By Randy Sexton
In Ezra 7:10 we find an interesting comment given concerning Ezra. It is said that he “had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
Ezra was instrumental in bringing a remnant back from Babylonian captivity to the city of Jerusalem and carrying out a series of religious reforms in about 458 B.C. (Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary 273).
What did Ezra do to prepare his heart? Wouldn’t it be great if we had Ezra’s biography so we could read how he prepared his heart! I like biographies for this reason – they give us a glimpse into other folk’s lives as to what has made them successful. We don’t have Ezra’s biography but I think we do have enough said in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that we may surmise how he may have done it.
You may have noticed that in titling this article I used the impersonal pronoun “a” instead of “my.” I did this to emphasize the fact that we may not only prepare our own heart but we may also help another prepare his heart to seek the Law of the Lord.
Preparing a Heart
One doesn’t just wake up one day and decide to start serving the Lord. He has to prepare his heart. The young are instructed: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1). Parents are instructed “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Timothy was reminded: “the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (2 Tim. 1:5). All of these refer to a conditioning or preparation for serving the Lord.
But how does one, who did not have the benefit of being raised by Christian parents, prepare his heart? First, he recognizes his heart to be as “soil” that needs to be prepared for the planting of the seed. This is the lesson taught by the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9,18-23. If the soil has not been properly prepared. . .
1. The seed lies on top of the ground and is eaten up by the birds (Satan).
2. The roots fail to grow deep and the sun (persecution) scorches and causes him to wither and die.
3. The thorns and the weeds (cares of the world) choke the life out of him.
Secondly, he prepares himself by not involving himself in materialism and immorality. These influences, so rampant in our society, can suck one under their power and cause one to “wax worse and worse,” just as the apostle Paul warned the young evangelist Timothy they would in “the last days” when “perilous times” (NKJV marginal reading “times of stress”) would come (2 Tim. 3:13)! He also describes some who “did not receive the love of the truth . . . but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:10,12). It is amazing to me that some folks do not know what immorality is! In their estimation there is no way to have an enjoyable time without engaging in drinking, dancing and the general type of carousing that goes on in night clubs and bars. They don’t see the danger of engaging in these types of activities despite the abundant warnings of Scripture.
A third method for preparing his heart is to develop a “delight in the Law of the Lord” by meditating on it day and night (Psa. 1:2). Solomon advises his son in the words of Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Yes, dear friend, how you prepare your heart will determine how you approach everything else in your life!
A final thought as to how to prepare your heart involves recognizing that within each of us there is a “warring” between the spiritual and the physical. Paul describes this conflict in Romans 7:22-23, 8:5-9 and advises that we cannot please God unless we live according to the spirit and not according to the flesh. How much attention have you given to the needs of your spiritual man in comparison with the attention you have given the physical?
By our influence among those with whom we associate, we can help another to begin to prepare his heart to seek the Lord. Willard Conchin, in his workbook for young people entitled I Can Do It (p. 93), cites a survey that asked “Why did you choose the particular church which you now worship with?” The results were:
9% because of the architectural beauty of the building.
18% because of the convenience to their home.
3% because of the ministers of the church.
22% because there were people in the church whom they respected.
34% because neighbors or friends invited them to that church.
He concludes, “Combine the last two answers and you have the major reasons why people choose a church. Your life and your personal invitation are the vital ingredients to the growth of a church.”
When we refuse to join in with the rest of the office in telling the off color jokes, when we don’t engage in the back stabbing that characterizes office politics, when we show an interest in the souls of those with whom we work and associate our influence we pave the way for us to help another prepare his heart.
To Seek the Law of the Lord
The margin of the NKJV says “to study” the law of the Lord. We certainly are familiar with what Paul told Timothy in regard to this, “Study to show yourself approved of God” (2 Tim. 2:15). And we realize that it involves more than what we generally think of in the “school sense” of studying. It suggests the idea of being “diligent” in this seeking process.
The approved action is described variously as “asking,” “seeking,” and “knocking” (Matt. 7:7-8). Even our faith is based on a recognition that we will be rewarded when we seek him diligently (Heb. 11:6).
Solomon describes this seeking process in Proverbs 2:1-9. Notice all of the action verbs: “incline,” “apply”‘ ” cry out,” “lift up your voice,” “seek” and “search.” And isn’t it a rewarding promise we are made, “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” He promises us if we seek his Law diligently and with an honest heart we will find it!
To Do It
We must be willing “to do” the will of God or the knowledge of it will not do us any good! Jesus told the Jews who marveled at his teaching, “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”
Jesus describes the scene at the Judgment when he will have to condemn some who had knowledge but didn’t use it property (Matt. 7:21-27).
Knowing without doing is likened, by James, to one who looks into a mirror and goes on his way without making the needed corrections (Jas. 1:22-25).
After teaching his disciples to be servants, by washing their feet, Jesus said, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (Jn. 13:17).
To Teach It!
Ezra was involved in teaching “statutes and ordinances in Israel.” He was a “skilled scribe in the law of Moses” (7:6) and “expert in the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel” (7:11). He was given the charge by Artaxerxes to “set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them” (7:25). Ezra’s teaching efforts are further described in Nehemiah 8:1-8:
. . and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel … and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law . . . . And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people . . . So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
Are we acceptable if we are not teaching? The people to whom the words of Hebrews 5:12-14 were written were not! Let us not break the chain of 2 Timothy 2:2! Do we not want to share with others what the gospel has done for us?
But, beloved, if we are to teach effectively we must prepare to do so. The contents of what we teach must come from the law revealed by God (Eph. 3:3-5). And before I can teach it, I must show that I am living it!
Won’t you prepare your heart and then help prepare the hearts of others by causing them to deal fairly and honestly with the word of God. Won’t you seek the law of the Lord, knowing what it says by studying it diligently. Be determined to be a doer and not a hearer only! Won’t you determine to teach it, to share what it has done for you, at every opportunity that you have? Your reward will be well worth the effort!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 22, pp. 693-695
November 19, 1992