By Richie Thetford
Since last August our adult class has journeyed through the pages of the Old Testament from Joshua to Esther. In that journey one thing stands out above anything else and that is for the most part the children of God were obedient to God when their chosen leader followed God. There were Joshua, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. When all of these individuals dedicated themselves to serving God, then the people followed after them and served God also. During all this period of time the children of Israel drifted in and out of faithfulness to Almighty God, as their leaders changed in name and heart.
Then two other individuals came on the scene, both determined to serve God. These two were Ezra and Nehemiah. When the children of God were released from captivity and allowed to return to their land, Ezra came later with the purpose of turning their hearts to God. We read in Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra was determined to serve God and to get the children of Israel to do likewise. He preached to the people and turned them from social, moral, and religious degeneracy. The people followed Ezra’s preaching and even disposed of their wives and children that they had no right to. Ezra had turned the people’s hearts to serve the Lord their God — or did he? Were the children of Israel truly worshiping God, or following the commands and teachings of Ezra because of the man?
Later we read about Nehemiah, another great man of God coming to Jerusalem to build the wall that had been destroyed years earlier. He gathered the people together and they were working together to build the wall. When the wall was completed, Ezra came and read to the people the law of God. The people showed great reverence to the law of God and worshiped God Almighty. They even made a covenant unto God to hold true to his statutes and ordinances. We see a people that seems to be devoted to God and following after him. But then Nehemiah leaves Jerusalem and travels back to Babylon. We don’t know how long he was gone but when he returned to Jerusalem the people of God had drifted into apostasy! Nehemiah had to once again restore the people to follow after God.
What can one learn from this? God’s people only seemed to be motivated to serve him when they were happy with the leader that was motivating them to do so! They seemed to be obeying the teacher and not the teachings. God sent individuals such as Ezra and Nehemiah to help his children see the necessity in serving him. God also used many prophets to speak to the people urging them to repent and serve him with all their heart!
Do you know of those today that seem to be following the preacher instead of the teachings of the preacher? Some Christians seem to serve God faithfully as long as they are satisfied with the existing preacher and his work. I know of a case where the preacher left a local work and moved across town to work with another group and one family went with him. There are many cases of Christians that have given up and drifted into unfaithfulness when the local preacher left. Their hearts were not really set on serving God. We are told by Jesus in Mark 12:30: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” When all Christians are determined to serve God first and foremost, no matter who the preacher is, then they will be able to adjust to any situation because their trust and loyalty is in God Almighty, not a man! We need to be like Ezra of old and have our hearts set to be determined to serving and obeying God. Let us not attach ourselves to decrees of men (Col. 2:20-
22; 2 Tim. 4:3), but rather to hold fast to all the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11)!