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.
(Ezra 7:10 NASB)
There are many responsibilities on a spiritual leader’s job description. But there is one that stands above all the rest: He must be a student and communicator of God’s Word to the people.
Setting Your Heart . . .
Ezra’s determination in this arena was so strong that God described it like this: “Ezra had set his heart.”
The Bible would later describe the Messiah as one who would set his face “like flint” to go to Jerusalem, even though He knew the cost (Luke 9:51, cf. Isaiah 50:7). Ezra had made a similar determination.
Any pastor worth his salt is a man who perseveres. Jesus called those who run away at the first site of conflict hired hands who are merely tending the flock to make a living.
Ezra was carried by a lifelong passion to pursue God through His Word, regardless of the cost. And the payoff for him, his people, and the kingdom was to be monumental.
On the Right Things . . .
Many people have “set their heart” on something. Some have a huge desire for self-comfort or self-glory or self-promotion. They are determined to be known and loved. Power, pleasure, and money are common goals.
But Ezra set his heart on three eternally profitable goals: to study the Word, to obey the Word, and then to teach others to do the same. He had a deep confidence that he could find and experience the God of heaven through Scripture, and that this revelation could direct and transform the lives of others. This triad passion would serve him well for a lifetime.
To Be Usable to the King . . .
Ezra was grateful for the favor of an earthly king. It allowed him to return to his land and people after years in Babylonian captivity.
This was made possible, though, by the unseen, sovereign hand of the greater King he served. He came to Jerusalem “because the good hand of his God was upon him” (v. 9). Ezra’s determined desire was to know and serve this King.
He was used in the lives of the people when he returned to Jerusalem. But his most memorable season came when his friend, Nehemiah, returned and built the wall around Jerusalem, in just 52 days. At the end of this work, the nation assembled to hear what God might say. Ezra was called, and he was ready.
Nehemiah 8 records that they made him a wooden podium (v. 4) and stood him in front of all the people, who had “gathered as one man” (v. 1).
“He read from [the Scriptures] before the square . . . until midday . . . and all the people were attentive to the book of the law” (v. 3). He read Scripture to the people and then applied it, “translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (v. 8). Good teaching always involves the reading of God’s Word, explanation of the Word, and application of the Word.
The end result of this preaching was one of the greatest national moments of confession, repentance, revival, and restoration in human history. The entire nation came back to God.
When the time came, Ezra was ready. But do not miss the reason he was prepared for usefulness. See Ezra, early in the morning, late into the night, laboring over the Scripture. Watch him turning his face heavenward, asking God to help him understand. Observe the years of dogged obedience. Don’t miss the hours upon hours of humbly teaching the Word to others—years in which he wondered if there would be any fruit of his labor.
Ezra had “set his heart” to this, never knowing if such a revival would occur among the people. He was doing this because this was his calling and passion. He was doing it for his King.
Who knows the days of usefulness God may give any of us? the seasons of revival God may bring? But be assured of this: Only the spiritually prepared are as mightily used as Ezra. Set your heart to the daily task to be ready in God’s hand at the needed moment.