One of the most moving scenes in the Old Testament is when Ezra the priest reads the Law to the returned exiles (Nehemiah 8). He stood on a high wooden platform so all could see and hear. The Levites circulated, instructing the people about the meaning of what they were hearing. Many in the crowd that day came under conviction of sin, but they were told not to grieve because this was a day of celebration.
This landmark revival didn’t come out of nowhere. Ezra had prepared his entire life for this moment by being a faithful learner of Scripture (v. 10). He is just one example among many Bible characters whose lives were transformed through learning and studying God’s Word. This isn’t surprising, giving the preeminence of the Word in the pursuit of godly wisdom (see January 8).
What had Ezra learned? “The Law of the LORD” (v. 10). How did he learn it? Through “study and observance.” The word “observance” is another way of saying obedience. Ezra was descended from Aaron, so his lineage went all the way back to the original giving of the Law at Sinai (vv. 1–5). Most of all, he “devoted himself” to this learning. Worldliness did not distract him!
Why did Ezra learn? In order to teach (vv. 6, 10). He was “well versed in the Law of Moses,” qualified to instruct others in both understanding and obeying Scripture. He prepared himself to provide spiritual leadership for the returned exiles (vv. 8–9). God’s favor and grace were on him in this regard, and the Babylonian king granted all his requests. Ezra brought with him not only a large group of returnees but also a number of priests, Levites, and other spiritual leaders (v. 7). Their arduous journey was 900 miles long and took four months!
>> Readiness is an important spiritual virtue. Are you ready? For example, are you ready “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15)?
Father, prepare us to articulate our relationship with You when others ask us “to give reason for the hope” we have (1 Peter 3:15). Your comfort, Your discipline, Your voice—this is what it means to know the God in heaven.