the Pharisee in Jesus' day) but had the goals of life change and discipleship. If our Bible study only makes us smarter sinners, then we are studying for the wrong reason. Our motive should always be to study in such a way that we are transformed from glory to glory, progressively being conformed to the image of our Savior.
Practice it… A good leader is one who… Knows the way, Goes the way, and Shows the way. Knowing without doing is arrogance not obedience.
A good pattern for ministry -- learn it, live it, and let it out.
How interesting to hear the "wisdom" of one of the secular world's esteemed "scribes", George Bernard Shaw, who once said…
He who can, does. He who cannot teaches.
Shaw clearly did not know about the life of the esteemed Jewish scribe Ezra and why he had experienced the good hand of God!
In his article in Master's Seminary Journal (volume 2), Richard Mayhue adds that…
When each phase of Ezra’s example is kept completely and ordered correctly, following his threefold commitment will prevent many expositional shortcomings: “Study is saved from unreality, conduct from uncertainty, and teaching from insincerity and shallowness.” [Quoted from Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, ) 62]
Lawson writes that…
Ezra mastered the Word, but more importantly the Word mastered him. And so his careful study led to a holy life. His personal integrity became the platform from which he carried out his public teaching ministry. What Ezra learned in the Scriptures, he lived out in his daily life. (The Pattern of Biblical Preaching BSac Oct 01 p. )
Of great significance is the fact that Ezra’s reading and exposition was used by God to catalyze a revival. Why? Well, one reason surely was because the good hand of the LORD was upon him!
Ezra obeyed the Word with the same “heart” devotion with which he studied it. In striking contrast were the scribes in Jesus’ day who sought to follow the Law from the head but not from the heart. With full heads but empty hearts, they attempted to teach the Word, but Jesus saw their hearts and declared
This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me (Mt ).
Ezra, however, was a scribe who wholeheartedly kept the Word, not with mere external ritual or empty routine like the scribes and Pharisees, but from his heart.
Moody rightly said that…
God did not give us the Scriptures to increase our knowledge but to change our lives
Tozer was even more blunt declaring that…
Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.
Thomas Adams had a picturesque description writing that…
True obedience has no lead at its heels.
Thomas Brooks wrote
No man obeys God truly who does not endeavor to obey God fully.
Lorne Sanny rightly said that…
Luke summarizes his Gospel this way: "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach" (Acts , emphasis mine). Jesus' deeds matched His words and His words matched His deeds. Often His teaching was merely the explanation of a deed. Doing preceded teaching.
When the apostles returned from a ministry trip, they reported "all they had done and taught" (Mark , emphasis mine).
We who speak and teach must be careful. We are asked to speak on a topic, but that topic has not been part of our doing. So we gather Bible verses and quotes from books, and our message becomes book-born, not life-born.
Ezra prepared his heart "to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach" (Ezra , NKJV). To go straight from the study to the platform without the theme having gone through our lives is perilous—for us and for the audience.
E. Stanley Jones wrote concerning teaching that is divorced from doing:
The Word doesn't take shoes and walk, it takes wings and flies, over their heads. It is transcendental, but not transforming. It is geared into ideas, but not into life. Hence those interested in living pass it by.
Paul's response on the Damascus road was not, "What shall I preach on, Lord?" but rather, "What shall I do, Lord?" The doing would then authenticate his preaching.
All good teaching and preaching is essentially testimony—not of what we've done for God, but of what God has done for us when we've obeyed Him. To preach only what you practice limits the range, but it does increase the power (see note 1Thessalonians ). (Discipleship Journal) (Bolding added)
Lawson sums up Ezra's obedience writing that "The one who brings the Word must bow first before the Word and fully keep it. Selective obedience is no obedience. Partial obedience is nothing more than disguised disobedience. To be compelling in the pulpit, preachers must be complete in obedience. The Pattern of Biblical Preaching BSac Oct 01 p. )
"THE GOOD HAND OF THE LORD"
Ezra , 9, 10, 28
I. THE NEED FOR THE HAND OF GOD ON OUR LIVES.
A. Favor with God brings favor with man. Ezra
1. Life moves on two planes, vertical and horizontal.
a. The vertical is the axis upon which our lives revolve, thus more important.
b. If the center of my life is out of kilter the circumference is bound to be erratic.
c. So many today think their greatest problem is human relations.
1. It is divine relations.
d. We try to balance our lives from the outside in.
e. My relation with God must have top priority.
1. "Seek ye first."
B. The good hand of God brings us to our desired goals. Ezra
1. Man has two basic goals: satisfaction and joy.
a. Someone says, "I'm seeking success."
b. If you attain it you will be disappointed, it will not bring you what you thought it would.
1. You thought it would bring satisfaction.
2. Neither can be attained apart from God.
a. You can find happiness, elation. (Just scored winning touchdown.
b. Solomon's vain pursuit for satisfaction.
C. God's hand means strength. Ezra
1. In many trials it was only His hand that sustained me.
a. My strength and resources were gone.
2. Joseph's bow abode in strength.
3. Have you ever been in a place of distress and fear? You wonder, "What can I do?" Then suddenly feel the presence of God.
a. The tension and strain leaves and a beautiful peace and confidence comes.
Il. HOW TO EXPERIENCE THE HAND OF GOD ON YOUR LIFE.
A. The Lord is with you if you'll be with Him, and if you seek Him.
1. We must come to God and ask Him.
a. God comes to you only by invitation.
b. He will not intrude uninvited
B. Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord Ezra
1. Our hearts are prepared through quiet times of study.
a. The Word of God prepares my heart for the work of God.
2. Quiet times of prayer prepare me for the work of God has for me to do.
C. Take time out for your busy lives to cultivate and develop your relationship with God.
1. Quiet time while you wait on Him will be the best spent time of the whole day.
Warning: Bible study can be habit-forming. Putting the principles into practice can cause loss of anxiety, decreased appetite for lying, cheating, stealing, hating and "symptoms" of growing sensations of love, peace, joy, compassion.
Mom's Translation - Four pastors were discussing the merits of the various translations of the Bible. One liked a particular version best because of its simple, beautiful English. Another preferred a more scholarly edition because it was closer to the original Hebrew and Greek. Still another liked a contemporary version because of its up-to-date vocabulary.
The fourth minister was silent for a moment, then said, "I like my mother's translation best." Surprised, the other three men said they didn't know his mother had translated the Bible. "Yes," he replied. "She translated it into life, and it was the most convincing translation I ever saw."
Instead of discussing translation preferences, this pastor reminded them that the most important focus should be learning God's Word and doing it. That was the top priority of Ezra's life. As a scribe, he studied the Law, obeyed it, and taught it to the Israelites (Ezra ). For example, God commanded His people not to intermarry with neighboring nations who served pagan gods (Ezra ). Ezra confessed the nation's sin to God (Ezra ) and corrected the people, who then repented (Ezra ).
Let's follow Ezra's example by seeking the Word of God and translating it into life. —Anne Cetas (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
When we take time to read God's Word,
Our heart is filled with pleasure;
So let's relate the truth we've heard-
With others share the treasure. -Hess
The best commentary on the Bible
is a person who puts it into practice.
Howard Hendricks had it right when he said that "The Bible was not written to satisfy your curiosity, but to make you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner, but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts, but to transform your life. (Living by the Book)
Hendricks went on to add that "Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives. In fact, you are either in the Word and the Word is conforming you to the image of Jesus Christ, or you are in the world and the world is squeezing you into its mold. (ibid)
The Bible gives us all we need
To live our lives for God each day;
But it won't help if we don't read
And follow what its pages say
C H Spurgeon - Backsliders begin with dusty Bibles and end with filthy garments.
AND TO TEACH HIS STATUTES AND ORDINANCES IN ISRAEL:
- Ezra ; Deut ; 2Chr ,9; ; Neh ; Malachi ; Acts ; 1 Ti ; 2 Ti ; Titus ,15
TEACHING WHAT YOU
And to teach - The order is critical. Heart set, study, practice, then teach. If you don’t have a man who is living out the Word, then you don’t have a man who can teach the Word. You cannot (and should not) teach what you are not living. That is utter hypocrisy. That is what the Pharisees did and we see the divine disfavor they received! May Ezra's tribe increase!
James was correct and we do well to heed this warning
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. (James )
Teach (instruct)() (lamad) means "to learn, study, and teach," as well as "to be taught and to be learned." Lamad conveys the idea of learning and teaching in the sense of educating and training. The first use of lamad in the OT is in Dt note which emphasizes its importance (because Israel was being given instructions prior to entering the promised land). Biblical teaching seeks to guide people to follow the will of God, not by offering mere human opinions or suggestions but by bringing “the authoritative declaration of the Word of God. Most of the uses of lamad are in the book of Deuteronomy and the Psalms. The Lxx translates lamad in this Dt , 10, 14, , , , et al with didasko (see discussion below). Learning is intimately linked to reverential fear of the LORD which is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Pr , ) (cf the repeated phrase "learn to fear" = Deut. ; ; ; , 13, cp Ps ). Lamad can be used for training animals (Hos ) where it refers metaphorically to Ephraim “a trained (lāmad) heifer.”
Hayford's Bible Handbook on lamad - To instruct, train; prod, goad; teach; to cause someone to learn. The origin of the verb may be traced to the goading of cattle. Similarly, teaching and learning are attained through a great variety of goading, by memorable events, techniques, or lessons.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry on "Teach" - לָמַד, lāmadh, “to beat”: A very common word for “to teach”; it may have meant “to beat with a rod,” “to chastise,” and may have originally referred to the striking and goading of beasts by which they were curbed and trained. By a noble evolution the term came to describe the process of disciplining and training men in war, religion and life (Isa ; Hos ; Mic ). As teaching is both a condition and an accompaniment of disciplining, the word often means simply “to teach,” “to inform” (2 Ch ; Ps ; Prov ). The glory of teaching was its harmony with the will of God, its source in God’s authority, and its purpose to secure spiritual obedience (Dt , 14; , 13).
Israel was repeatedly warned against learning the abominable practices of the Canaanites (THESE VERSES HAVE A GOOD APPLICATION FOR MODERN BELIEVERS!)
Deuteronomy “When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.
Psalms But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices,
Jeremiah Thus says the LORD, “Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them;
It is instructive to study Psalm , the most concentrated use of lamad in the OT, where every verse deals in some way with the Word of God. In Psalm we encounter the writer repeatedly crying out in prayer for God to teach him the Word (Ps , 26, 64, 66, 68, , , , , cp David Ps , 5). Beloved, we should daily do no less! And keep in mind that the writer of Psalm clearly knew the Word and yet the cry of his heart was more teaching of the Word! Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (Ro ). In natural revelation we can know about God, but in special revelation (Word) we can truly come to know God. Even now, let us all pause and cry out "LORD, teach us by Thy Spirit, Thy Word that we may know Thee more intimately. Amen" W Graham Scroggie adds this note - "The Psalmist is resolved to learn, and he repeatedly calls upon the LORD to teach him. This word occurs 9 times (Ps , 26, 33, 64, 66, 68, , , );taught, twice (Ps , ); and teachers, once (Ps ). Two Hebrew words are used: yard, to point out, as if by aiming the finger, to inform, to instruct (Ps , ); and lāmad, meaning to goad, the rod being an Oriental incentive; this is the word used in all instances except in verses 33, To learn is generally difficult, especially to learn obedience. Lāmad, is interesting for the fact that it implies suffering; it means to goad and so to teach, the rod being an Oriental incentive, and so, in Jdg. KJV, we read that Gideon taught (yada) the men of Succoth with thorns. See Ps ("Then I will teach transgressors Your ways")"
Our response to God when we learn His righteous judgments should be to give thanks with uprightness of heart (Ps ) In Ps we see that one of the advantages of afflictions in our life is that we come to learn God's statutes. Humility is one of the prerequisites for God to teach us His Word (cp James note).
There is an interesting use in Isaiah where we see that "when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." So here we see that "God’s punishing hand benefits sinners in leading them to repentance." (MacArthur) In Is note we see the nations will never again "learn war" ("train for war" in Mic note) (in the Millennium).
Gilbrant points out that "Lāmad connotes the totality of skills and insight needed for life. At its core is the realization that God is the Teacher of humanity. He is the source and focus of all learning. No one has "taught" the Lord or served as his counselor (Isa. ). Expressed here in the Piel imperfect, it stresses this truth as both continuing and timeless.
The word lamad is so foundational that one of its derivatives, talmîd (teacher in 1 Chr ) is the source of Talmud (which means instruction or learning), the Hebrew name for the commentaries written by the ancient rabbis on the Torah (Law). Allen Ross adds a related note on lamad writing that "One derived noun talmid is a “disciple,” and talmud is “instruction” (especially concerning holy Scripture). So Talmud is the comprehensive term for the teachings of the Mishnah and the Aramaic discussions attached to each of them."
NAS - Usage: accept(1), expert(1), instruct(1), instructors(1), learn(15), learned(5), really learn(1), skillful(1), taught(15), teach(30), teachers(1), teaches(3), teaching(1), teaching and again(1), train(1), trained(2), trains(3), untrained*(1).
Walter Kaiser on lamad
As one of the twelve words for teaching in the OT, lāmad has the idea of training as well as educating. The training aspect can be seen in the derived term for "oxgoad," malmēd. In Hosea Ephraim is taught like a heifer by a yoke and goad. The Ugaritic lmd means "learn/teach" and lamādu means "learn" in Akkadian. The principle use of this verb is illustrated in Psalm Here is repeated the refrain, "Teach me thy statutes" or "thy judgments" (Psalm , 26, 64, 66, 68, , , , ). At the request of king Jehoshaphat, a group of men went out and taught the book of the Law in the cities of Judah (2 Chr , 9).
While Greek uses two different words for "to learn" (manthano) and "to teach" (didasko), each having its own content, goal, and methods, Hebrew uses the same root for both words because all learning and teaching is ultimately to be found in the fear of the Lord (Deut. ; ; ; , 13). To learn this is to come to terms with the will and law of God.
In other instances, men are trained in ways of war (1 Chr. ) sometimes by the use of song (Ps English heading ["For the choir director; according to >Shushan Eduth. A Mikhtam of David, to teach;"]; Judges ; Song ). Micah envisions a time when men will no longer learn warfare (Micah ; Isaiah ). No one, however, has taught the Lord or acted as his counselor (Isaiah ). Rather, anyone who knows anything has learned it from Him, the Source of all truth.
talmîd. Scholar. Only one OT passage, 1 Chr , uses this word. There "the small and the great, the teacher and the scholar" are included in the selection of the twenty-four divisions of priests. In rabbinical times, the teacher of the law was called the talmîd Rabbi and his pupils were known as talmîdîm, i.e. apprentices. Yet in another sense, all Israel were talmîdîm, apprenticed to the torah of God. The Jewish Talmud gets its name from this root. (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)
Gilbrant on lamad -
The primary meaning of this verb is "to learn." In the Piel (intensive) stem, the verb means "to teach." It occurs over eighty times in the Hebrew Bible, and has cognates attested in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Ethiopic and Tigre, with nominal derivatives in Middle Hebrew, Christian Palestinian Aramaic and Syriac.
Instruction was primarily the function of the father. It was supplemented further by example, family ritual and the religious activities related to the Temple. Most learning and teaching was religious in nature and intent. "Hear O Israel the decrees and the laws learn them" (Deut. , NIV). The Torah (which means "instruction") was the basis. At Sinai, it was presented as the basis for life, "that they may learn to serve me as long as they live in the land" (Deut. , NIV). There was also a palace school, used to train scribes for government and temple functions. There is some evidence for schools existing in some towns as well (e.g., practice tablets have been discovered in Akkadian and Hebrew at a number of locales).
Learning involved not merely knowledge per se, but learning how to live. Teaching was not merely the transferring of information from teacher to student, but also the instilling of discipline. The psalmist wrote, "Since my youth O God, you have taught me" (Ps. , NIV).
It is assumed that some percentage of the population was literate in that the Law's precepts were to be written upon the doorposts of the houses (Deut. ). Literacy was not universal among the people of Judah and Israel, but the literacy rate was much higher than in many other societies.
Under the revival led by Jehoshaphat, the priests and Levites were enlisted to teach the Law to the people (2 Chr. ). These efforts were aided further by the schools of the prophets, such as the one begun earlier by Samuel at Ramah (1 Sa ). The prophet's ministry to the people afforded positive, but more often negative, reinforcement to the teaching, "Do not learn the way of the nations" (Jer. ). Specialized training existed within the society for soldiers (1 Chr. ) and musicians ("trained in music," 1 Chr. ). Synagogues developed as a place of instruction during the (Babylonian) captivity, arising out of the need to retain the national identity. (Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary)
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon.
לָמַד verb exercise in, learn
QalPf. 3 masculine singular ל׳ Isa ; 1 s. לָמַדְתִּי Pr + 3 t. Pf.; Imperfect 3 masculine singular יִלְמַד Dt ; 1 s. אֶלְמְדָה Psalm ; 3 pl. יִלְמְדוּן Dt + 12 t. Imperfect; Imperative לִמְדוּ Isa ; Infinitive absolute לָמֹד Je ; construct sf. לָמְדִי Psalm ; Pt. pass construct לְמוּדֵי 1Ch ;—learn something, with accusative Dt Psalm ; ; Pr Isa ; Je ; Mi ; with אֶל Je ; with Infinitive Dt Isa Ezek ; ; לְיִרְאָה Dt ; וְיָרְֽאוּ Dt ; לְמוּדֵי מִלְחָמָה trained to war 1Ch
Piel.Pf. 3 ms, לִמַּד Ec ; 2 m. sf. לִמַּדְתָּנִי Psalm + 7 t. Pf.; Imperfect יְלַמֵּד Psalm ; יְלַמֶּד־ Jb ; 2 masculine singular sf. תְּלַמְּדֶנּוּ Psalm ; 1 s. אֲלַמְּדָה Psalm ; 3 mpl. יְלַמֵּד֑וּן Dt + 12 t. Imperfect; Imperative sf. לַמְּדֵנִי Psalm + 12 t. Imperative; Infinitive לַמֵּד Je + 9 t.; Pt. מְלַמֵּד Dt + 7 t. Pt.;—teach, absolute 2Ch ; ; Psalm ; teach some one something, with double accusative Dt ; ; Judg 2Sa (?), Psalm ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; Ec Isa Je ; Dn ; with accusative of person Dt Psalm Ct Isa Je ; Ezr ; accusative of thing Jb ; accusative of person ל rei 2Sa = Psalm , Psalm ; accusative of thing ל pers. Jb ; accusative of person מִן rei Psalm ; accusative of person בְּ rei Isa ; accusative of person infinitive rei Dt Psalm Je ; מְלַמְּדַי my teachers Psalm Pr
Pual.Pf. 3 masculine singular לֻמָּ֑ד Je ; Pt. pl. construct מְלֻמְּדֵי 1Ch Ct ; f. מְלֻמָּדָה Isa Ho ;—trained, as soldiers Ct ; singers 1Ch ; a bullock to the yoke Ho ; taught, of a human command Isa
Lamad - 80 verses
Deuteronomy "Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
Deuteronomy "See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it.
Deuteronomy "Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, 'Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.'
Deuteronomy "The LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you are going over to possess it.
Deuteronomy Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully.
Deuteronomy 'But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.'
Deuteronomy "Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it,
Deuteronomy "You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy "You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
Deuteronomy "It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes,
Deuteronomy "When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.
Deuteronomy so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy "Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy "Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess."
Deuteronomy "Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel.
Deuteronomy So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel.
Judges only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly).
2 Samuel and he told them to teach the sons of Judah the song of the bow; behold, it is written in the book of Jashar.
2 Samuel "He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
1 Chronicles The sons of Reuben and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, consisting of valiant men, men who bore shield and sword and shot with bow and were skillful in battle, were 44,, who went to war.
1 Chronicles Their number who were trained in singing to the LORD, with their relatives, all who were skillful, was
Comment - Disciple' is the Eng. form of Lat. discipulus, which is derived from discere, to learn, and so means 'learner', 'scholar', 'pupil', and, sometimes, 'apprentice' (cf. German Lehrling). The exactly corresponding Gk. word is mathetes, also derived from the verb meaning `to learn'. Also exactly corresponding is the Heb. talmid, from lamad, to learn ; this is used in the OT only once, I Chron. (EVV scholar), of the pupils in the music school of the Temple—an indication that 'learning' includes practice as well as theory. In the Eng. OT the word disciple also occurs only once, as the translation of another noun derived from the same verb, Isa. This is a passage of special importance; the prophet, recognizing that his message had been rejected by his people, determined to entrust it to a band of followers who would not only preserve it, but make it effective in days to come. The likeness between Isaiah's disciples and those of Jesus is plain. In later Jewish usage the word 'disciples' (talmidim) was used especially of the pupils of the rabbis, the students and teachers of the law; talmud, learning, meant first this particular branch of learning, and then one of the great compilations in which were recorded the discussions and conclusions of the rabbis (the Talmud). But the word is also applied in a wider sense to those who accepted and practised the teaching of the rabbis, one of whose aims was to `raise up many disciples'. The Talmud itself mentions the disciples (talmidim) of Jesus, but since it says that there were five of them it is clear that here the word has its narrower meaning. (A Theological Wordbook of the Bible - Richardson)
2 Chronicles Then in the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah;
2 Chronicles They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.
Ezra 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.
Job "Can anyone teach God knowledge, In that He judges those on high?
Psalm He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psalm Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.
Psalm Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.
Psalm He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way.
Psalm Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Psalm Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.
Psalm O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
Psalm He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, Even He who teaches man knowledge?
Psalm Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O LORD, And whom You teach out of Your law;
Psalm But they mingled with the nations And learned their practices,
Psalm I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.
Psalm Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes. Teth.
Psalm Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments.
Psalm You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
Psalm Your hands made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.
Psalm I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.
Psalm O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, And teach me Your ordinances.
Psalm Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness And teach me Your statutes.
Psalm Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes.
Psalm Let my lips utter praise, For You teach me Your statutes.
Psalm "If your sons will keep My covenant And My testimony which I will teach them, Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever."
Psalm Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Psalm A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle;
Proverbs "I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!
Proverbs Neither have I learned wisdom, Nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One.
Ecclesiastes In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs.
Song of Solomon "All of them are wielders of the sword, Expert in war; Each man has his sword at his side, Guarding against the terrors of the night.
Song of Solomon "I would lead you and bring you Into the house of my mother, who used to instruct me; I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates.
Isaiah Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
Isaiah And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.
Isaiah At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
Isaiah Though the wicked is shown favor, He does not learn righteousness; He deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, And does not perceive the majesty of the LORD.
Isaiah Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
Isaiah "Those who err in mind will know the truth, And those who criticize will accept instruction.
Isaiah With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?
Isaiah Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go.
Jeremiah "How well you prepare your way To seek love! Therefore even the wicked women You have taught your ways.
Jeremiah "Everyone deceives his neighbor And does not speak the truth, They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves committing iniquity.
Jeremiah but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them,"
Jeremiah Now hear the word of the LORD, O you women, And let your ear receive the word of His mouth; Teach your daughters wailing, And everyone her neighbor a dirge.
Jeremiah Thus says the LORD, "Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them;
Jeremiah "Then if they will really learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name, 'As the LORD lives,' even as they taught My people to swear by Baal, they will be built up in the midst of My people.
Jeremiah "What will you say when He appoints over you-- And you yourself had taught them-- Former companions to be head over you? Will not pangs take hold of you Like a woman in childbirth?
Jeremiah "I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained calf; Bring me back that I may be restored, For You are the LORD my God.
Jeremiah "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Jeremiah "They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction.
Ezekiel 'When she brought up one of her cubs, He became a lion, And he learned to tear his prey; He devoured men.
Ezekiel 'And he walked about among the lions; He became a young lion, He learned to tear his prey; He devoured men.
Daniel youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.
Hosea Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, But I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself.
Micah And He will judge between many peoples And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war.
Jesus' parting command to His disciples and by way of application to believers today still rings true in regard to the importance of teaching what you learn to others…
Go therefore and make (aorist imperative = this is the only command in His commission) disciples (learners) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Mt )
The Septuagint (LXX) translates the Hebrew verb for teach with didasko (from dáo= know or teach) which means to provide instruction in a formal or informal setting. The present tense pictures Biblical teaching as a continual, even lifelong process. Continually teaching the saints is especially the responsibility of church leaders for as Paul wrote “An overseer, then, must be…able to teach” (1Timothy ). Why must we continually teach sound, Biblical doctrine? Simply put, heresy flourishes when sound doctrine fades! The idea of didasko is to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them by word of mouth (tutor, direct, advise, put in mind). In the NT almost without exception didasko refers to the teaching of groups. Didasko means to teach a student in such a way that the will of the student becomes conformed to the teaching taught (which is why it is vital to make sure the Word of God is rightly divided). The teacher teaches in such a way that as the student is taught, he or she now changes their mind saying in essence ''I won't do it this way, but I will do it this way because I've learned this Biblical doctrine or this Biblical truth.'' Doctrine determines the direction of our behavior -- we need to ask ourselves are we being conformed to the world or transformed and conformed into the image of the Son of God?
Pastor Steven Cole (Read entire sermon) rightly observes that…
not everyone is gifted to teach in a public setting. But whatever you have gleaned from God’s Word and incorporated into your daily life ought to be passed on to others whom God puts in your circle of influence. If you teach others what you know in your head but do not practice in your life, you become like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day—hypocrites. This does not mean that you must be perfect before you teach God’s Word, but it does call for the integrity of admitting your shortcomings and the honest effort to apply it to yourself.
One of the occupational hazards of preaching God’s Word each week is that I can easily fall into the trap of studying the Word so that I can tell everyone else how they should live, but not applying it to myself.
I often think of what John Calvin said,
It would be better for the preacher to break his neck going into the pulpit than for him not to be the first to follow God (cited by J. I. Packer, in a sermon in Anaheim, California, 3/5/86).
Or, as Charles Spurgeon put it,
If any man’s life at home is unworthy, he should go several miles away before he stands up to preach, and then, when he stands up, he should say nothing. (The Soul Winner [Eerdmans], p. ).
Stott suggests that in Ezra teaching means…
to open the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him.
Many preachers bear more resemblance to entertainers than expositors, stand-up comics rather than knee-shaking servants. God-fearing, Scripture-reverencing men remain the need of the hour in pulpits today.
As A T Robertson once quipped…
One proof of the inspiration of the Bible is that it has withstood so much poor preaching.
John Knox, the great Scottish Reformer said
I have never once feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit.
Where are the men like Knox, who tremble when they open the Word of God? God is ever looking for such men, declaring in Isaiah…
For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word." (Isaiah , cp Isa )
In later chapters Ezra writes…
Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel on account of the unfaithfulness of the exiles gathered to me, and I sat appalled until the evening offering. (Ezra )
So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. (Ezra )
Statues () and ordinances () - The scribes in the early years at the time of Ezra and before were so devoted to not putting an error in the Scriptures that they would copy the Scriptures with such fastidiousness it is beyond belief. Some scribes would write one letter, take a bath, change their clothes, get a new pen, write another letter, take a bath, change their clothes, get a pen, write another letter. They didn't get a lot done but what they got done was correct. There was a tremendous fastidiousness to the completion of the inerrant text and its preservation.
This comprehensive threefold designation—the Law of the Lord, statutes, and ordinances—indicates that he studied all facets of God’s Word. Tradition says he was the founder of the Great Synagogue where the Old Testament canon was first recognized. A number of scholars feel Ezra is the author of Psalm which deals with the Word of God in virtually all verses.
In Nehemiah we see an example of Ezra teaching the Word…
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up (sign of reverence and humility). Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands (A symbol of receiving God's blessing); then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground (in reverence, awe, and adoration). Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. (Nehemiah )
When one considers the role of Ezra (and those like him in our modern church), to be sure, every person is important to God and God’s work; but, as Dr. Lee Roberson said "Everything rises and falls with leadership."
McConville has written - The model teacher in Ezra is a doer. And the doer can be no mere demonstrator. He must be what he would have his disciples be. (Ed: "Doer" not in the sense of "busyness" but in the sense of practicing what he preaches.)
Every preacher should follow Ezra’s example and be committed to the study of the Scriptures in a way that is consuming, careful, and comprehensive. Pastors must guard their hearts against the seemingly endless, mounting pressures placed on them to sacrifice the study of the Word of God upon the "altar" of their growing list of "priorities." The day the preacher ceases to diligently study God’s Word, whether he realizes it or not, is the day he begins losing spiritual passion and power in his preaching.
Shrinking study time in the Scriptures will result in Shrinking power in the pulpit!
Billy Graham was asked, "If you had to live your life over again, what would you do differently? His answer might surprise you - "One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough, I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing."
Donald Grey Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years, he would spend two of them studying and one preaching!
The modern church desperately needs more men like John Wesley, the Spirit anointed eighteenth-century preacher who was so passionate for the Word of God (Brethren, could this have anything to do with His "Spirit anointing"?) that he once crying out…
O give me that Book!
At any price, give me the book of God.
Phillip Graham Ryken
This excerpt is from Ezra According to the Gospel - Ezra
This verse is one of the Bible’s best summaries of what it means to be a faithful servant of God’s Word. It is a wonderful verse for pastors, for seminary students, for theology professors—really, it is a wonderful verse for everyone. I know this from experience because I embraced this verse early in my time at seminary. I wrote it out on a note card and tucked it into the little Bible I carried in my briefcase. From time to time I would pull it out and meditate on it or pray over it. Over time, God used it to shape my understanding of what it meant to be a student and a teacher, a husband and a pastor. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he can use it to shape your life and ministry, too. The logic of this verse is impeccable. There were three things that Ezra was committed to doing, and he had them in the proper order, like “A-B-C” or “” In fact, Ezra had them in the only order that makes any sense: he had his heart set on studying, doing, and teaching the Word of God. This was his heart commitment, the direction of his life, the settled intention of his soul.
Studying God’s Word -
Start with studying. Before we can do what God wants us to do, or teach anyone else what God wants them to do, we need to know what God wants us to do, and that means studying God’s Word. Ezra had committed himself to doing that. We do not know his study habits, but we know that he was skilled in the Law of Moses. His “delight was in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditated day and night” (Ps ). Since he was raised in a family of priests, he had studied the Scriptures from his earliest childhood. He undoubtedly spent hours each day reading the Bible, pondering its meaning, and discussing its implications with other students and scholars. In those days, a scribe of Ezra’s stature would have committed large portions of Scripture to memory. The unrelenting ambition of his life was to know the Word of God.
After seminary I spent several months as an intern with William Still, the great Scottish minister who served in downtown Aberdeen. When I met him, Mr. Still was continuing the weekly preaching ministry he had exercised in the same pulpit for more than fifty years. Every day I would go and meet with him in his home to talk about pastoral ministry and the Christian life. One of the most amazing things about Mr. Still was his voracious appetite for learning something new from the Word of God. Here was a man who was well into his eighties, yet he had a boyish enthusiasm for any fresh insight into biblical truth. “We’re always learning, Philip,” he would say to me, “we’re always learning.” That is the kind of Bible scholar that Ezra was and that I hope to become: someone who is keen to learn God’s Word all the way through life.
Living by God’s Word -
But Ezra did not stop there. He did not want merely to learn the Bible; he wanted to live it. So the Scripture says that he set his heart to do the law that he had studied. This meant loving the Lord his God with all his strength and loving his neighbor as himself. It meant keeping the Ten Commandments. It meant following all the regulations for priestly holiness and public worship. It meant doing everything he could to live by God’s law. Ezra understood that the only true theology is applied theology. I am reminded of the parishioner who met the preacher at the door after the service and said, “Pastor, that was a wonderful sermon.” To which the pastor replied, “Well, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it?” This was Ezra’s approach exactly. What good is it to study the Bible, unless we also live by it?
Teaching God’s Word -
Then there was a third step: teaching God’s statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra would have taken issue with the famous advertising slogan: Just Do It! “No,” Ezra, would have said, “I can’t just do it. If I want to learn how to do it, I have to study it first, and then if it’s worth doing, I will be compelled to teach other people how to do it, too.” His slogan went more like this: “Don’t just do it! Study it, do it, teach it.”
Notice as well the scope of Ezra’s vision for ministry. He wanted to teach God’s law “in Israel.” He wanted to reach his entire nation with the Word of God. He saw that he had a responsibility to the wider spiritual community. It was his calling and privilege to spend long periods of time studying God’s Word. But this was not for his benefit alone; it was for the edification of the people of God. Eventually God granted Ezra his heart’s desire. When he read the Book of the Law to all the people in Jerusalem, he was teaching God’s statutes and rules in Israel—the Bible teacher for the kingdom.
But all of that came later. Ezra did not begin as a teacher; he became one. Sometimes people feel called to a teaching ministry, and they get right into teaching before they have done the hard work of really mastering the Bible. Then all they have to offer is their own spiritual experience; they cannot share the deepest riches of God’s Word. Or sometimes—and this is especially tempting for seminary students and pastors—they go right from studying to teaching without having the Word of God really transform their lives. It goes from the mind to the mouth without ever passing through the heart.
All of this is easy to apply. Like Ezra, you are called to be a student of God’s Word. We are all called to study God’s Word, and to do it, and as we have the opportunity, to teach it to others. This means spending time reading the Bible every day—not in an academic way, but in a devotional way, nurturing our love relationship with Jesus Christ. It means meditating on Scripture and memorizing it. It means devoting the very best of our powers to learning what God has said in his Word.
It also means paying special attention to new areas of personal obedience. We want to do more than study the Bible; we want to live by it. So what is God saying to you today that you need put into practice in your daily life? What will he say to you tomorrow and the day after that? Do not be content with what you have already attained, but strive to grow in godliness. Experience the fresh power of the Word of God.
Then once you start living the truth, then and only then can you be trusted to teach it to others. But bear in mind that this is the goal of all your studies. You do not study God’s Word for your own benefit, but for the sake of others. The knowledge you gain is a sacred trust that God has given you in order that you might give it away. So set your heart to study the Word of God, and to do it, and to teach it to wherever God calls you. (Read the full article in Themelios - Ezra According to the Gospel - Ezra )
Tony Bell writes that…
Greatness in the Kingdom of God can start nowhere else than with a deep commitment to the Word of God. Several times throughout the book of Ezra the writer points out that "the good hand of his God was on him." The reason? "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 ). Even King Artaxerxes, ruler of the vast empire where Ezra lived, recognized the source of Ezra's strength and greatness. In a letter to Ezra (Ezra –26), he instructed him "to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand" (Ezra ). He addressed Ezra in the same letter as "a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven" (Ezra ), and he credited Ezra with "the wisdom of your God" (Ezra ). The source of Ezra's greatness lay in his love for the Scriptures, his absolute commitment to them, and his passion for teaching them.
But what does it mean to be devoted to the Word of God? It means that the Bible becomes the standard for our lives. The norms of the Scriptures are the norms that we live by, and we dedicate ourselves to finding out what those norms are. We commit ourselves to study the Bible and to fellowship with like-minded people. We look for people who can help us and teach us how to incorporate the Scriptures into our lives. We learn its principles and memorize its words. We pray over it and dialogue with its Author. Like Jeremiah, we "devour" its words. And like Ezra, who "set his heart to teach its decrees and laws in Israel," we seek to transmit to others the importance and the authority of the Scriptures, both by our lives and by our words. (Discipleship Journal) (Bolding added).
Read it through
Work it out
Pass it on!
THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD
Because of its relevance to the Ezra principle, below is the entire sermon The Ministry of the Word by Dr John Piper
I want us to ponder for a few minutes the significance of the ministry of the Word.
The Significance of the Ministry of the Word
In Acts the Greek-speaking Jewish widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. This pressing need clamored for the apostles’ attention. But the twelve said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” So they appointed seven men to take care of this need, and the apostles said, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
So from the very earliest time in the church it was understood that the ministry of the Word required so much time and effort that those called to this ministry should be freed from other demands.
Paul says in 1 Timothy –18, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’ ” In other words the church should value the ministry of the Word so highly that it is willing to pay elders who devote their life to it.
This is an ongoing office in the church, not a temporary function of the apostles. When Christ ascended into heaven, it says in Ephesians (see note)
his gifts were that some should be pastor-teachers.
This is an office distinct from the rest of the people in the church, because it says that the pastor-teachers are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
So we can conclude that the New Testament prescribes for the church that there be some people set apart for the ministry of the Word, and that these elders or pastor-teachers devote their main life-efforts to this ministry and be supported by the church.
Steve Roy has been called to this ministry, and we are now setting him apart for it. We do well to ponder just what this ministry is. Perhaps we will come to value it more highly and pray for it more fervently. And perhaps some among us will feel the call of God this very night into the ministry of the Word.
What the Ministry of the Word Is
I only have time to mention four things:
1. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of study.
2. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of prayer.
3. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of suffering.
4. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of joy.
1. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of study.
The life of the church hangs on the word of God (Matthew ). And that inspired word has come to us in the form of a book written in Greek and Hebrew. None of us comes into the world able to read, let alone read Greek and Hebrew. These things must be learned. And they must be learned by study.
And even when they are learned, they only become fruitful when used like mining tools to dig out the gold and silver of Scripture. And the only way to dig is to study. The good hand of the Lord was upon Ezra, the Scripture says, because he
had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra ).
And Paul tells Timothy to be zealous to present himself to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed because he rightly handles the word of truth (see note 2 Timothy ).
Books About the Bible and the Bible
And let it be emphasized that with all the good and bad books on theology the ministry of study should always remain primarily a study of the Bible, and that in the original languages. Philip Lindsay, a professor at Princeton in the last century used to say, “One of the best preparations for death is a thorough knowledge of the Greek grammar.” Which is simply a very pointed way of saying that pastor-teachers should do their duty and that intellectual labor in the New Testament is rewarded with real life and death truth.
Richard Baxter wrote something that could save many young pastors years of regret in misdirected study. He said,
Till at last, being by my sickness cast far from home, where I had no book but my Bible, I set to study the truth from thence, and so, by the blessing of God, discovered more in one week than I had done before in seventeen years’ reading, hearing, and wrangling
We must beware of the temptation to replace the study of Scripture with the reading of good books about the Scripture. If you want to know if a man has studied well, don’t ask him to show you his library. Ask him to show you his personal notebooks where he has recorded his own authentic insights into the Word of God.
Reading and Thinking
We make a great mistake when we think that study consists mainly in reading (as commonly understood)—even reading the Bible. Many think they have studied well when they have spent the morning reading through some worthy book of divinity. And thus the measure of our study becomes the number of books that we have read.
But my own conviction is that fruitful study is primarily thinking not reading. My guess is that reading, which was meant to become a stimulus and guide to independent thinking, usually becomes a substitute for it. The evidence for this is how many books we read and how little we write down. Fresh thinking must always be put down on paper to get it clear and preserve it for use. Much reading and little thinking makes for a second-hand pastor. And it is not easy to preach and teach second-hand truths with power.
The ministry of the Word is a ministry of study. And the ministry of study should be devoted primarily to the Bible. And the study of the Bible should consist very much in thinking and writing about what it says.
Relevancy and the Power of Scripture
Nor should such a student of Scripture fret about the cry for relevancy. The faithful study and teaching of God’s Word will do more to change the world than anyone imagines. J.C. Ryle wrote,
To the influence of the Bible we owe nearly every humane and charitable institution in existence. The sick, the poor, the aged, the orphan, the lunatic, the idiot, the blind, were seldom or never thought of before the Bible leavened the world. You may search in vain for any record of institutions for their aid in the histories of Athens or of Rome. Alas, many sneer at the Bible, and say the world would get on well enough without it, who little think how great are their own obligations to the Bible.
2. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of prayer.
Benjamin Warfield, a great evangelical theologian who died in , wrote in about the kind of criticism that comes to those who believe in much study. Someone said to him that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.
“What,” he replied, “more than ten hours over your books on your knees?”
Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it is better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soldiers should have both legs.
Study and Prayer
The minister of the Word must not choose between study and prayer. Study without prayer is the work of pride. Prayer without study is presumption. This is what the Proverbs teach:
If you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding (that’s prayer), and if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures (that’s study), then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs )
Prayer humbles the heart and gives it the tone of Christ and makes it ready and open and sensitive to the truth of Scripture. But it is study that brings in the truth and fills the heart with joy and power.
Meeting the Almighty God
The ministry of the Word is a ministry of prayer because in prayer the minister meets God and has real living dealings with the Almighty so that his preaching and teaching have the aroma of God about them. The ministry of the Word must be a ministry of earnestness and intensity, and where are these to be found if not in our private meetings with God where you learn to know if you are real or just playing games?
One great Baptist pastor, Hezekiah Harvey, put it like this in
Moral earnestness can never be assumed; it is the attribute only of a soul profoundly feeling the power and reality of divine truth. The man, therefore, who would speak God’s word with the pungency and fervor of a Bunyan, a Baxter, a Flavel, or a Payson must, like them, be constant and fervent in prayer. The springs of spiritual life opened in the closet will pour forth never-failing streams of life in the pulpit.
Without much prayer all the study in the world will leave us shallow and lean. Without prayer there creeps in what Richard Cecil called the
low, managing, contriving, maneuvering temper of mind among us.
E. M. Bounds is right when he says,
What the Church needs today is not more machinery or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use— men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer.
3. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of suffering.
The Bible is God’s artillery in the war against sin and Satan. And when you get recruited for the artillery, you can count on being wounded.
Listen to Paul’s second letter to Timothy.
2 Timothy (note) “Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but take your share of suffering for the gospel in the power of God.”
2 Timothy (note) “For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do.”
2 Timothy (note) “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
Soldiers in the War Effort
It belongs to soldiers to suffer for the war effort. No soldier in conflict expects things to be easy or comfortable. When God calls us into the ministry of the Word, he recruits us into front-line artillery action. It is not a safe place to be.
But strangely enough it is the place Paul wants to be. He said in Philippians that he counted everything as loss that he might
know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and might share his sufferings becoming like him in his death. (see note Philippians )
Paul attained a powerful authenticity in carrying Christ’s word because he chose to walk in Christ’s way. He said at the end of Galatians,
Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
When you have been wounded in the service of the Word of Christ and have not gone AWOL or hated your enemy, there comes a new certainty and depth and power.
Therefore every minister of the Word should say with the apostle Paul,
I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus.
4. The ministry of the Word is a ministry of joy.
I sometimes think of the dozens of vocational options that lie open before me. I could go to a professional referral service and take a battery of tests to check my aptitude and then enter some management training course. Or I could go back to school and try medicine where I started, or perhaps law where my freshman aptitude tests said I was supposed to go.
Or could I? Not any more than I choose to dislike Pamela Rowe’s Mississippi Mud Cake. I am a Christian Hedonist. I am enslaved to the joy of the ministry of the Word.
I say with Paul,
But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. (see note Philippians )
Paul reminded the pastor-teachers of Ephesus that in the ministry of the Word it is always more blessed to give than to receive. And to the Thessalonians he wrote,
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. (see note 1Thessalonians )
There is no better way to spend a brief life on this little earth than to spend it in the ministry of the Word.
• Because here what you study is the endless terrain of the infinite glory of God.
• The one you pray to is the majestic Sovereign whose hand no one can stay.
• What you suffer is for the highest Cause in the universe.
• And what you enjoy is the very delight of God in his Son and in those he died to save. (The Ministry of the Word)
Teach() (didasko from dáo= know or teach; English = didactic; see study of related noun didaskalia and the adjective didaktikos) means to provide instruction or information in a formal or informal setting.
In the 97 NT uses of didasko the meaning is virtually always to teach or instruct, although the purpose and content of the teaching must be determined from the context.
Didasko means to teach a student in such a way that the will of the student becomes conformed to the teaching taught. So the teacher teaches in such a way that as the student is taught, he/she now changes his/her mind saying in essence ''I won't do it this way, but I will do it this way because I've learned this doctrine or this teaching.'' Doctrine determines direction of our behavior--conformed to world or to God? (cf Ro +) Teaching that Scripture finds significant is not that which gives information alone but which produces (Spirit enabled) transformation (2 Cor +), making disciples (learners) who seek to live supernaturally (enabled by the Spirit - Eph +) in loving obedience to the will of our Father Who art in Heaven.
John MacArthur writes that didasko "refers to the passing on of information-often, but not necessarily, in a formal setting. It focused on content, with the purpose of discovering the truth-contrary to the forums so popular among Greeks, where discussion and the bantering about of various ideas and opinions was the primary concern (see Acts ). Synagogue teaching, as illustrated by that of Jesus, was basically expository. Scripture was read and explained section by section, often verse by verse. (MacArthur, J: Matthew Chicago: Moody Press)
In another source MacArthur writes that didasko (and related words)
In all the various forms, the root meaning carries with it the idea of systematic teaching or systematic training. It is the word that is used to refer to a choir director who trains a choir over a long period of rehearsals until they are able to perform. The gift of prophecy could be a one-time proclamation of Christ, but the gift of teaching is a systematic training problem to take a person from one point to another. What is the curriculum for the teacher? The Bible, the Word of God. The gift is to teach systematically the truth of God.
It can be used with men—one on one, one on two, one on three, one on five thousand. It can be used with women—one on one, one on two, one on three, one on five thousand. It can be used by a lady in a little group of children. It can be used by a mother to a son. It can be used by a husband to his wife. It can be used in any conceivable way that the Spirit of God desires. It is the ability to pass on truth in a systematic progression so that someone receives it, implements it, and a change of behavior takes place. In fact, it is a gift that belongs to a lot more of us than we realize. (MacArthur, J. Spiritual Gifts. Includes index. Chicago: Moody Press)
In Scripture to teach means to pass on the truth about the Word of God, the God of the Word and the faith of the saints, with the goal of influencing the understanding and stimulating obedience to the truth taught and resultant Spirit energized transformation and Christ-likeness. The essence of a disciple in fact is that he or she is a learner. The teacher teaches and the disciple hears and processes what is heard so that this truth affects his or her innermost being. Ultimately the purpose of didasko is to shape the will of the one taught.
To teach means to cause to know, to help one to learn, to impart knowledge or skill, or to carry out the activity of instructing by precept or by practice.
To teach is distinguished from to preach, the latter emphasizing the proclamation of the gospel to the non-Christian world. Teaching of sound doctrine is vital to stability of one's faith and spiritual growth and stability of one's faith, this vital role being clearly validated by our Lord Jesus Christ who was called Rabbi or Teacher more than any other name -- in fact the some 45 of the 58 NT uses of the Greek word for teacher (didaskalos) are used of Jesus (most of these referring to public teaching). In addition 47 of 97 occurrences of didasko are used in the Gospels to describe the activity of Jesus.
Teaching was also a primary activity of the leaders of the early church. (see passages below from Acts)
Rengstorf notes that didasko…
Common from Homer, this word denotes teaching and learning in the wide sense of imparting theoretical and practical knowledge with the highest possible development of the pupil as the goal. There is little religious use, and the term has a strong intellectual and authoritative bearing. Thus it can also mean “to demonstrate.” When used in connection with choral training, it comes almost to have the sense “to perform.”…
A novel feature in the Gospels is the absence of the intellectual emphasis which is common everywhere else among Greek writers (classical, postclassical, Hellenistic, and even Jewish Hellenistic), and which develops in rabbinic exegesis in an effort to check the disintegrating force of Hellenism, so that in some circles studying the law can be ranked higher than doing it. In this respect Jesus with his total claim represents what is perhaps a truer fulfilment of the OT concept. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
NIDNTT writes that didasko…
comes from di-dak-sko (root dek-, to accept, extend the hand to). The reduplicated stem and inchoative suffix convey the idea of repeatedly extending the hand for acceptance; the word therefore suggests the idea of causing someone to accept something. It occurs frequently in Greek from Homer onwards, and in the active voice means to teach, inform, instruct, demonstrate, prescribe; in the passive to be instructed, be taught; in the middle to learn for oneself, to think out, to master. In the active the word occurs chiefly with the accusative of the person (to teach someone) or with the accusative of the thing (to teach something), but also with the dative.
It is clear that the word is used typically for the relationship between teacher and pupil, instructor and apprentice. What is taught may be knowledge, opinions or facts, but also artistic and technical skills, all of which are to be systematically and thoroughly acquired by the learner as a result of the repeated activity of both teacher and pupil.
Herodotus also uses didasko to describe the work of the chorus-master (1, 23; 6, 21). The word is rarely found, however, to describe an activity of the gods. The aim of all teaching is to communicate knowledge and skill with a view to developing the pupil’s abilities… (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. Zondervan)
William Arthur Ward wrote that…
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The real teacher inspires.
John Milton () summarized the importance of teaching when he wrote
The end of all learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love and imitate Him.
What gracious lessons some of us have learned at sick beds. We went to teach the Scriptures; we came away blushing that we knew so little of them. In our converse with poor saints we are taught the way of God more perfectly for ourselves and get a deeper insight into divine truth.
You must serve God with a single eye to the glory of God. If you attend a prayer-meeting, or teach a class, or preach a sermon, you must not do it with a view to your own selves in any way, or it cannot be accepted.
We must teach more by our example than by our advice, or else we shall be poor pleaders for the right.
Here are the 78 uses of didasko in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX)
Deut , 10, 14; ; ; ; ; , 22; ; Jdg. ; 2 Sam. ; ; 1Chr. ; ; 2Chr. , 9; Ezra ; Neh. ; Job ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , 33; ; ; ; Psalms , 35; , 5, 9; ; ; ; , 12; , 26, 64, 66, 68, 99, , , , ; ; ; ; Prov. ; , 11; ; ; ; ; Eccl. ; Song ; Isa. ; ; ; Jeremiah , 20; ; ; , 34; ; Ezek. ; Dan. ; ; ; Hos.
The TDNT comments on the OT uses of didasko writing that…
While various kinds of instruction can be meant (cf. 2 Sa ; Dt. ), God’s will is the special object, with a volitional as well as an intellectual reference. God himself, the head of a house, or the righteous may do the teaching. As distinct from secular usage, where the aim is to develop talents, the OT relates teaching to the totality of the person. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
Observe the frequent use of didasko in Psalm every verse of this Psalm dealing with the some aspect of God's Word -- although it cannot be proven, it is fascinating that many think Ezra wrote Psalm ). Notice how the psalmists use the imperative mood (Red = commands) in their prayers - they recognized their dependence of God's teaching and held nothing back in asking Him to teach them! May we as believers today go so boldly before His throne, pleading with ("commanding"!) Him to teach us His ways!
Psalm Make me know Thy ways, O LORD; Teach me Thy paths. 5 Lead me in Thy truth and teach (Hebrew = lamad; Lxx = didasko) me, For Thou art the God of my salvation; For Thee I wait all the day… 9 He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way.
Psalm Teach (Hebrew = lamad; Lxx = didasko) me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Thy commandments.
Psalm Teach (Hebrew = lamad; Lxx = didasko) me to do Thy will, For Thou art my God; Let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Psalm A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains (Hebrew = lamad; Lxx = didasko) my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;
Proverbs "Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known (Lxx = didasko) to you.
Isaiah (modified from Young's Literal) And the Lord saith: Because drawn near has this people, with its mouth, and with its lips they have honoured Me, and its heart it has put far off from Me, and their fear of Me is (consists of) a precept of men taught (Hebrew = lamad; Lxx = didasko)!
Jeremiah "And they shall not
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord,
&c.] To attain to the knowledge of it, that he might be master of it, and expert in it, and know what was not to be done, and what to be done; he had set his heart upon this, bent his studies this way, and taken a great deal of pains in searching into it, in reading of it, and meditating on it;
and to do it;
he was not only concerned to get the theory of it, but to put it in practice, to exercise himself in it, that it might be habitual to him; and the rather, as his view and intentions were not merely for the sake of himself, but
to teach in Israel statutes and judgments:
and therefore it was not only necessary that he should have a large and competent knowledge of the laws, moral, ceremonial, and civil, but that he should act according to them himself, that so by his example, as well as by his instructions, he might teach the people.
Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
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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.
New American Standard Version
Jump to: Adam Clarke CommentaryBridgeway Bible CommentaryChuck Smith Bible CommentaryExpository Notes of Dr. Thomas ConstableJohn Gill's Exposition of the Whole BibleMatthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Ezra; Heart; Instruction; Law; Minister, Christian; Obedience; Seekers; Zeal, Religious; Thompson Chain Reference - Ezra; Instruction; Spiritual; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Heart, Character of the Renewed; Law of God, the; Obedience to God; Seeking God;
Adam Clarke Commentary
Verse Ezra Ezra had prepared his heart — Here is a fine character of a minister of God: He prepares, hechin, he fixes, purposes, and determines, lebabo, with his heart - with all his powers and affections, to seek the law of God, and to do it himself, that he may be properly qualified to teach its statutes and judgments to Israel.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ezra ". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ezrahtml.
Bridgeway Bible Commentary
RETURN UNDER EZRA
The temple was completed in BC. Ezras return was in BC, the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes I (see ,7). There is therefore a gap of about sixty years between Chapters 6 and 7. By the time of Ezra, former leaders such as Zerubbabel, Joshua, Haggai and Zechariah had died. Without their leadership, Israels religious life became weak and its community life disordered. The only detailed information that the Bible gives of events during these years is found in the book of Esther.
Plans for reform ()
Ezra was both a priest and a scribe. He had a thorough knowledge of the Jewish law and he was well respected in official circles in Persia. When he told the king of his plan to go to Jerusalem to reform the Jewish people, the king readily gave his approval ().
In addition the king gave Ezra funds from the royal treasury to carry out his program (), with the assurance of further funds from the Persian administration in Palestine should the need arise (). He also gave Ezra the authority to appoint judges, set up courts and carry out punishments (). The whole arrangement caused Ezra to praise God and gave him added confidence as he began his work ().
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ezra ". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ezrahtml.
Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes ( Ezra )
Who is Longimanus of the secular history.
Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all of his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments ( Ezra ).
So Ezra was called a ready scribe. He had sought his heart to seek God. And Artaxerxes had given to him permission to come on back with another contingency of men, about 1, plus their little ones and their wives and all their substance. So this is now the second return. It's a small one under Ezra coming back to Jerusalem. A favorite phrase and, of course, now we get into chapter seven. We get into, this is eighty years approximately after the first people had come. So the people, of course, had been in the land. It was their first return. They have been now there for about eighty years when Ezra comes on the scene, and he evidently has favor with the king. He is granted permission to go back in order that he might teach and instruct the people in the ways of the law of God. A popular phrase with Ezra is "the good hand of God upon him."
Now Artaxerxes gave Ezra the priest a decree, verse twelve.
Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time. I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with you. Forasmuch as you are sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in your hand; and to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem, and all the silver and gold that you can find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem: that you may buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem. And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to your brothers, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God. The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver before the God of Jerusalem. And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king's treasure house. And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, be it done speedily, unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing. Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? ( Ezra )
Now why would he say that? Because he said Ezra had gone to the king and said, "Now the hand of the Lord is upon all them for good who seek him. But if those forsake him, then you know the punishment and the wrath of God." So he said, "Why should God's wrath be upon me? Go ahead and do all these things." So he also made the decree that they could not tax the ministers, the priests and all of those who ministered in the house of God. There was not to be any taxes or tolls or customs imposed upon them.
And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment ( Ezra ).
And Ezra said,
Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem: and hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king's mighty princes. And [he said, Ezra said] I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel the chief men to go up with me ( Ezra ).
So Ezra, no doubt, had a very great favor in the eyes of Artaxerxes. And Artaxerxes gave this marvellous decree, giving unto Ezra money and also commanding that those on the other side give money. Also commanding that he could collect a freewill offering.
But it is interesting to me that so few really decided to go back with Ezra. Now as many as want can return, and only 1, wanted to. What had happened is that the Jews had become so prosperous. They started in businesses and all. Up until, of course, the time of captivity, they were most of them just farmers. But here they started getting into the businesses and they started getting so prosperous and so wealthy that they just really didn't want to go back to the hardships of the land. The land of Israel was still, offered just a lot of hardship, a lot of work. It was, everything was rebuilding. Here they were in Persia and this great and glorious empire and they were wealthy; they were getting along so well that they really didn't desire to go back.
And so though they all had the right, as many as want to of their own free will to return may do so at this time, only 1, chose to do so; the rest of them just settling down, comfortable, prosperous, not wanting to go through the rigors of trying to rebuild the land that had been desolated. "
Copyright © , Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ezra ". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ezrahtml.
Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
"These things" (Ezra ) refers to the events of the first return that the writer described in chapters
Ezra’s genealogy (Ezra ) shows that he was a man of importance whom his fellow Jews would have respected. His name is a shortened form of "Azariah," meaning "Yahweh helps." He was a descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel (Ezra ). There are gaps in this genealogy (cf. 1 Chronicles ). "Son of" occasionally means "descendant of," as elsewhere in the Old Testament. [Note: L. H. Brockington, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, p. 70; Fensham, The Books . . ., p. 79; et al.] The purpose of this linear genealogy was not to record all of Ezra’s ancestors but to trace his lineage from Aaron.
A "scribe" (Ezra ) was a person who functioned as a copier, writer, and communicator. Scribes fulfilled various roles before the exile. These included military officer (Judges ; 2 Kings ), messenger of the king (2 Kings ), secretary to the king (2 Samuel ; 2 Samuel ), clerk, and writer (Jeremiah ; Jeremiah ). In the Gospels we have many references to scribes. In Jesus’ day they were primarily students and teachers of the Law. In Ezra’s time this specialized function of the scribe was developing. Ezra himself, as a scribe and priest, was able to teach the Law (cf. Leviticus ; Nehemiah ; Nehemiah ). He also enjoyed special divine protection and enablement (Ezra ; cf. Ezra ; cf. Ezra ; Ezra ; Ezra ; Ezra ). [Note: Judah J. Slotki, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, p. ]
"The wise scribe followed an honored profession in which he might take pride (Sirach ). His was the highest privilege and virtue: to study the law, to meditate on it and apply it to life (cf. Psalms 1; Psalms ; Psalms )." [Note: Bright, pp. ]
Ezra and his companions left Babylon in the spring of B.C. The Jewish month of Nisan corresponds to our late March and early April.
"It is emphasized that the date of departure from Babylon was carefully calculated to take place on the first day of the first month, though in the event they could leave only on the twelfth day due to the need to recruit Levites (Ezra ). While the point is not made explicitly, this arrangement implies that the Ezra caravan, like the Israelites of old, marked their departure with the celebration of Passover (cf Exodus ; Numbers ), and that therefore this second episode in the restoration of the commonwealth begins in the same way that the first ends." [Note: Joseph Blenkinsopp, "A Theological Reading of Ezra-Nehemiah." Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 12 ()]
Ezra and his fellow travelers completed their mile journey exactly four months later (Ezra ) because of God’s enablement (Ezra ). [Note: J. Stafford Wright, The Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem, pp. Cf. K. Koch, "Ezra and the Origins of Judaism," Journal of Semitic Studies (); and Frank M. Cross, "A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration," Interpretation ()]
Ezra’s personal resolve provides an excellent example for every believer (Ezra ). He first purposed to study (lit. seek) the law (Heb. torah) of God, then to apply that teaching to his own life, and then to teach others the revealed will of God. This was the key to Ezra’s impact. "Torah" means "instruction," and it describes the Law of Moses, the Book of Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, and the whole Old Testament in various places in Scripture. Here it probably refers to all the revealed will of God that Ezra had, all the scrolls of the Old Testament sacred writings to which he had access.
"The order is very significant, for you cannot effectively practice what you have not thoroughly learned, and you cannot convincingly teach what you have not practically applied." [Note: Laney, p. ]
"One called by God to teach must also study and obey." [Note: Breneman, p. Cf. McConville, p. 47; Steven J. Lawson, "The Pattern of Biblical Preaching: An Expository Study of Ezra and Nehemiah ," Bibliotheca Sacra (October-December )]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezra ". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ezrahtml.
John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, To attain to the knowledge of it, that he might be master of it, and expert in it, and know what was not to be done, and what to be done; he had set his heart upon this, bent his studies this way, and taken a great deal of pains in searching into it, in reading of it, and meditating on it;
and to do it; he was not only concerned to get the theory of it, but to put it in practice, to exercise himself in it, that it might be habitual to him; and the rather, as his view and intentions were not merely for the sake of himself, but
to teach in Israel statutes and judgments: and therefore it was not only necessary that he should have a large and competent knowledge of the laws, moral, ceremonial, and civil, but that he should act according to them himself, that so by his example, as well as by his instructions, he might teach the people.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Ezra ". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ezrahtml.
Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible
|Ezra's Arrival at Jerusalem.||B. C.|
1 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, 2 The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, 3 The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, 4 The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, 5 The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest: 6 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. 7 And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. 8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. 10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Here is, I. Ezra's pedigree. He was one of the sons of Aaron, a priest. Him God chose to be an instrument of good to Israel, that he might put honour upon the priesthood, the glory of which had been much eclipsed by the captivity. He is said to be the son of Seraiah, that Seraiah, as is supposed, whom the king of Babylon put to death when he sacked Jerusalem, 2 Kings ; 2 Kings If we take the shortest computation, it was seventy-five years since Seraiah died; many reckon it much longer, and, because they suppose Ezra called out in the prime of his time to public service, do therefore think that Seraiah was not his immediate parent, but his grandfather or great-grandfather, but that he was the first eminent person that occurred in his genealogy upwards, which is carried up here as high as Aaron, yet leaving out many for brevity-sake, which may be supplied from 1 Chronicles , c. He was a younger brother, or his father was Jozadak, the father of Jeshua, so that he was not high priest, but nearly allied to the high priest.
II. His character. Though of the younger house, his personal qualifications made him very eminent. 1. He was a man of great learning, a scribe, a ready scribe, in the law of Moses,Ezra ; Ezra . He was very much conversant with the scriptures, especially the writings of Moses, had the words ready and was well acquainted with the sense and meaning of them. It is to be feared that learning ran low among the Jews in Babylon; but Ezra was instrumental to revive it. The Jews say that he collected and collated all the copies of the law he could find out, and published an accurate edition of it, with all the prophetical books, historical and poetical, that were given by divine inspiration, and so made up the canon of the Old Testament, with the addition of the prophecies and histories of his own time. If he was raised up of God, and qualified and inclined to do this, all generations have reason to call him blessed, and to bless God for him. God sent to the Jews prophets and scribes,Matthew Ezra went under the latter denomination. Now that prophecy was about to cease it was time to promote scripture-knowledge, pursuant to the counsel of God by the last of the prophets, Malachi Remember the law of Moses. Gospel ministers are called scribes instructed to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew ), New-Testament scribes. It was a pity that such a worthy name as this should be worn, as it was in the degenerate ages of the Jewish church, by men who were professed enemies to Christ and his gospel (Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees), who were learned in the letter of the law, but strangers to the spirit of it. 2. He was a man of great piety and holy zeal (Ezra ; Ezra ): He had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, c. (1.) That which he chose for his study was the law of the Lord. The Chaldeans, among whom he was born and bred, were famed for literature, especially the study of the stars, to which, being a studious man, we may suppose that Ezra was tempted to apply himself. But he got over the temptation the law of his God was more to him than all the writings of their magicians and astrologers, which he knew enough of with good reason to despise them. (2.) He sought the law of the Lord, that is, he made it his business to enquire into it, searched the scriptures, and sought the knowledge of God, of his mind and will, in the scriptures, which is to be found there, but not without seeking. (3.) He made conscience of doing according to it; he set it before him as his rule, formed his sentiments and temper by it, and managed himself in his whole conversation according to it. This use we must make of our knowledge of the scriptures; for happy are we if we do what we know of the will of God. (4.) He set himself to teach Israel the statutes and judgments of that law. What he knew he was willing to communicate for the good of others; for the ministration of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. But observe the method: he first learned and then taught, sought the law of the Lord and so laid up a good treasure, and then instructed others and laid out what he had laid up. He also first did and then taught, practised the commandments himself and then directed others in the practice of them; thus his example confirmed his doctrine. (5.) He prepared his heart to do all this, or he fixed his heart. He took pains in his studies, and thoroughly furnished himself for what he designed, and then put on resolution to proceed and persevere in them, and thus he became a ready scribe. Moses in Egypt, Ezra in Babylon, and both in captivity, were wonderfully fitted for eminent services to the church.
III. His expedition to Jerusalem for the good of his country: He went up from Babylon (Ezra ; Ezra ), and, in four months' time, came to Jerusalem, Ezra ; Ezra It was strange that such a man as he staid so long in Babylon after his brethren had gone up; but God sent him not thither till he had work for him to do there; and none went but those whose spirits God raised to go up. Some think that this Artaxerxes was the same with that Darius whose decree we had (Ezra ; Ezra ), and that Ezra came the very year after the temple was finished: that was the sixth year, this the seventh (Ezra ; Ezra ), so Dr. Lightfoot. My worthy and learned friend, lately deceased, Mr. Talents, in his chronological tables, places it about fifty-seven years after the finishing of the temple; others further on. I have only to observe, 1. How kind the king was to him. He granted him all his request, whatever he desired to put him into a capacity to serve his country. 2. How kind his people were to him. When he went many more went with him, because they desired not to stay in Babylon when he had gone thence, and because they would venture to dwell in Jerusalem when he had gone thither. 3. How kind his God was to him. He obtained this favour from his king and country by the good hand of the Lord that was upon him,Ezra ; Ezra Note, Every creature is that to us which God makes it to be, and from him our judgment proceeds. As we must see the events that shall occur in the hand of God, so we must see the hand of God in the events that do occur, and acknowledge him with thankfulness when we have reason to call it his good hand.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ezra ". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ezrahtml.
10 ezra commentary 7
For New King James text and comment, click here.Ezra Listen
Ezra comes to town (Ezra 7)
1 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,
2 The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,
3 The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,
4 The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,
5 The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
6 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.
7 And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
9 For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
11 Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel.
12 Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.
13 I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.
14 Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;
15 And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
16 And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem:
17 That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.
18 And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God.
19 The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.
20 And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure house.
21 And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,
22 Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
23 Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
24 Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.
25 And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.
26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
27 Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:
28 And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
This chapter begins with Ezra's ancestral link back to Aaron. This list of ancestors is abbreviated when compared to Ezra's list found in I Chronicles (see notes). After these things speaks of the completion and dedication of the temple in B.C. Ezra rolls in, and he has a letter in hand from the new King of Persia. Most Bible historians have concluded that this new king is Artaxerxes I, making the date of Ezra's arrival around B.C. This most-commonly-held view indicates a gap of almost 60 years between chapters 6 and 7 of the Book of Ezra. Since Ezra is a scribe, he's well versed in the Law of Moses. He shows up to teach the people of Judah God's ways after a day trip from Babylon. While line of sight from Babylon to Jerusalem is only around miles, the route taken back then was northwest along the Euphrates and then south to Jerusalem, a mile trip. Needless to say, that took much of the fun out of travel.
We'll see in chapter 8 that there was a significant mass of people along with property that traveled with Ezra here. With this letter from the king in chapter 7, Ezra is given significant authority and resources to do the job (verses ). Notice verse 23, "Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?" Historians tell us that there was a rebellion brewing down in Egypt in B.C., and the king was trying to appease the factions who might have influence over Israel at the time. This verse shows us that the king didn't want to make the God of Israel angry, so he rolls out the red carpet for Ezra and his countrymen. Oh! And here's another political move to get the Jewish leadership behind the Persian King's efforts in verse Make the religious leadership and temple servants (Nethinims) tax exempt. That's the good clergy news. Verse 26 is the lawyer-buster verse, "And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment." If you don't like what Ezra's doingwellyou better like what Ezra's doing!
There are some prophetic implications in this chapter. This "seventh year of Artaxerxes the king" equates to B.C. when this decree was issued to rebuild the temple. This is likely the beginning of the countdown to the Messiah as specified by Daniel in Daniel (see notes). Read the commentary on that chapter to understand the significance of the decree issued here.
So, who are these folks who returned? (Ezra )
1 These are now the chief of their fathers, and this is the genealogy of them that went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king.
2 Of the sons of Phinehas; Gershom: of the sons of Ithamar; Daniel: of the sons of David; Hattush.
3 Of the sons of Shechaniah, of the sons of Pharosh; Zechariah: and with him were reckoned by genealogy of the males an hundred and fifty.
4 Of the sons of Pahathmoab; Elihoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred males.
5 Of the sons of Shechaniah; the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred males.
6 Of the sons also of Adin; Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him fifty males.
7 And of the sons of Elam; Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him seventy males.
8 And of the sons of Shephatiah; Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him fourscore males.
9 Of the sons of Joab; Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and eighteen males.
10 And of the sons of Shelomith; the son of Josiphiah, and with him an hundred and threescore males.
11 And of the sons of Bebai; Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty and eight males.
12 And of the sons of Azgad; Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him an hundred and ten males.
13 And of the last sons of Adonikam, whose names are these, Eliphelet, Jeiel, and Shemaiah, and with them threescore males.
14 Of the sons also of Bigvai; Uthai, and Zabbud, and with them seventy males.
15 And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi.
16 Then sent I for Eliezer, for Ariel, for Shemaiah, and for Elnathan, and for Jarib, and for Elnathan, and for Nathan, and for Zechariah, and for Meshullam, chief men; also for Joiarib, and for Elnathan, men of understanding.
17 And I sent them with commandment unto Iddo the chief at the place Casiphia, and I told them what they should say unto Iddo, and to his brethren the Nethinims, at the place Casiphia, that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of our God.
18 And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;
19 And Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, his brethren and their sons, twenty;
20 Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty Nethinims: all of them were expressed by name.
21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
22 For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
Now, the most exciting part of reading the Biblegenealogies! These are the people who left Babylon with Ezra. They're listed here according to their ancestry. We'll need some certified Levites, and we have them in verses Then for the fasting and prayer in verses before Ezra and his large company actually head for Jerusalem. Why? Verse 22 explains, "For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him." Ezra had declined to ask the king for protection (since the king had such great respect for the protecting hand of Ezra's God), and this fast just seemed like a good way to get right with God and call upon him to protect their journey before they leave - three days' worth of fasting and prayer.
We need guards (Ezra )
24 Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,
25 And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his counsellors, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered:
26 I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an hundred talents;
27 Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.
28 And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the LORD; the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers.
29 Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the LORD.
30 So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of our God.
31 Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.
32 And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.
33 Now on the fourth day was the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites;
34 By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.
35 Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs, twelve he goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering unto the LORD.
36 And they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God.
Tax exempt back in - that's the GOOD clergy news. Now here's the bad clergy news: The Levites are designated to carry the temple furnishings back to Jerusalem on this mile journey. Who better to guard the temple possession than the Levites - just like the old days! Ezra makes the appropriate appointments. Upon their arrival, they offer burnt offerings to express their thankfulness to God in allowing them to return to Jerusalem. We see in verse 36 that Ezra carried with him the "commissions" (royal edicts) which are delivered to the government officials over the region. They're back in their land under the protective decree of the King of Persia. Sothey're protected from their enemies, but they are not governing themselves independently. They function more as a state within a union than a nation.
No more marriages to foreigners! (Ezra 9)
1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
3 And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.
4 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.
5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,
6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
7 Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.
8 And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.
9 For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.
10 And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments,
11 Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.
12 Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.
13 And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this;
14 Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?
15 O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.
Never mind what our forefathers did, this marriage thing - marrying foreigners - must stop. Then they read the laundry list of forbidden marriages.Deuteronomy (see notes) says, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:" That, of course, was part of the Law of Moses. Moreover, we are told in Deuteronomy (see notes) "But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:" Of course, Israel didn't drive them out of Canaan when they possessed it. Consequently, they were surrounded by these races of people. As a matter of fact, note these verses in Judges (see notes), "And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods." Interestingly enough, David's Great Grandma, Ruth, was a Moabite. And then there was Solomon - a big violator; notice I Kings (see notes) "But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;" One thing though, Egyptians didn't show up on any of these lists of forbidden marriages in the law.Deuteronomy (see notes) says, "Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land." However, since Deuteronomy had been written, there had been quite a lot of negative history with both Egypt and Edom. I guess the officials in Ezra just went ahead and threw them in for good measure.
It seems like a strange concern in verse 2 when the leaders of the returned exiles come to Ezra talking about the evils of intermarrying with the surrounding folks in such seemingly naive terms saying, "so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands:" And what about Ezra's reaction to this report in verse 3, "And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied." Ouch! That's gotta hurt! But here's the point. They recognized the intent in the beginning for not intermarrying with the pagans was to prevent religious diversity.These foreigners bring their pagan religions with them. Sohow long has the practice of marrying heathen women been going on? There's your answer in verse 7, "Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day." That verse is part of the prayer that Ezra prays publicly beginning in verse 6 and extending to the end of the chapter. While they freely acknowledge that their forefathers failed to uphold the marriage policy established by God, these returning exiles mean business as they make every good faith attempt to keep it from happening again. So, they take the spirit of past commandments (the prevention of religious diversity), lump in the pagan Egyptians, and seek to rectify what they view as a significant problem. They meant well. To top off the new proposition, in verses Ezra prays an emotional prayer in earshot of everyone confessing sin in this matter. Heythese people are serious about serving their ONE TRUE GOD! They don't want to take any chances with compromise this time around.
Incidentally, this marrying-pagan-women problem during this era also receives attention in Nehemiah 13 (see notes) and Malachi (see notes).
Some of these wives must go! (Ezra )
1 Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.
2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.
3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
4 Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.
5 Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.
6 Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.
7 And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;
8 And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.
9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.
10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.
11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
12 Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.
13 But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.
14 Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.
15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.
16 And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.
17 And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
Are you a violator of the marriage policy or not? They set up a committee to examine the question of inappropriate marriages. It took several weeks to go through all the families of the exile, but they stuck with it until the task was finished. And why did they do this? Look at Ezra , "Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us." They felt that these men who intermarried would result in the wrath of God upon them i.e. a shortfall of rain (verse 13). According to verse 17, the task of ridding these men of their foreign wives took about three months to accomplish.
Who are the violators? (Ezra )
18 And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.
19 And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.
20 And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah.
21 And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah.
22 And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
23 Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
24 Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.
25 Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.
26 And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah.
27 And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza.
28 Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
29 And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth.
30 And of the sons of Pahathmoab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh.
31 And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,
32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.
33 Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.
34 Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel,
35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh,
36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,
37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau,
38 And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei,
39 And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah,
40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,
41 Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah,
42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.
43 Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah.
44 All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.
Here's the list of violators. Isn't it interesting that their names are immortalized because they married heathen women! The problem doesn't actually get solved here, though. In Nehemiah we see that this problem of intermarrying with the surrounding natives kept recurring. With the help of the numbers found in Nehemiah 7 (see notes) of the total of returning exiles, here's a little table to show the extent of this intermarriage problem.
Totals from Nehemiah 7
Intermarried from Ezra 10
As it turns out, there were not that many mixed families to begin with, but none after the three months. I wonder what kind of severance package those women received? We see in verse 44 that some had children by these wives as well. According to verse 3, those women retained custody of their children. Let it be noted, this was a man-made solution to a man-made problem.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Cambridge Bible for Schools and CollegesFor Ezra had prepared(R.V. set) his heart&c.] The precise meaning of the ‘for’ which determines the connexion of the verse, is not very evident. The verse eitherexplains the preceding clause and attributes God’s favour towards Ezra during the journey to the latter’s devotion to the Divine Law, oris added as a general comment on the whole preceding section, explanatory of Ezra’s resolve and expedition. Those who take the former view illustrate it by ch. Ezra But the latter interpretation of the verse is to be preferred. It corresponds better with the somewhat abrupt mention of Ezra’s rule of life. It harmonizes with the description of Ezra’s character. ‘Ezra had set his heart &c.’ That fact lay at the bottom of the religious movement which he set on foot. It explained something very much more than the mere fortunate issue of the journey.
‘Had set his heart’. A not uncommon phrase, cf. 2 Chronicles ; 2 Chronicles ; 2 Chronicles In every instance the R.V. has rightly changed ‘prepare his heart’ to ‘set his heart’. The idea of the original is not ‘preparedness for the unforeseen’, but ‘fixity and stability of purpose’. Compare the expression ‘my heart is fixed’ (Psalm ; Psalm ; Psalm ) where the same verb occurs.
to seek the law of the Lord] Cf. Psalm ; Psalm ; 1 Chronicles The search, no mere investigation of the letter, but for the sake of ascertaining the true principles of practical life embodied in the law, cf. 2 Chronicles ‘(Asa) commanded Judah to seekthe Lord the God of their fathers, and to dothe law and the commandment’.
and to teach] Those principles are self-diffusive, the teaching by example as much as by precept, cf. 2 Chronicles ‘And they (the priests) taught in Judah, having the book of the law with them’. Ezra’s purpose to searchfor truth, to liveby it and to teachit his countrymen is an epitome of the ideal scribe’s career. We may compare Acts ‘All that Jesus began both to doand to teach’.
statutes and judgments] These words in the Hebrew are singular, and are rendered ‘a statute and an ordinance’ in Exodus ; Joshua , where they are found together. The singular is generic. The two words are frequently found together in the plural: e.g. Leviticus ; Deuteronomy ; Deuteronomy ; Deuteronomy ; Deuteronomy ; Deuteronomy ; Deuteronomy ; Deuteronomy ; Deuteronomy &c.; 2 Chronicles ; 2 Chronicles and Malachi ‘statutes and judgments’. ‘Statutes’ are the appointed rules or regulations of conduct or ceremony, ‘judgments’ are the duties and rights determined by equity, authority, or custom. The phrase is however used very generally without any close distinction in the shades of meaning.
Pulpit CommentaryVerse For Ezra had prepared his heart,etc. God's favour towards Ezra, and the prosperous issue of his journey, were the consequences of his having set his heart on learning God's will, and doing it, and teaching it to others. To seek the lawis to aim at obtaining a complete knowledge of it. To teach statutes and judgmentsis to inculcate both the ceremonial and the moral precepts. Ezra appears as a teacher of righteousness in Ezra , 11, and again in Nehemiah
CHAPTER THE DECREE OF ARTAXERXES WITH RESPECT TO EZRA (vers. ). The present decree was of the nature of a firmangranted to an individual. It embodied, in the first place, a certain number of provisions which were temporary. Of this character were -
1.the permission accorded to all Persian subjects of Israelite descent to accompany Ezra to Jerusalem (ver. 13);
2.the commission to Ezra to convey to Jerusalem certain offerings made by the king and his chief courtiers to the God of Israel (vers. 15, 19);
3.the permission given him to convey to Jerusalem the free-will offerings of Jews and others resident in Babylonia (ver. 16);
4.permission to Ezra to draw on the royal treasury to the amount of a hundred talents of silver, a hundred measures of wheat, a hundred "baths" of wine, a hundred "baths" of oil, and salt to any amount (ver. 22); and,
5.an indefinite commission to "inquire" (ver. 14). Besides these temporary enactments, the decree contained certain provisions of a more permanent nature.
1.Ezra was invested with the chief authority over the whole district "beyond the river," and was commissioned to appoint all the subordinate "magistrates and judges" (ver. 25).
2.He was authorised to enforce his decisions by the penalties of imprisonment, confiscation of goods, banishment, and even death itself (ver. 26).
3.An exemption from taxation of every kind was granted to all grades of the sacerdotal order - to the priests, the Levites, the singers, the porters, the Nethinim, and the lowest grade of "ministers" - to all, in fact, who were engaged in the performance of any sacred function connected with the temple (ver. 24). This last provision was absolutely permanent, and probably continued in force down to the close of the empire. Ezra
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old TestamentWith Ezra went up a number of Israelites, priests, and Levites. partitive: a part of the whole. That they went up with Ezra appears from the context, and is expressly stated both in the royal edict (Ezra ) and in the further description of the expedition (Ezra , Ezra ). They went up in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, and reached Jerusalem in the fifth month of that year. - In Ezra Ezra is again, as in Ezra , the subject of the sentence; the intervening seventh verse being really only in apposition with Ezra - In Ezra the time occupied by the journey is more precisely defined; is explanatory. Namely, on the first day of the first month, he had appointed the journey from Babylon, etc. The Keri can only mean, ipsum erat fundamentum profectionis, as J. H. Mich. after R. Sal. explains it, for is pointed as the construct state. The departure of the expedition from the place of meeting occurred, according to Ezra , on the twelfth day of the first month. Since, however, they encamped three days there, making the final preparations for their journey, eleven days might easily elapse between the period when the whole caravan had assembled, and the day of actual departure. The Keri offers no appropriate signification; for since can only be taken for the subject, and for the predicate, the sentence would contain an anacoluthon. To translate by ipsum cannot be justified by the usages of the language, for there is no such emphasis on as to cause to be regarded as an emphatic reference to the following noun. must be pointed or , as the third pers. perf. Kal or Piel, meaning to arrange, to appoint, and referred to Ezra. On , comp. Ezra The hand of his God graciously arranged for him, for he had prepared his heart to seek and to do the law of Jahve, i.e., to make the law of God his rule of action. , like 2 Chronicles ; 2 Chronicles ; 2 Chronicles To teach in Israel statutes and judgments, as both are prescribed in the law of God.
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Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Ezra 7
Ezra's precious name saluted us, at first, in the title of the book, but in the history we have not met with it till this chapter introduces him into public action in another reign, that of Artaxerxes. Zerubbabel and Jeshua we will suppose, by this time, to have grown old, if not gone off; nor do we hear any more of Haggai and Zechariah; they have finished their testimony. What shall become of the cause of God and Israel when these useful instruments are laid aside? Trust God, who has the residue of the Spirit, to raise up others in their room. Ezra here, and Nehemiah in the next book, are as serviceable in their days as those were in theirs. Here is,
- I. An account, in general, of Ezra himself, and of his expedition to Jerusalem for the public good (v. ).
- II. A copy of the commission which Artaxerxes gave him (v. ).
- III. His thankfulness to God for it (v. 27, 28).
The next chapter will give us a more particular narrative of his associates, his journey, and his arrival at Jerusalem.
- I. Ezra's pedigree. He was one of the sons of Aaron, a priest. Him God chose to be an instrument of good to Israel, that he might put honour upon the priesthood, the glory of which had been much eclipsed by the captivity. He is said to be the son of Seraiah, that Seraiah, as is supposed, whom the king of Babylon put to death when he sacked Jerusalem, 2 Ki. , If we take the shortest computation, it was seventy-five years since Seraiah died; many reckon it much longer, and, because they suppose Ezra called out in the prime of his time to public service, do therefore think that Seraiah was not his immediate parent, but his grandfather or great-grandfather, but that he was the first eminent person that occurred in his genealogy upwards, which is carried up here as high as Aaron, yet leaving out many for brevity-sake, which may be supplied from 1 Chr. , etc. He was a younger brother, or his father was Jozadak, the father of Jeshua, so that he was not high priest, but nearly allied to the high priest.
- II. His character. Though of the younger house, his personal qualifications made him very eminent.
- 1. He was a man of great learning, a scribe, a ready scribe, in the law of Moses,v. 6. He was very much conversant with the scriptures, especially the writings of Moses, had the words ready and was well acquainted with the sense and meaning of them. It is to be feared that learning ran low among the Jews in Babylon; but Ezra was instrumental to revive it. The Jews say that he collected and collated all the copies of the law he could find out, and published an accurate edition of it, with all the prophetical books, historical and poetical, that were given by divine inspiration, and so made up the canon of the Old Testament, with the addition of the prophecies and histories of his own time. If he was raised up of God, and qualified and inclined to do this, all generations have reason to call him blessed, and to bless God for him. God sent to the Jews prophets and scribes,Mt. Ezra went under the latter denomination. Now that prophecy was about to cease it was time to promote scripture-knowledge, pursuant to the counsel of God by the last of the prophets, Mal. Remember the law of Moses. Gospel ministers are called scribes instructed to the kingdom of heaven (Mt. ), New-Testament scribes. It was a pity that such a worthy name as this should be worn, as it was in the degenerate ages of the Jewish church, by men who were professed enemies to Christ and his gospel (Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees), who were learned in the letter of the law, but strangers to the spirit of it.
- 2. He was a man of great piety and holy zeal (v. 10): He hadprepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, etc.
- (1.) That which he chose for his study was the law of the Lord. The Chaldeans, among whom he was born and bred, were famed for literature, especially the study of the stars, to which, being a studious man, we may suppose that Ezra was tempted to apply himself. But he got over the temptation; the law of his God was more to him than all the writings of their magicians and astrologers, which he knew enough of with good reason to despise them.
- (2.) He sought the law of the Lord, that is, he made it his business to enquire into it, searched the scriptures, and sought the knowledge of God, of his mind and will, in the scriptures, which is to be found there, but not without seeking.
- (3.) He made conscience of doing according to it; he set it before him as his rule, formed his sentiments and temper by it, and managed himself in his whole conversation according to it. This use we must make of our knowledge of the scriptures; for happy are we if we do what we know of the will of God.
- (4.) He set himself to teach Israel the statutes and judgments of that law. What he knew he was willing to communicate for the good of others; for the ministration of the Spirit isgiven to every man to profit withal. But observe the method: he first learned and then taught, sought the law of the Lord and so laid up a good treasure, and then instructed others and laid out what he had laid up. He also first did and then taught, practised the commandments himself and then directed others in the practice of them; thus his example confirmed his doctrine.
- (5.) He prepared his heart to do all this, or he fixed his heart. He took pains in his studies, and thoroughly furnished himself for what he designed, and then put on resolution to proceed and persevere in them, and thus he became a ready scribe. Moses in Egypt, Ezra in Babylon, and both in captivity, were wonderfully fitted for eminent services to the church.
- III. His expedition to Jerusalem for the good of his country: He went up from Babylon (v. 6), and, in four months' time, came to Jerusalem, v. 8. It was strange that such a man as he staid so long in Babylon after his brethren had gone up; but God sent him not thither till he had work for him to do there; and none went but those whose spirits God raised to go up. Some think that this Artaxerxes was the same with that Darius whose decree we had (ch. 6), and that Ezra came the very year after the temple was finished: that was the sixth year, this the seventh (v. 8), so Dr. Lightfoot. My worthy and learned friend, lately deceased, Mr. Talents, in his chronological tables, places it about fifty-seven years after the finishing of the temple; others further on. I have only to observe,
- 1. How kind the king was to him. He granted him all hisrequest, whatever he desired to put him into a capacity to serve his country.
- 2. How kind his people were to him. When he went many more went with him, because they desired not to stay in Babylon when he had gone thence, and because they would venture to dwell in Jerusalem when he had gone thither.
- 3. How kind his God was to him. He obtained this favour from his king and country by the good hand of the Lord that was upon him,v. 6, 9. Note, Every creature is that to us which God makes it to be, and from him our judgment proceeds. As we must see the events that shall occur in the hand of God, so we must see the hand of God in the events that do occur, and acknowledge him with thankfulness when we have reason to call it his good hand.
We have here the commission which the Persian emperor granted to Ezra, giving him authority to act for the good of the Jews; and it is very ample and full, and beyond what could have been expected. The commission runs, we suppose, in the usual form: Artaxerxes, King ofkings. This however is too high a title for any mortal man to assume; he was indeed king of some kings, but to speak as if he were king of all kings was to usurp his prerogative who hath allpower both in heaven and in earth. He sends greeting to his trusty and well-beloved Ezra, whom he calls a scribe of the law of the God of heaven (v. 12), a title which (it seems by this) Ezra valued himself by, and desired no other, no, not when he was advanced to the proconsular dignity. He reckoned it more his honour to be a scribe of God's law than to be a peer or prince of the empire. Let us observe the articles of this commission.
- I. He gives Ezra leave to go up to Jerusalem, and as many of his countrymen as pleased to go up with him, v. He and they were captives, and therefore they would not quit his dominions without his royal license.
- II. He gives him authority to enquire into the affairs of Judah and Jerusalem, v. The rule of his enquiry was to be the law of his God, which was in his hand. He must enquire whether the Jews, in their religion, had and did according to that law-whether the temple was built, the priesthood was settled, and the sacrifices were offered conformably to the divine appointment. If, upon enquiry, he found any thing amiss, he must see to get it amended, and, like Titus in Crete, must set in order the things that were wanting,Tit. Thus is God's law magnified and made honourable, and thus are the Jews restored to their ancient privilege of governing themselves by that law, and are no longer under the statutes that were not good, the statutes of their oppressors, Eze.
- III. He entrusts him with the money that was freely given by the king himself and his counsellors, and collected among his subjects, for the service of the house of God, v. 15,
- 1. Let this be taken notice of,
- (1.) To the honour of God, as the one only living and true God;' for even those that worshipped other gods were so convinced of the sovereignty of the God of Israel that they were willing to incur expenses in order to recommend themselves to his favour. See Ps. ;
- (2.) To the praise of this heathen king, that he honoured the God of Israel though his worshippers were a despicable handful of poor men, who were not able to bear the charges of their own religion and were now his vassals, and that, though he was not wrought upon to quit his own superstitions, yet he protected and encouraged the Jews in their religion, and did not only say, Be you warmed, and be you filled, but gave them such things as they needed.
- (3.) To the reproach of the memory of the wicked kings of Judah. Those that had been trained up in the knowledge and worship of the God of Israel, and had his law and his prophets, often plundered and impoverished the temple; but here a heathen prince enriched it. Thus afterwards the gospel was rejected by the Jews, but welcomed by the Gentiles. See Rom. , Through their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles.Acts
- 2. We are here told that Ezra was entrusted,
- (1.) To receive this money and to carry it to Jerusalem; for he was a man of known integrity, whom they could confide in, that he would not convert to his own use the least part of that which was given to the public. We find Paul going to Jerusalem upon such an errand, to bring alms to his nation and offerings,Acts
- (2.) To lay out this money in the best manner, in sacrifices to be offered upon the altar of God (v. 17), and in whatever else he or his brethren thought fit (v. 18), with this limitation only that it should be after the will of their God, which they were better acquainted with than the king was. Let the will of our God be always our rule in our expenses, and particularly in what we lay out for his service. God's work must always be done according to his will. Besides money, he had vessels also given him for the service of the temple, v. Cyrus restored what of right belonged to the temple, but these were given over and above: thus it receiveth its own with usury. These he must deliver before the God of Jerusalem, as intended for his honour, there where he had put hisname.
- 1. Let this be taken notice of,
- IV. He draws him a bill, or warrant rather, upon the treasurers on that side the river, requiring them to furnish him with what he had occasion for out of the king's revenues, and to place it to the king's account, v. 20, This was considerately done; for Ezra, having yet to enquire into the state of things, knew not what he should have occasion for and was modest in his demand. It was also kindly done, and evinced a great affection to the temple and a great confidence in Ezra. It is the interest of princes and great men to use their wealth and power for the support and encouragement of religion. What else are great revenues good for but that they enable men to do much good of this kind if they have but hearts to do it?
- V. He charges him to let nothing be wanting that was requisite to be done in or about the temple for the honour of the God of Israel. Observe, in this charge (v. 23),
- 1. How honourably he speaks of God. He had called him before the God of Jerusalem; but here, lest it should be thought that he looked upon him as a local deity, he calls him twice, with great veneration, the God of heaven.
- 2. How strictly he eyes the word and law of God, which, it is likely, he had read and admired: "Whatsoever is commanded by your God" (whose institutions, though he wrote himself King of kings, he would not presume in the least iota or tittle to alter or add to) "let it be done, let it be diligently done, with care and speed." And,
- 3. How solicitously he deprecates the wrath of God: Why should there be wrath against the realm? The neglect and contempt of religion bring the judgments of God upon kings and kingdoms; and the likeliest expedient to turn away his wrath, when it is ready to break out against a people, is to support and encourage religion. Would we secure our peace and prosperity? Let us take care that the cause of God be not starved.
- VI. He exempts all the ministers of the temple from paying taxes to the government. From the greatest of the priests to the least of the Nethinim, it shall not be lawful for the king's officers to impose that toll, tribute, or custom upon them, which the rest of the king's subjects paid, v. This put a great honour upon them as free denizens of the empire, and would gain them respect as favourites of the crown; and it gave them liberty to attend their ministry with more cheerfulness and freedom. We suppose it was only what they needed for themselves and their families, and the maintenance of their ministry, that was hereby allowed to come to them custom-free. If any of them should take occasion from this privilege to meddle in trade and merchandise, they justly lost the benefit of it.
- VII. He empowers Ezra to nominate and appoint judges and magistrates for all the Jews on that side the river, v. 25, It was a great favour to the Jews to have such nobles of themselves, and especially to have them of Ezra's nomination.
- 1. All that knew the laws of Ezra's God (that is, all that professed the Jewish religion) were to be under the jurisdiction of these judges, which intimates that they were exempted from the jurisdiction of the heathen magistrates.
- 2. These judges were allowed and encouraged to make proselytes: Let them teach the laws ofGod to those that do not know them. Though he would not turn Jew himself, he cared not how many of his subjects did.
- 3. They were authorized to enforce the judgments they gave, and the orders they made, conformable to the law of God (which was hereby made the law of the king), with severe penalties-imprisonment, banishment, fine, or death, according as their law directed. They were not allowed to make new laws, but must see the laws of God duly executed; and they were entrusted with the sword in order that they might be a terror to evil doers. What could Jehoshaphat, or Hezekiah, or David himself, as king, have done more for the honour of God and the furtherance of religion?
Ezra cannot proceed in his story without inserting his thankful acknowledgement of the goodness of God to him and his people in this matter. As soon as he has concluded the king's commission, instead of subjoining, God save the king (though that would have been proper enough), he adds, Blessed be the Lord; for we must in every thing give thanks, and, whatever occurrences please us, we must own God's hand in them, and praise his name. Two things Ezra blessed God for:-
- 1. For his commission. We suppose he kissed the king's hand for it, but that was not all: Blessed be God (says he) that put such a thing as this into the king's heart. God can put things into men's hearts which would not arise there of themselves, and into their heads too, both by his providence and by his grace, in things pertaining both to life and godliness. If any good appear to be in our own hearts, or in the hearts of others, we must own it was God that put it there, and bless him for it; for it is he that worketh in us both to will and to do that which is good. When princes and magistrates act for the suppression of vice, and the encouragement of religion, we must thank God that put it into their hearts to do so, as much as if they had granted us some particular favour. When God's house was built Ezra rejoiced in what was done to beautify it. We read not of any orders given to paint or gild it, or to garnish it with precious stones, but to be sure that the ordinances of God were administered there constantly, and carefully, and exactly according to the institution; and that was indeed the beautifying of the temple.
- 2. For the encouragement he had to act in pursuance of his commission (v. 28): He hasextended mercy to me. The king, in the honour he did him, we may suppose, had an eye to his merit, and preferred him because he looked upon him to be a very sensible ingenious man; but he himself ascribes his preferment purely to God's mercy. It was this that recommended him to the favour of his prince. Ezra himself was a man of courage, yet he attributed his encouragement not to his own heart, but to God's hand: "I was strengthened to undertake the services, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me to direct and support me." If God gives us his hand, we are bold and cheerful; if he withdraws it, we are weak as water. Whatever service we are enabled to do for God and our generation, God must have all the glory of it. Strength for it is derived from him, and therefore the praise of it must be given to him.
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