At the community Bible study on Monday, we were talking about the story of Ezra and Nehemiah (We are leading a group of people through The Story). As you recall, Ezra and Nehemiah were put in charge of the rebuilding projects in Jerusalem: the wall and the Temple. Through this physical rebuilding, God also started to rebuild His people’s lives.
Ezra made a long trip from Babylon to Jerusalem to begin the process. Read Ezra 7:8-10:
8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 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.
A few items I’d like to point out:
- He traveled for four months in safety and with the permission of the ruling government because “the gracious hand of his God was on him” (v. 9). God’s grace is so amazing! God knew from before the foundation of the world that Ezra would be making this trip to help bring God’s people back to Him. God knows what you are going through as well.
- You will notice that Ezra was devoted to the Word. What does it mean to be devoted? Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines devoted as “Appropriated by vow; solemnly set apart or dedicated; consecrated.” To be devoted to the Word means you are dedicated to it, it is a passion of yours, and something you surround your life with. So often, we think we can do our “devotions” in the morning and be done. NO! Our devotions should inform our entire life. Every decision we make, every word we speak, every thought we have, should be filtered through the lens of God’s Word. That’s devotion.
- Ezra devoted himself to the Word in three ways: study, observance (obey), and teaching. These should be our devotions as well. To study means we do more than simply read the Bible. We learn it, we memorize it, we seek to understand every jot and tittle in it. We ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate it for us. We also observe or obey what it says. Remember what James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” There are many commands that are contained in the Bible, but Jesus summarized it to two: Love God and love your neighbor. Do these things! Finally, Ezra devoted himself to teaching the law of God. You don’t want to be that person who knows everything about the Bible but never shares it! Once you know and understand God’s Word, you are on the hook to teach it to someone else. This doesn’t mean you sit them down in a classroom and teach them, but you teach them by your lifestyle, you share what you are learning with your family and friends. When I became a college professor, it was amazing how much better I understood concepts and ideas that I had spent four years in undergrad studying and three years in grad school. When you must teach something, you learn it better. That is why we must all be Bible students and Bible teachers.
During Holy week, I’d like you to consider four areas God calls His people to focus on in the story of Ezra/Nehemiah. God called His people to: 1) refocus on God, 2) recenter on His plan for our lives, 3) remember who God is, and 4) rebuild our relationship with Him.
There is no time like the present to rededicate your life to Christ.