October 20, 2017

The Dedicated Life

By Jimmy Tuten

"For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments" (Ezra 7:10). These words described the purpose of Ezra, the priest and scribe,' as he leaves his exiled state in Babylon to go to Jerusalem for the purpose of restoring the ancient order. He was a man of distinguished determination. The words, "Ezra had, prepared, show that he had set his heart . to acquire the highest knowledge possible. With resolve he sought to know the Scriptures thoroughly. In seeking this attainment of divine law,, Ezra adopted: (1) The Correct Method  He sought the attainment of the knowledge which he desired. He put forth specific efforts to seek out the Word of God. (2) The Right Manner  He sought it earnestly. It is implied that Ezra was a devout student. Reverence for the law of the Lord is as important as is earnestness. (3) The Right Place  He sought his knowledge in the Holy Scriptures. God's material creations reveal some important things about him (Rom. 1:20). But when it comes to acquainting oneself with the redemptive work of Jehovah, his moral laws, etc., the student will have to study the Scriptures.

In addition to seeking knowledge he determined to conform his life to the law of Jehovah God. "And to do it" (Ezra 7:10) is significant. This involved a practice of the highest knowledge. Ezra not only set his heart to seek God's law, he sought to trans-late this information into deeds. He practiced what he had acquired in his heart and mind.

The third aspect of this example is the fact of the desire to impart this information to the people of Israel. Both by precept and example Ezra labored to bring the people to an obedient knowledge of Divine law. A solemn obligation rested upon him not only to know God's will, but share it as well. We ourselves must know what we would teach others. If we are to teach with practical effect, we ourselves must practice what we teach. Timothy, the young preacher, was given the responsibility: "the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). So there are many lessons to be learned from this account in Ezra 7. Of these lessons three are obvious to all who would carefully read this section of Old Testament Scripture: Seek the Word of the Lord God in order to know it thoroughly  Practice it in one's own life Share what has been acquired with others.

A Look At the Practical Side

(1) We cannot know what is pleasing to God in our lives, our work and worship except we know his will (Matt. 7:21-23). In the judgment one will not be able to "plea bargain" on the basis of ignorance. "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5). Additionally, a search for the law of God will create a yearning to know more, and a greater desire to do what is pleasing to him. His word provides all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). By these standards we will be judged in the last day (Jn. 12:48).

(2) Although we must have knowledge before proper action can be taken, knowing is not enough. This knowledge must be put into practice. We must earnestly endeavor to reduce the things we know to con-duct. Doing stands in a double relation to knowing and teaching. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself " (Jn. 7:17). By our lives we must teach. This is conformity to God 's will. This is done even though we might have difficulty articulating our acquired knowledge.

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19). The Pharisees were condemned for not practicing what they preached (Lk. 6:46). "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom. 2:13).

(3) The last step in the sequence that Ezra 7:10 encourages is that of teaching. What a foundation instruction rests upon if the sequence has been carefully observed. Knowledge treasured in the heart and acted upon in life will give power and energy to the teachings of the Divine Oracles of God. Consequently, all we who share the way of salvation should be anxious to teach it to others. If we are full of God's Word, some of it will over-flow. A sound psychological principle is that when man is full of any subject matter he will seek an expression of it. Jesus express it clearly when he said, "0 generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart of the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34). I once read where brother T.B. Larimore once advised a young man, "Do not preach if you can keep from it." Along these lines Jeremiah said, "Then 1 said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning, fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (20:9). Teaching his Word carries grave responsibilities.

The Importance of Dedicated Teaching

"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation" (Jas. 3:1). This warning is not to discourage teachers who know the truth and want to save and edify others. The goal of the context is to discourage those who minimize the importance of perfect faith. It condemns those who do not use the tongue judiciously. The passage also intends to impress upon all the seriousness of teaching. "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt. 15:14). We are obviously to prepare to teach. Some Jewish Christians in the city of Jerusalem were condemned for their lack of preparation. They had need "that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat" (Heb. 5:11-12).

Conclusion

What a difference we would make in this world if all of us had the temper and complexity to have our actions correspond to the things we know. "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou of faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Freely we have received. Let us freely give. Shakespeare said, "Thyself and thy belongings are not thine own so proper, as to waste thyself upon thy virtues, them on thee. Heaven doth with us, as we with torches do not light them for ourselves; for if our virtues did not go forth from us, `were as if we had them not" (Measure For Measure, 1:1). Let us be like Ezra and set our hearts to seek the Law of the Lord, to do it and teach others those things given by inspiration.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 15, p. 21-22
August 4, 1994

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