Ezra 7:10 (ESV)
After the Babylonian captivity, God brought the Israelites back to their homeland. 70 years away, along with God’s judgment meant that everything was just about in shambles. Though the land had gotten its Sabbath rests, the city of Jerusalem was without a wall, the Temple destroyed, the law of God seemingly forgotten, the priesthood lost – all the infrastructure of spiritual and civil life had to be rebuilt.
On to the scene God tag-teamed two powerful leaders – Nehemiah and Ezra. Nehemiah’s burden was in the marketplace, civil life. Under his leadership and because of the willingness of God’s people, the wall went up in record time – 52 days. Certainly not without opposition. That is an amazing story in itself.
While Nehemiah’s work was concentrated in the community, Ezra’s focus was on restoring the spiritual life of the people – laying the foundation for the Temple, reinstalling a valid priesthood and teaching the people to understand and live out the law of God. He recognized that no amount of human ingenuity and labor would produce anything lasting apart from the observance of God’s law-word and the blessing of God that comes as its consequence. Oh how America needs to remember this!
In this one verse above, Ezra shows every leader the necessary steps to prepare for and carry out a reformation that will be the epicenter of God’s movement of restoration of a nation. There are four principles here. Before we look at those, let’s get this verse in a couple more translations for the sake of clarity.
“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.” (KJV)
“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” (NIV)
“Ezra had worked hard to know and obey the Teachings of the Lord and to teach his rules and commands to the Israelites.” (NCV)
“This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” (NLT)
“Ezra had committed himself to studying the Revelation of God, to living it, and to teaching Israel to live its truths and ways.” (MSG)
Here are the four principles every godly leader needs:
1) HEART – lasting change begins in my own heart. That’s not some sappy emotional, “feelings only” kind of thing either. The Hebrew understanding didn’t have this false separation of “heart and head” that we do in the West. Wrapped up in that was an understanding of involvement of the intellect as well as the emotional. The point is Ezra “set his heart, prepared it, committed, determined, devoted, worked hard.” In other words, it was more than a feeling. It was a conviction that he chose to act out of. Its focus was the Law of the Lord.
2) WORK – the actual work that He had committed to and determined to do was the STUDY of the Law of the Lord. Hosea 4:6 is still being proven throughout the body of Christ daily. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” We can’t celebrate “ignorance on fire” and call it anointing! Growing up as a young Pentecostal, we lived by this adage – “Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice!” It was meant to disparage the deadness of our more educated denominational brothers. Personally, I don’t want either one. Why can’t we press in and have “knowledge on fire?” Be fully equipped with the tools that God will give us to rebuild individual spiritual lives and the larger society around us and do it with a spirit of excellence and a passion that is undeniable! Amen! (2 Timothy 2:15)
3) JUST DO IT! – yes I know it’s the Nike tagline that’s been way overused – but can you really say it any better than that? The best and only lasting form of leadership is by EXAMPLE. To observe it, I have to live it and obey it. That means if I’m honest, I have a growing edge just like everybody else does. People are looking for leaders that are real – that are committed to walking it as well as talking it and are honest about their struggles. Paul was able to say – “watch me and do this!”
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 (NIV)
4) TEACH – we have to set our hearts to study so that we might live it in front of people so that we have a voice – so that they will listen to what we have to say. Then we must communicate it by employing every available technological means possible to say, sing, write, blog, text, tweet it to every hungry heart that will listen . . . until the whole world hears!
May God raise up a generation of Ezras who won’t stop until they see the dream of God fulfilled!