Having recently read the book of Ezra again, I was struck especially by two things. How God’s hand was on Ezra as He taught truth and Ezra’s humble prayer for the Israelites and himself.
Since I am a teacher at heart, Ezra 7:10 has always been special to me:
“Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.“
Ezra was returning with the second wave of Israelites, who had been given permission by Persian King Cyrus, to go back to their city, Jerusalem. The temple had been rebuilt but the worship was still not right. Ezra wanted to reestablish God’s commands in the way they worship. So his goal. was to KNOW, OBEY and TEACH God’s truth.
That is my goal as well, but it seems whatever I am teaching is where God is showing me where I still fall short. Makes me think, He asks me to teach certain things that I need more than the women I teach! Been there?
Here is how Ezra was able to teach God’s truth to the continually disobedient Israelites…even after enslavement, wilderness wandering and captivity!
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s mind to glorify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and who has shown favor to me before the king, his counselors, and all his powerful officers. So I took courage because I was strengthened by the hand of the Lord my God, and I gathered Israelite leaders to return with me.” Ezra 7:27-28
God had showed Him favor and God’s hand was on him to lead him every step of the way.
The second thing that got my attention was his humble prayer for Israel in Ezra 9:4-14. I know this is a long passage, but I encourage you to read through it prayerfully.:
“Everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me, because of the unfaithfulness of the exiles, while I sat devastated until the evening offering. At the evening offering, I got up from my time of humiliation, with my tunic and robe torn. Then I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. And I said:
‘My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward you, my God, because our iniquities are higher than our heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens. Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from the Lord our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in his holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us a little relief and light to our eyes. Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us relief, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. Now, our God, what can we say in light of this? For we have abandoned the commands you gave through your servants the prophets, saying: “The land you are entering to possess is an impure land. The surrounding peoples have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness by their impurity and detestable practices. So do not give your daughters to their sons in marriage or take their daughters for your sons. Never pursue their welfare or prosperity, so that you will be strong, eat the good things of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your sons forever.” After all that has happened to us because of our evil deeds and terrible guilt — though you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserve and have allowed us to survive — should we break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit these detestable practices? Wouldn’t you become so angry with us that you would destroy us, leaving neither remnant nor survivor? Lord God of Israel, you are righteous, for we survive as a remnant today. Here we are before you with our guilt, though no one can stand in your presence because of this.'”
Such humility! Ezra takes partial responsibility for the state of his people. I talked about our responsibility for praying for our nation last week. It’s the responsibility of believers to pray for the lost and act in a way that draws the lost to Christ.
And our own sins can affect the lost we come into contact with. Gloria Furman said in her study Raised Together: A Study of Colossians , “One way to fight the temptation to sin is to imagine the ways that sin would affect people in your life.“
I’d add: and how it would especially affect those others we influence who may be lost. We have to put off our own sins. Then, in love, we can reach the lost. Pride and sin in Christians repels the lost from Jesus!
This land is God’s. He cares about it more than we do, but we are partially to blame. May we humble ourselves and pray. And may we boldly and humbly, with love, teach God’s truth, asking God’s hand to be upon us as we do.