in the Christian Library
EZRA – A Skillful Scribe
1. Throughout this study we have examined men and women of the Bible. Some have been illustrations of unquestioned devotion to the Lord God while others have shown us the tragedy of sin. Our current lesson focuses upon a superb example of fidelity and faith. “Ezra was a holy and zealous man, with a strong mind and a firm will, exercising a commanding influence on his contemporaries, making the word of God the basis and mainspring of his action, seeking and striving for the purity of the people of God” (W. S. Lewis, Ezra, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol 7, 106).
The study of Ezra is inspiring. This lesson should motivate each student to commit himself/herself to God with a strong devotion.
2. Before we examine various aspects of Ezra’s character and conduct, look quickly at the facts we know about his personal history.
a. He was a member of the high priest’s family.
b. He was influential in the Persian court.
c. Tradition has identified Ezra as the formulator of Old Testament Canon.
It is thought that Ezra was the one responsible for forming the books which make up the Old Testament Canon. He is credited with arranging the Scriptures into the general divisions of the Law, Prophets, and Holy Writings which survives to our day. This would be a logical action when Ezra’s deep reverence for God’s Word is understood. In addition to giving Ezra credit for the formulation of the Old Testament Canon, it is often suggested that Ezra authored these Books of Inspiration: Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles.
d. The lasting influence of Ezra is a fact well-known. “Ezra made a lasting impression upon the Jewish people. His influence shaped Jewish life and thought in a way from which they never altogether departed” (The New Compact Bible Dictionary, 168).
e. “The personal character of Ezra stands out in the narrative,
both of ‘Ezra’ and ‘Nehemiah,’ as that of a thoroughly earnest, God-fearing,
and man-loving man, and is without speck or flaw. Not, of course, that
he was really perfect; but his defects are unnoticed. In his indefatigable
activity as a teacher, in his deep sense of dependence upon God, in his
combination of horror at sin with pity for the sinner, he reminds us of
St. Paul, while in the depth of his self-humiliation on account of the
transgressions of others he recalls the utterances of Daniel. As a servant
of the Persian King, he so approves himself to his master as to be singled
out for the high trust of an important commission. In executing that commission
he exhibits devotion, trust in God, honorable anxiety to discharge his
duties with exactitude, and a spirit of prayer and self-mortification that
cannot be too highly commended. As supreme governor of Judea, he is prompt
and decided in taking the measures necessary to purify the Jewish community,
while he abstains from all arbitrary acts, persuades rather than commands,
and effects his purpose with the good will and hearty acquiescence of all
classes. Placed in a subordinate position under Nehemiah after having held
the entire direction of affairs, he shows no jealousy or discontent, but
carries out with zeal the designs of his civil superior, is active within
his own sphere, and does good service to the nation. Simple, candid, devout,
sympathetic, full of energy, unselfish, patriotic, never weary in well
doing, he occupied a most important position at a most important time,
and was a second founder of the Jewish state . . . he left behind him a
reputation among the Jews inferior only to that of Moses” (Lewis, v).
3. The lasting influence of Ezra was attributable to these facts. As we consider each it will be observed that any Christian who incorporates these same traits will be a lasting impact upon others.
a. His RENOWN AS A SCRIBE.
1) The Scriptures reveal some very interesting facts about Ezra’s position as scribe and priest.
a) He was “ready” or “skilled” in the Law of God.
This is repeated three times (7:11,12,21).
There are three main duties of the scribe: he is a student; an interpreter; and, a copyist. These three functions indicate three of the most important duties humans can undertake: the duty to SELF is to study God’s Word so that it will dwell within the heart; the duty to OTHERS is to explain how God’s Word applies to their lives; the duty to GOD is to preserve the Law so that it can be passed on to others in a pure state.
The Scripture is specific in stating that Ezra performed his duty “PERFECTLY” (v. 12). This verse has been translated in two different ways: as a greeting (“perfect peace”) and as a comment on Ezra (“perfect scribe”). Either way is permissible but it seems the supplication of “peace” by translators is unjustified and the marginal rendering in the older translations is best (“Unto Ezra the priest, a perfect scribe of the Law of the God of heaven”). It appears to compliment Ezra as being one whose devotion and studying of the Law entitled him to be recognized as “most learned” or “perfect in learning.”
Ezra was a man famous for his study and ability to explain the Truth of Scriptures. Such required an investment of a lifetime, but it brought him to an admirable status. Here was one who intelligently understood God’s Truth. He carefully prepared himself for the study of Holy Scripture (v. 10). He wisely recognized the meaning and application of Scripture. No doubt Ezra would rejoice more in this title’s compliment than in any civil designation the Emperor could bestow upon him!
NOTE: This point challenges every Believer today! Each Christian needs to understand the Law of God and clearly explain it to others. Christians will constantly study and as they do so will constantly ask, “How can I make this Truth understandable to others?”
b. His COMMISSION.
This commission of Ezra highlights vital points that are similar to the New Testament commission for Christians:
1) Zeal should accompany any work that is performed for God (7:23).
2) Those ignorant of God’s Laws must be taught (7:25).
3) Those failing to obey God will be punished (7:26).
Ezra’s response to this commission is found in 7:27-28. He did not hesitate but immediately began to obey the orders. Such should be the response from modern Believers today!
c. His RESPECT FOR GOD’S WORD.
This great respect for the Scriptures . . .
1) Came from understanding their ORIGIN.
2) Motivated Self-Denial.
3) Focused upon the object of his reverence.
d. His FAVORABLE REPUTATION.
1) He shared a wonderful influence with King Artaxerxes
This point should challenge Believers today. Let us conduct ourselves according to God’s Law so that civil rulers will be influenced by our godliness.
2) He shared a wonderful influence upon his fellow Jews
These were all volunteers. They were men/women of status and affluence.
3) He shared a wonderful influence with all.
NOTE: This remarkable reputation which Ezra possessed was attributable to one thing – TRUST. The man was trusted because he honored God’s Law!
e. His DISTINGUISHED AIM in life.
NOTE: This godly aim ought to characterize EVERY Christian today! Do YOU make it your “aim” to be well-pleasing unto God? (2 Co 5:9).
f. His BLESSINGS.
g. His CONDUCT was admirable.
1) Diligence to ACQUIRE divine Truth (7:10).
2) Translated knowledge into DEEDS (7:10).
3) Knowledge was COMMUNICATED to others (7:10).
NOTE: Let all Christians look carefully at this example of Ezra and emulate it. First study the Scriptures then apply your studied conclusions to your life and do them. Then teach those conclusions to others.
4. Ezra reminds modern Believers that wonderful results will come from a proper habit of studying the Holy Scriptures.
Whenever we study and practically apply God’s Scriptures to our lives we will rejoice in the same results that Ezra discovered. These results bring happiness and inner-contentment.
a. Greater devotion to God’s Word.
b. A deeper personal trust and dependence upon God.
c. The eagerness to teach the wonderful truths we have learned.
5. What are some lessons that arise from a study of this great man of the Old Testament?
a. Be DILIGENT in studying God’s Law – “prepare your heart”!
b. Be EAGER in applying God’s Law – “to do”!
c. Be INSTANT in teaching God’s Law – “and to teach”!
Copyright 1999 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no
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