Ezra also had a mind for biblical truth. Perhaps the best example comes from Nehemiah 8, where Ezra gathers the Israelites to renew the covenant in Jerusalem. The heart of that renewal was the reading and preaching of God’s Word. Ezra gathered people in the square in front of the Water Gate, brought out the Book of the Law of Moses, and read it from dawn until noon. He not only read the law, but he also explained it. He and the other teachers “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh 8:8). This is one of our first and best models for expository preaching. This is what faithful gospel ministry is all about: reading God’s Word and giving the sense so that people can understand.
Posts Tagged ‘Ezra’
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Ezra, Faithful Gospel Ministry, Nehemiah, Phil Ryken, Scripture
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, Bible-saturated Prayer, daily Bible, Ezra, Scripture
Nehemiah 1:4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the King. His job was to taste the food and wine before the King, in case of poison. His position was actually quite high, and some scholars believe that he was “second-in-command.” His walk with God is evident in this passage. It seems that begins talking to God even as he was conversing with the king (v. 4; cf. 1 Thess. 5:17). This prayer is one of the most beautiful examples of spontaneous prayer in the Bible. It is obvious that he had done much praying and seeking God prior to this, and his prayerful conversation with God just flows out of him, as if from a deep reservoir of faith. His prayer is saturated with other biblical references. He may have been praying for the king for months, but now is the moment he knows it will take an act of God to change the royal heart and Nehemiah pleads for God’s mercy. Did you notice in verse 11 that He “delights to fear” God’s name? He found JOY in worshipping our great and awesome God ! (verse 5)
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, Call to repentance, daily Bible, Ezra, Scripture, True Repentance
Ezra was prostrating himself and praying “before the house of God” (10:1). Shecaniah admits, “We have been unfaithful to our God” (10:2). It was with God that they made this covenant because they trembled at His commandment (10:3). They needed to confess their sins to the Lord and do His will (10:11).
While sin always hurts other people and we need to ask their forgiveness when we sin against them, sin is first and foremost against God Himself. That is why David, after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered, said, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). He wrote (Ps. 51:4), “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” Certainly David had sinned against Bathsheba and even more so against her husband, Uriah.
But those sins were nothing in comparison with David’s offense against the holy God. When a believer sins, he gives occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme (2 Sam. 12:14). Unbelievers will mock God and justify their own sins when they hear of a believer’s sin. Thus our sin is primarily against God, which means that our repentance must be primarily toward Him also.
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Ezra, repentance, Scripture, The godly reaction to sin, Would you react to sin like this?
Because we are so desensitized toward sin, we fail to have the proper response toward it, whether it is our own sin, or sin in others. We minimize it, justify it, or ignore it and go on our way unaffected by it. If we see someone reacting in a godly way toward sin, we think that he is a bit carried away or extreme. He is judgmental or intolerant. How dare he cast stones at others! Does he think that he is without sin? And so, by casting our stones at him, we justify our sins and go back to business as usual, wondering why God doesn’t bless our lives more than He does.
Our text relates Ezra’s reaction to the sin of the exiles who had returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. About four and a half months (7:9, cf. 10:9) after he led a remnant back to the land, it was reported to him that many people in Israel, including too many priests, Levites, princes, and rulers, had sinned by taking pagan wives.
Ezra did not take the news in stride, chuckling, “Well, people will be people.” Rather, he tore his clothes, pulled some hair from his head and beard, and sat down appalled and speechless until the time of the evening offering. By then a number of godly people had gathered around him. Ezra arose, then fell to his knees, lifted his hands to the Lord, and confessed the great sin of his people, identifying himself with them, although he had not sinned in this regard. His prayer, which ranks with Nehemiah 9 and Daniel 9 as one of the great prayers of confession in the Bible, shows us the godly reaction to sin:
The godly reaction to sin is to recognize it from Scripture,to mourn over it, and to confess it without excuse to the God of mercy.
How a person reacts to the news of sin tells a lot about that person. If we hear about adultery and get a subtle thrill reading the juicy details, it reveals that we do not hate that sin and are vulnerable to it ourselves. While I confess that I have never reacted as strongly against sin as Ezra did (I can’t afford to pull out my hair!),and while part of his reaction may be culturally explained, we still can learn from him that we need to abhor sin so that we do not become desensitized to it.
Tags: August 7 Ezra 9, August Bible Readings, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Ezra, Scripture
Ezra 9 (ESV)
Ezra Prays About Intermarriage
9:1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race  has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6 saying:
“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold  within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection  in Judea and Jerusalem.
10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Ezra, God's providence, goodness of God, Scripture, The hand of our God is for good
Ezra was ashamed to ask King Artaxerxes for an escort because he previously had told him,
The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him. (Ezra 8:22)
Almost as if Ezra knew Romans 8:28 says,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
What should Ezra do in this situation? He fasted and prayed for God to provide them safety on their journey, and God “listened to our entreaty.” (Ezra 8:23)
Trust in God’s goodness, His providence, His love, His wisdom….Trust HIM!
Tags: August 6 Ezra 8, August Bible Readings, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Ezra, Scripture
Ezra 8 (ESV)
Genealogy of Those Who Returned with Ezra
8:1 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, 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 Shecaniah, who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered 150 men. 4 Of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men. 5 Of the sons of Zattu,  Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men. 6 Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men. 7 Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men. 8 Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him 80 men. 9 Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men. 10 Of the sons of Bani,  Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men. 11 Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him 28 men. 12 Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men. 13 Of the sons of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men. 14 Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.
Ezra Sends for Levites
15 I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi. 16 Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, leading men, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of insight, 17 and sent them to Iddo, the leading man at the place Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his brothers and  the temple servants at the place Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. 18 And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18; 19 also Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons, 20; 20 besides 220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.
Fasting and Prayer for Protection
21 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. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Priests to Guard Offerings
24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. 25 And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered. 26 I weighed out into their hand 650 talents  of silver, and silver vessels worth 200 talents,  and 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold worth 1,000 darics,  and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold. 28 And I said to them, “You are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your fathers. 29 Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the Lord.”30 So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.
31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. 32 We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days. 33 On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui. 34 The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded.
35 At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord. 36 They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps  and to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and they aided the people and the house of God.
Tags: Bible, Bible daily, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Ezra, God's grace, Scripture, The gracious hand of God
Ezra was a great man—one of the all-time heroes of the faith. He had the will to lead; he had a heart for holiness; he had a mind for biblical truth. If we want to follow his example, we should ask what made him so great and so good. What was the secret of Ezra’s spiritual success?
In one sense, it was the grace of God, of course, and the Bible is careful to point this out. Why did Ezra found favor in the eyes of the king? “The hand of the Lord his God was on him” (7:6). How was he able to make his journey back to Jerusalem? “The good hand of his God was on him” (7:9). Where did he find the courage to lead the people of Israel? Ezra speaks of God’s “steadfast love” and testifies, “the hand of the Lord my God was on me” (7:28). Ezra was a man under the hand of God.
It is only the gracious hand of God that enables a man or a woman to fulfill his or her calling in ministry. It is the hand of God that gives courage for spiritual leadership, humility for corporate repentance, and wisdom for teaching God’s Word. Praise God for the hand of guidance that has brought you to your present place of service, for the hand of providence that will supply all your needs, for the hand of discipline that will train you in righteousness, and for the hand of comfort that will sustain you through trials. The hand of God is on you for blessing.
But there is another side to all this. Ezra had the hand of God on him, but at the same time he had to be faithful to his calling. He was not a marionette, dangling uselessly until God pulled his strings. He was a human being, with a mind, a heart, and a will that was made to glorify God. Therefore, he needed to be faithful to the sacred trust that God had given him. He needed to train his gifts for ministry and then put them to good use.
Ezra did that. This is obvious from all the good that he accomplished. But the Bible also shows us what was inside the man, giving us an intimate glimpse into Ezra’s approach to life and ministry. Do you want to know what enabled him to exercise such an influential ministry? Look again at Ezra 7:10: “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
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 “1-2-3.” 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.
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 1:2). 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.
Phil Ryken was Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when he wrote this article. He is now President of Wheaton College. To read the rest of the article, click here:
Tags: August 5 Ezra 7, August Bible Readings, Bible, Bible reading, Bible study, daily Bible, Ezra, Scripture
Ezra 7 (ESV)
Ezra Sent to Teach the People
7:1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2 son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3 son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4 son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5 son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.
7 And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. 8 And Ezra  came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel: 12 “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace.  And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14 For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand, 15 and also to carry the silver and gold that the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 with all the silver and gold that you shall find in the whole province of Babylonia, and with the freewill offerings of the people and the priests, vowed willingly for the house of their God that is in Jerusalem. 17 With this money, then, you shall with all diligence buy bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and you shall offer them on the altar of the house of your God that is in Jerusalem. 18 Whatever seems good to you and your brothers to do with the rest of the silver and gold, you may do, according to the will of your God. 19 The vessels that have been given you for the service of the house of your God, you shall deliver before the God of Jerusalem. 20 And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.
21 “And I, Artaxerxes the king, make a decree to all the treasurers in the province Beyond the River: Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence, 22 up to 100 talents  of silver, 100 cors  of wheat, 100 baths  of wine, 100 baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much. 23 Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons. 24 We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll on anyone of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.
25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. 26 Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”
27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.