Reading for today:
Ezra 7-8 … 1 Corinthians 5
It may not seem like there’s much of a time gap between chapters 6 and 7 in the book of Ezra, but if you were to look at a timeline of Persian rulers (and why wouldn’t you?) you would notice that between Darius (chapter 6) and Artaxerxes (chapter7) they skip a whole ruler: Xerxes.
And that name may ring a bell if you’ve ever read the book of Esther (if you haven’t, you definitely should). The book of Esther spotlights Jewish exiles who chose to stay in Persia rather than return to Israel, and Esther’s heroism in rescuing them from annihilation.
“…who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)
Like Esther, Ezra had a purpose to fulfill in his specific place and time.
We learn that this godly man was a descendant of Aaron, which established his right to function as a priest and teacher (7: 5-6). Ezra also knew the Word of God and lived it, which was one of the most important features of his life. He was skilled in understanding God’s law and explaining it to others. Ezra’s commitment to know and live God’s Word was one reason for the impact he had for the Lord in his time.
Preparation. “Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach” (7:10). Our heart must first be put right with God before our life is truly ready for Him to use fully. Certainly, he can use anyone, anytime…but if we want to be all that God designed us to be, we need to start inside. Other translations of this verse use words like “dedicated, devoted, firmly resolved, and set his heart” to give us a greater picture of what this preparation might look like.
Power. “The hand of the Lord his God was upon him” (7:6). Because of this invisible and powerful hand upon him, the king granted him “all his requests.” I don’t think it’s any accident or coincidence that God’s hand acted on Ezra’s behalf, helping him in his endeavors. After all, Ezra was a man who had “devoted his heart” to seeking God’s ways. What a lovely illustration of God actively intervening to act on behalf of those who actively set their hearts on Him.
In chapter 8 we see Ezra, again, preparing not only himself, but all the people for their trip to Jerusalem.
“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” Ezra 8:21
As we seek God in prayer and fasting, we honor him and set our hearts on Him. We acknowledge that we don’t possess a power great enough to overcome that which is before us, but we know HE does, HE is.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
The Greek word translated as ‘more than conquerors’ in this verse is “hupernikao” which means “overwhelmingly conquer.” It doesn’t mean “barely eek out” or “just get by.” It indicates a crushing victory.
Picture a wrecking ball.
You and I don’t possess wrecking ball kind of power on our own, but this verse tells us that through our great God, we have that power in us, available to us.
Ezra knew it.
And he knew how to utilize it, too. Not by looking within himself– but by preparing, dedicating, setting his heart on God’s word and trusting that God’s hand would overcome.
“I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me…” Ezra 7:28
it’s fun to say
– Susan Landry