Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 14 February 2023:
Ezra 7:6 — The king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.
God can change the hearts of your potential adversaries.
Ezra 7:6 — He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given.
God gave you the Bible. Does that fact impact how you prioritize daily Bible study?
Ezra 7:9, 10 — The good hand of his God was on him. 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.
In today’s readings the lives of Ezra, Simeon, Joseph, Anna, and Jesus reveal important characteristics of God’s servants of which we should seek to emulate: First, they diligently and humbly studied God’s word, lived by it, and taught it to others (Ezra 7:9, 10; Luke 2:46-52). Second, they were committed to fervent prayer (Luke 2:37, 38). Third, they were obedient to God’s word but were also submissive to earthly authorities – even Jesus submitted to the authority of his earthly parents while simultaneously teaching them (Luke 2:4, 2:51). Fourth, they had earned reputations as “righteous”, “insightful”, “wise”, and “devout” people (Ezra 8:16, 18, 21; Luke 2: 25, 52). Fifth, they were guided by the Spirit, seeking to fulfill God’s purposes rather than their own, and trusting on God’s provision rather than that of men (Ezra 8:22; Luke 2:25-27). These were lives surrendered to God and used mightily for God’s purposes and to God’s glory. Are you ready to be a living sacrifice? Are you ready to assume your role as a priest like Ezra?
- Romans 12:1 — I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
- 1 Peter 2:4, 5 — As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
- 1 Peter 2:9 — But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
- Revelation 1:5, 6 — From Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Ezra was known throughout the land, even by the king, as a faithful man of God. For what are you most known? As Ezra stepped out in faith to follow God’s direction for his life, God worked where Ezra had no power in order to accomplish His purposes and bring glory to Himself – he changed the heart of the king to allow the Temple to be built and to supply the financial needs. When serving God, do you do only what you know you have the power to do, or do you trust that God will provide? Though Ezra accepted support from the king, he refused to depend on human institutions because he knew he could depend on God. (v. 8:22) He recognized that dependence on government would compromise his witness to a watching world. Do you at times look for human solutions rather than trusting in God? You may not consider yourself a temple builder, but you are. You are the Temple as is the Church collective. (1 Cor 3:17, 1 Cor 6:19, Eph 2:21). Are we building day by day to bring the greatest glory to God? What can we learn from Ezra?
“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.” Teachers must be, both, studiers and doers. Many want to teach so they study diligently, driven mostly by pride as their knowledge puffs them up. Real teachers are doers who model what is right based upon a deep understanding of God’s word. Notice that Jesus taught by word and example.
Ezra 7:14 – 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….
Ezra used God’s word to evaluate the situation and the condition of His people.
Ezra 7:16 – …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.
Even the king of Persia expected Jews in exile to want to give money to maintain worship in the temple in Jerusalem.
Ezra 7:24 — 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.
The church had a tax-exempt status.
Ezra 7:25 — …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.
Judges were to judge based on God’s laws, not personal opinion or popular opinion.
Ezra 7:27 – 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.
God controls the hearts of kings. God will make national leadership respond if His people are faithful to God. God uses ungodly leaders to punish His unfaithful people. The most influential people in politics are God’s people, based not upon what they do in the voting booths but rather what they do before God daily and publicly.
Acts 4:13 – Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
There is no mistaking a life transformed by God! The disciples had been vain and fearful when Jesus enlisted them. James and John sought to outmaneuver their fellow disciples in order to gain the places of greatest honor next to Jesus (Mark 10:37). Over and over the disciples’ actions showed that they did not truly understand who Jesus was (John 6:7-9; Mark 6:49). Even after three years with Jesus, Peter was afraid to confess Christ before a young servant girl (Matt. 26:69-75). Anyone who knew these men would realize they were not the kind of people on which you build a worldwide kingdom. Yet something happened to them as they were with Jesus and after the Holy Spirit had been given to them. The Holy Spirit transformed them, giving them new boldness and wisdom beyond any human ability. Now they could perform miracles and preach fearlessly and persuasively to multitudes. Even their enemies noticed in their changed lives the same power they had witnessed in Jesus.
Sometimes we desperately want others to believe that we have changed, that we are more godly, more devoted, more Spirit-controlled. It is not necessary, however, for those who have been truly transformed by Christ to convince others of the difference; the change will be obvious.
Don’t become too introspective, always focusing on yourself and the small changes you see happening over time. As you walk with Jesus daily, let the witness of the changes taking place in you come from others and not from you. If you have to prove to someone that God has really changed you, He has not. Those around you will surely notice when your life has been transformed by your relationship with Jesus.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Ezra 7:28 – 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.
Courage comes from God. Knowing God is your God should give you complete courage.
Acts 4:18-20 – So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Romans 13:1 is clear – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” However, Jesus was also clear in Matthew 28 — “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The ultimate Authority had commanded the Apostles to preach the Gospel, and no human authority could stop them; and today’s readings point out that the Apostles were astonishingly “bold” before the “rulers and elders and scribes,” despite being “uneducated, common men.” Why? Because Jesus was with them through the power of the Holy Spirit. And note that the Apostle’s message didn’t change whether they were speaking to the receptive or the resistant. The Apostles had the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel, but the responsibility to respond rested with the hearer.
Are you boldly “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered”? (Acts 28:31) Or is something holding you back from fulfilling your primary calling — laws, policy, social pressure, insecurity? You have been empowered and given full authority by Jesus, and He is with you. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
- Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- Ephesians 6:18-20 — To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
- 1 Corinthians 9:16 — Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 February 2023: Pray that God will give you the courage to proclaim the Gospel unhindered.