Posted: 06 Jan 2011 11:00 PM PST
EZRA 7 RECOUNTS THE MISSION OF Ezra in the postexilic community in Jerusalem and Judah. Obviously it was part of imperial policy that if exiled groups were permitted to return to their homeland, they should be supported by their priests. From the perspective of pagan superstition, the rulers would not want any of the regional gods angry with them (Ezra 7:23); from the perspective of the covenant community, this was formidable evidence that the good hand of God was upon them, that he was able to rule the affairs of the mightiest empires so as to preserve his own people.
The nature of Ezra's task could easily be taken as a model of the privileges and responsibilities of all whose duty it is to teach the Word of God to the people of God: "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 7:10).
(1) Ezra devoted himself to the study of the Law. There is no long-range effective teaching of the Bible that is not accompanied by long hours of ongoing study of the Bible. Effectiveness in teaching the Bible is purchased at the price of much study, some of it lonely, all of it tiring. If you are not a student of the Word, you are not called to be a teacher of the Word.
(2) Ezra devoted himself to the observance of the Law. For some people, study is an end in itself, or perhaps a means to the end of teaching. But even though the subject matter is Scripture, for these people there is no personal commitment to living under its precepts—to ordering their marriage, their finances, their talk, their priorities, their values, by the Word of God. They do not constantly ask how the assumptions of their age and culture, assumptions that all of us pick up unawares, are challenged by Scripture. The study of Scripture, for such people, is an excellent intellectual discipline, but not a persistent call to worship; the Bible is to be mastered like a textbook, but it does not call the people of God to tremble; its truths are to be cherished, but it does not mediate the presence of God. Ezra avoided all these traps and devoted himself to observing what Scripture says.
(3) Ezra devoted himself to the teaching of the Law. He was not a hermit-scholar; he was a pastor-scholar. What he learned in study and obedience he also learned how to pass on. Whether in large, solemn assemblies, in family or clan settings, or in one-on-one studies, Ezra committed himself to teaching the Word of God to the people of God. It is difficult to imagine a higher calling.
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