Down here is sunny Florida we have bugs galore, big bugs, small bugs, bugs that fly, crawl, infest and terrify. I know bugs have a purpose and I don’t mind them as long as they stay on their side of the wall – the outside! Not too long ago I opened a drawer and spotted a cockroach. I was helping a customer at the time and I was pretty proud of myself that I kept my cool, closed the drawer and moved further down the counter! But no way was I going to open that drawer again so I nabbed the first male co-worker available and he tossed that monster outside and stomped him good – go team!!!
Ezra is one of the lesser known men of the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Book of Ezra is between 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah. The Book of Ezra is fairly short and easy to skip and Ezra is not even mentioned until chapter 7.
Know Who You Are
Ezra is a Levite, a direct descendant of Aaron, a scribe who was skilled in the Law of Moses. Ezra knew WHO he was and WHOSE he was. The King gave Ezra all he requested because the hand of the Lord HIS God was upon him (Ezra 7:6). Ezra travels to Jerusalem because the good hand of the Lord HIS God was upon him (Ezra 7:9)
Set Your Goal
Why was Ezra for blessed? Verse 10, Ezra had SET HIS HEART to Study, Practice and Teach the Law of the Lord – Ezra loved the Word of God and he had made up his mind to read, study, live and teach the Word. Ezra knew the importance of knowing God through His Word.
Lead by Example
Ezra knows God is giving him the strength he will need to make this 5 month journey to Jerusalem along with the priests, men, women, children, goods and supplies he is bringing to Jerusalem. He stops near a river where he gathers ALL THE PEOPLE to humble themselves before God, fast and pray, seeking God and His protection.
Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Ezra is informed that the priests and Levites in Jerusalem had intermarried with the women who “lived in the land”. God had instructed the people of Israel not to do this; they were only to marry other Israelites, they were to keep themselves separate from the people who were native in that land. Ezra is devastated to hear this news and some of the people who had traveled with him “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” (Ezra 9:4). Ezra’s prayer in Chapter 9 shows Ezra’s love and devotion to HIS God, he:
- Admits and confesses his shame and the sin and guilt of the people
- Praises God’s grace in leaving a faithful remnant
- Thanks God for revival and His lovingkindness
- Recognizes God’s righteousness and right to judge the people’s sin.
I love Ezra’s honesty in this prayer. He pours it all out to God, he holds nothing back. He completely trusts God to do what is just and right and relies on God’s goodness and mercy. The sin of the people broke his heart and it should break ours too. Ezra talks it all out with God BEFORE he talks to the leaders and the people. This is great reminder to me to talk to God first about everything and listen to what God says before I seek wisdom from any other source!
Make the Tough Call
One of the priests comes to Ezra and says, “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.” (Ezra 10:4) Ezra knows what he must do. He makes a proclamation and the people agree to put away (divorce) their foreign wives. He selects leaders to investigate and make a list of those who had committed this transgression. Ezra makes the tough call to follow God and not what is easy, comfortable or socially acceptable.
Peer pressure is a powerful force and it is easier to follow the crowd. God wanted the people of Israel to be set apart to holiness; God’s standards do not change, His people today are to be set apart to holiness. I need to stand apart from the world, to live in the world but not be of the world. Ezra takes decisive and difficult action to remove the sin; he does not hesitate. His action seems harsh and it is but when God says, “Stop” there cannot be compromise or partial obedience; it must be all or nothing! That cockroach was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he was messing with the wrong people. He looked big in the drawer but pretty small squashed on the sidewalk!
Like most men of his time, Ezra was probably small in stature. In addition to Chapters 7 – 10 of the Book of Ezra, he is mentioned several times in the Book of Nehemiah and then disappears from the Bible. He helped rebuild the temple of Jerusalem and may have worked on the wall alongside Nehemiah. Compared to many other men and women in God’s Word, his accomplishments were not so big. Ezra did not seek to be in a position of leadership and responsibility, he knew God had placed him there and he knew God would lead him step by step and this made him a powerful and influential leader. All of us are leading in some fashion and like Ezra, it is a lot easier to lead when you know who you are following. So stay outside you cockroaches – I’m wearing boots to work from now on!