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Ezra The Scribe

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Ezra The Scribe

I trust that you will find as much encouragement in this study as I did writing it.

Like many others before us we are often called to walk a path less trod.

When I began to live in the “Kingdom” with the King I found I was often misunderstood and even shunned sometimes by former friends inside the PRS. And so for me Ezra has been an inspiration.

At the dedication of the “Temple” Solomon said (1 Kings 8:17-19) Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. But the Lord said to David my father, 'Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. David’s wish was denied, but he did the next best thing, he prepared mightily for Solomon (the next generation) to finish what he had begun.

Ezra found himself in a strange land, unable to fulfil his ministry calling but that never deterred him from fully serving his Lord. He could have sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept as he remembered Zion along with so many others but he didn’t. Ps 137:1

Ezra’s contribution to us is unparalleled. Ezra was a great student, a great statesman, a great reformer. Ezra was born in Babylon. Ezra was a child of the Captivity.

How his heart ached within him to do all he could to turn again the captivity of Judah, and see the Temple and Jerusalem in the land of his fathers completely restored to them.

Ezra was what no man before him had ever been. He was the first Scribe in Israel. The first Scriptural preacher an he was distinctive among priests. A copy of no man. Ezra was unique to his time and era.

Ezra was to compile and collate the Mosaic, Historic, Poetic, Psalms, and Prophetic books that became the only Bible that Christ and His disciples and Paul in particular used.

Ezra was chosen because he prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord; to do it; and to teach it in Israel as the divine statutes and judgments. He was a ready scribe in the Law (Pentateuch) which God had given to Israel through Moses.

We are not told why it was that Ezra had not gone up out of Babylon along with the first body of returning exiles. But just as all those who experienced reformation before us went only so far before they settled down, so also there was more than one return from Babylon. The first had come out of Babylon under Zerubbabel but Babylon never fully came out those that came with Zerubbabel.

Before long they left off building the Lord’s house to build their own houses. “Is it time for you to dwell in your covered houses, and this house lie waste says Haggai 1: 4.

In this they were disobedient and failed miserably when the New Jerusalem was facing grave danger from her enemies round about; and additionally even more so from the slackened faith and the corrupt lifestyles of her first returnees.

Ezra arose and came from Babylon under “the good hand of the Lord that was upon him” to become the restorer of Law and order in Jerusalem.

Happily for us, Ezra included in his autobiography the remarkable letter that King Artaxerxes gave to him, and by which the Chaldean scribe was made nothing less than the king's viceroy in Jerusalem. Here are some sentences out of that royal edict:

“Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of the priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own free will to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee. And I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers beyond the river, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily. And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the law of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not”.

This edict gives a remarkable glimpse into the mind and heart of Artaxerxes, and to the worth, and the immense influence the edict had is seen here.

Before Ezra had time to rest from the exhaustion of his long journey, he was plunged into a sea of trouble in Jerusalem. Ever since the death of the two great leaders of the first return the social and the religious life of the New Jerusalem had been going downhill rapidly into moral corruption and death. Had Ezra not come to her aid, Jerusalem would soon have become again what she had so often been before, “just like Sodom, and Gomorrah” Amos 4:11.
How Jerusalem fell so quickly and so low history doesn’t tell us; but it needs little explanation as we can see. Never forget hindsight has perfect vision. But it was true they were without the law or a teaching priest.

To his absolute consternation, Ezra found that every wall of separation had been broken down between Israel and the Canaanites. The domestic and public life of Jerusalem differed in no way from the abominations that their fathers left behind when they came out of Egypt to become a separated people unto Jehovah.

It was only then that Ezra saw how good the providence of God had been to him by providing him with an instrument of such absolute authority as the king's letter; for it needed all the authority of this autographed letter, and all the courage and resolution of Ezra as well to deal with the terrible anarchy that faced him everywhere as he went about Jerusalem.

Those who know how John Calvin ruled Geneva, and John Knox and his colleagues did their best to rule Edinburgh will best understand and appreciate the rule of Ezra in Jerusalem.

So far as those great men could do it, Jerusalem, Geneva and Edinburgh were in their day true theocracies; that is cities of God, governed by the law of the God of heaven as Artaxerxes decreed that Jerusalem should be governed. Not perfectly; not without many mistakes and even crimes. But withal, both Ezra and Calvin and Knox made the most able and fearless efforts to set up the Kingdom of God in those three famous cities. We may criticise their intent but not their hearts.

While yet a young man in Babylon, Ezra had become “a ready scribe in the law of Moses Psalm 45; which the Lord God had given to Israel.” Ezra the scribe was the 'pen of a ready writer.'

Ezra was by office a priest; he could trace his unbroken and unblemished descent back to Aaron himself. But what use is that when there was neither temple, altar, mercy-seat or anything else of temple order in Babylon?

Like others before (and since) he had no opportunity to be engaged in the service for which he was born. (Eph 4:11 face a similar fate today). Had Ezra not discovered another and better work for himself: and if Ezra had not adapted himself to his new circumstances, and fitted himself into his new world, his life would have been just another idle, wasted and embittered one in Babylon? But Ezra had the humility to accept what God had arranged for him, and the ability, grace, and the insight to see that the future seat of spiritual worship, and the true source of spiritual life on earth was not to be a building any more, but in a book for that present time.

For us today it’s in a person who speaks to us from His book John 4: 21-24.

Ages before books became what they are; Ezra was a believer in books, and not in just any books but Book of books. Those of you who make good use of your Bible, and have a true love for your Bible, should never forget your debt of gratitude to Ezra; for it was in Babylon that our book took form, and it was under Ezra's scholarly and spiritual hands, that your Bible first began to take shape.

When all other priests and Levites were moping about, not knowing what to do with themselves because they had no traditional altar at which to minister (and I include the true followers after truth of our day who have had to go outside the camp) Ezra established a new kind of priesthood and ministry in Israel which has outlasted all the temples and priesthoods in Israel, and which continues this day, and will endure until the end of time.

Heaven and Earth shall pass away but My Word shall never pass away. We can easily see what this young priest-scribe spent his time doing in Babylon when we read these words:

Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and teach Israel its statutes and judgments.

When I read of Ezra's great work upon the law of Moses while suspended from his priesthood in Babylon, his summons to Jerusalem; standing in his pulpit of wood, opening the book and in the sight of all the people reading the book of the law of God distinctly, giving the sense, and causing the people to understand I yearn for more Ezra’s today.

Ezra's true successors among us need to remember, and to take note that Ezra's studies began and were carried on in his own heart when he had no temple made with hands in which to dwell with God. He learned to dwell with God in the New Testament Temple of his heart.

Others all around may seem to prosper independently, regardless of the state of their hearts; this is not possible where truth resides. Divinity demands devout, humble, penitent and clean hearts above all else. Truth is love in the heart. Where truth is neglected love cannot find a home.

Ezra, the father of expository teaching had this testimony “that he pleased God as he prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it”.

Long after Ezra’s day Luther would say, “The clean heart, even more than the clear head, makes the theologian”.

Every intending teacher should examine himself lest he enters the arena unprepared or worse still unholy. The ministry of holy teaching is such a rare one today.

We hear the beloved disciple John's favourite utterance was, ‘beloved let us love one another’ while Paul's trade mark in his epistles is 'grace.' But the most frequent utterance in Ezra's autobiography is this expression, “The hand of the Lord”. Truly the hand of the Lord was constantly upon him for good.

Despite the fact he was a great civil as well as priestly administrator when anything prospers with Ezra it is not because of Artaxerxes, or himself, but because of “the hand of the Lord that was upon him”. He introduces himself to his readers as a man in all things under the hand of the Lord.

When Paul says concerning Israel “By them were the oracles of God” he is referring to Torah which Ezra compiled; it was the only bible Paul had. We owe a profound debt of gratitude to this one man Ezra. Be aware that not one jot or tittle would ever be added to Ezra’s work on the “Torah”. Four hundred unrecorded silent years elapsed, in which no inspired record was written regards Israel, from the time of Nehemiah to John the Baptist.

In closing I would like to draw our attention to my opening remarks. I see in Ezra a man who was unable to fulfil his priestly ministry yet he never allowed himself to become discouraged and just pine away. While others would go down to the rivers of Babylon and weep and complain about the status Quo, Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and teach Israel its statutes and judgments.

Ezra applied himself to serve and promote the Kingdom the best way he knew how which was to chronicle the books of our Old Testament.

For more material on Kingdom living view
Shaun Kearney
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