The Time of Ezra and Nehemiah
During the time of Ezra and Nehemiah the people of Israel were allowed to return to the Land from years of exile and start rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, its Temple, and its walls. This was not an easy task for the Israelites because their enemies made it difficult because the enemies opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem in fear. Ezra and Nehemiah were leaders chosen by God to lead His people in the process of rebuilding. They were men of character who had the quality of being poor in spirit. Let us examine in the blogs that will follow in this series what the Scripture tells us about the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Ezra is introduced to us in the Ezra Chapter 7. The man Ezra was not only a priest but he also was “a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6). As we read the book that bears his name we observe Ezra as a man full of godly character and God was certainly with him (Ezra 7:6; 28). Ezra 7:9-10 tells us something about the heart of Ezra,
On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. (NKJV)
Ezra’s heart was prepared (in the Hebrew: set up, fixed, make firm, to establish) upon studying God’s Word. As a minister of the Word he devoted his life to the Scriptures. How can we lead others if we do not know the Word of God? How can we be guided through life without knowing the Word? Ezra prepared his heart to know God’s Word. Ezra was not only a seeker of God’s Word but he was also a doer of the Scriptures, in obedience to the commands of the Lord. It serves no purpose to study the Word if you do not plan to live by its statutes. Only through Ezra’s study and obedience to the Word could he then teach the statutes and ordinances of God’s Word to the nation. That is why Ezra was to be used of God. Ezra’s eyes were not on himself (self leads us away from God because that is where it leads us to – the self); rather Ezra’s focus was upon the Word of God (the Word of God always leads us to God). We know that Ezra was a man that was poor in spirit from his ministry as recorded in Ezra 7-10.
We see more of Ezra’s heart in Ezra 8:21 and 23,
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. (NASB)
Ezra proclaims a fast because the people needed guidance and protection. We discussed fasting previously. Once again fasting is used to focus on God, to draw us nearer so we can discern His will and be shaped into the image of Christ. Fasting involves humbling ourselves as in this text in which Ezra sought out the Lord and received answered prayer. A prayer done while poor in spirit yields godly results seen in answered prayer and building godly character as the focus moves from self to God.
Ezra possessed the character we should desire in our lives. In order to be poor in spirit we must set our heart upon studying the Word of God and to humble ourselves in prayer before our Maker. If we want this character we must start studying the Word of God with the heart of Ezra and learn to pray as he did – in humility. Don’t study to be a teacher, but teach and apply the Word because you have set your heart upon it with your whole heart. Be like Ezra!
This meditation dealt with studying God’s Word and with prayer. These are two practices that the person that is poor in spirit engages in regularly. If you struggle with any of these disciplines pray right now that the Holy Spirit changes your heart towards that discipline. There are plenty of good resources available. Ask your mentor about resources and ask him to help you in your commitment to these disciplines.