eDevotional – Setting Our Hearts for Rebuilding
Scripture: Ezra 7:8-10
“He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
The depth and beauty of this passage is rooted in its historical context. After several decades of captivity, first under the Babylonians and then the Persians, Israel was given permission to return to their homeland (Judah) to rebuild a destitute land. Ezra, the minister of religious affairs in Persia and native Israelite, was granted permission, along with funding from the royal treasury, to lead the Jews back to their homeland and play a significant role in rebuilding the temple of God in Jerusalem (a symbol of God’s presence and covenant with his people).
Ezra’s call was not just to rebuild the temple, but also to reestablish the faith and practices of the people of God in the midst of the religious and cultural syncretism that had developed over the years. In response, Ezra decided to (1) set his own heart to study God’s word, (2) practice it first himself, and (3) correctly teach the truths and desires of God to the people. Ezra knew that even the significance of rebuilding the temple was secondary to the rebuilding of people’s relationship with God. Furthermore, Ezra recognized the rebuilding started with his own personal walk with God.
Ezra models for us a great posture and perspective for life and ministry. In light of this passage, I have asked myself about what kinds of things I have set my heart to. I am well aware of my tendency to jump the gun, skip the wait, and “do the work of God”. Ezra reminds us to slow down, spend time in God’s word, and then practice faith before considering ministry to others. I think the first two become the grounding and tangible message of the third activity – ministry.
The point here is not that we should stay away from ministry until we’re “fully ready”. I think it simply points to our continual need for dependency on God. All three practices can co-exist simultaneously. The focus here appears to be priority. I have definitely been guilty of doing ministry while under-emphasizing my relationship with God and personal practice of faith.
May God help us help us keep our priorities in check. I pray that the work of the Kingdom will not distract us from the King. I am grateful to God for affording us grace and mercy as we seek to continually refine our relational understanding of Christ and his purposes. Amen.