One of the most inspiring and challenging passages in the Old Testament is a one-verse character summary of Ezra. “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” (Ezra 7:10).It is not possible to read that verse and miss the significance of individual responsibility and commitment. In fact, from the opening statements of the book of Ezra, the emphasis is on the individual. Kings, mentioned by name, either encouraged, assisted, or impeded the work that Ezra was a part of. Opponents who challenged the right of the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple are mentioned by name, and their attacks are specified. The names and the deeds of those who governed God’s people are described. The names of households and the names of the priests, along with their activities, are given.
If the book of Ezra was merely a document that provided historical insights to that time, the details about specific people, family names, possessions, and actions would not be given. The book is far more than a brief history of a generation of Jews. It is a book about specific people who were used in mighty ways to carry out God’s purposes for their generation and beyond. Yet each one of these people, hero or villain, went about their lives doing as they chose. The view from 40,000 feet, as they say, would show that God brought about the reoccupation of Judah and the restoration of the priesthood and temple worship in a single generation by using the political forces of the time. The view from the ground shows the heart and the character of specific people, each of whom did things that accomplished God’s purposes for that generation.
Today, the high-altitude view might well show a nation bent on opposition to God’s will. It might be obvious from that distance that political forces and societal forces in unison are doing everything possible to develop a generation who either knows nothing about God or who scoffs at the notion that God is. But the ground view is different. Names of families and their deeds are known. Throughout the land, individual men and women are committing to serve God in their generation and to teach the next generation to know and love God. Decades or even centuries from now, historians may write brief summaries about this generation and the direction that it took. Perhaps the names of a few politicians will become a part of the historical record of our times. The anonymity of the masses may well foster the errant view that individual people and their deeds don’t really count.
In every generation, the justification for not being committed to the Lord is that it really wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Can a relatively few roll back the tide of secularism today? Will God really expect me to say and do things that probably won’t change anyone but will certainly make my life more difficult? You know that He does!
The record, God’s record, shows that specific men and women in the 5th century BC purposed to live for Him in harmony in the midst of adversity. At times their government supported them and at times it impeded them, but they served God and He preserved their names and their record to inspire you and me. These are our times. No matter the way the nation trends, no matter the direction politicians lead, the individual servant of God makes the difference. Set your heart for the Lord and let nothing stand in your way. Your name and your soul will be preserved and remembered for good.
Keep studying! DC Brown ©2012