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July 7, 2021 7:00 pm
Dr. Eric Newton continues the Seminary Chapel series entitled “Old Testament Servants,” with a message titled “Ezra: A Servant Chosen and Equipped,” from Ezra.
Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina today on The Daily Platform were continuing a study series from seminary chapel called Old Testament servants today speaker is Dr. Eric Newton.
Well, good morning.
I would invite you to turn with me to the book of Ezra chapter 7, Dr. Horn was originally scheduled to speak today because of some things going up in his schedule, you're stuck with me.
Sorry about that, and to clarify, we are talking by Ezra today, but not just any Ezra now we have Ezra pray for us and he happens to be one of my 26 favorite systematic theology students. There are 26 in the class just for the record, and leave anyone out there, and I have a son.
My one and only son, favorite son and his name is Ezra so I do. I am partial to this biblical character for sure before we get to Ezra himself, though in our theme of a heart devoted to the word I actually want to draw attention to somebody who is much more modern than Ezra and that's Jonathan Evers Edwards. As you know is perhaps the most influential and important theologian in American history. He's known as a theologian with a very big view of God as one author puts it, Edwards looked first at God and then viewed all other things in relation to him. That's a pretty good worldview. He spoke of the beauty of God's glory.
But I think it's interesting that he also understood the necessity of personal diligence. He's famous for resolutions that he wrote when he was 18 and 19 years old. Perhaps you've seen this first one resolved that I will do whatsoever I think to be the to be most to God's glory into my own good profit and pleasure in the whole of my duration without any consideration of the time, whether now or never. So many myriads of ages sent resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most of the Gooden advantage of mankind in general resolved to do this. Whatever difficulties I meet with however so many in however so great and then the 28th resolution resolved to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of and I think history bears out that that he did that significant. One of most amazing minds theologically since the Reformation is a man who is known both for exalting the glory of God and for resolving at a young age to work as hard as he could to bring God pleasure by studying the Scripture. He didn't see God's glory and grace in his own personal diligence is being at odds with one nights. It's difficult for us to hold these two things together God's grace and in our diligent effort that there's a compartment in our finite minds that can be filled either with grace or with effort or or maybe a combination of the two that adds up to a 100% but to think that that our diligent preparation glorifies God. God, because it's the very evidence of his grace at work in our lives. That's a little harder to grasp but it's absolutely true when you think of the apostle Paul what he said in verse strengthens 15 is not bragging, these are the inspired words of God, he says, but by the grace of God I am what I am in his grace, which is bestowed on me was not in vain. But I labored more abundantly than the all yet not I but the grace of God which was with me as one writer puts it, grace is not opposed to effort but to earning not Jonathan Edwards can motivate us. He motivates me.
But but it's the word of God that saving the instruction correction rebukes and trains us and equips us. So let's open our Bibles. If you have no ready to Ezra 10 working to consider this postexilic priest scribe who in many ways bookends the Old Testament canon he is the counterpart at the end to Moses, the man of God at the beginning, let's read the first 10 verses of Ezra 7 now after these things in the rain of Artaxerxes king of Persia there went up Ezra, son of Soraya, son of Azariah, son of Phil Chiesa in a shallow son of Sadock, son of a high tube son of Mariah, son of Azariah, son of Mariah, son of Sarah Chaya, son of who's the son of booty son of Abby Abby Shula, son of Phineas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, the chief priests this Ezra went up from Babylon and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the Lord his God was upon him. Some of the sons of Israel and some of the priests and Levites the singers the gatekeepers in the temple servants went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. That was 458 BC he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king from the first of the first month he began to go from Babylon and on the first of the fifth month.
Four months later he came to Jerusalem.
Why, because the good hand of his God was upon him, for Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel think would be helpful for us before we focus in a little bit more in this verse we see up on the screen to get a little bit of context I think it's important to note that Ezra showed up believing response. If you turn back to the very beginning of this book Ezra chapter 1 you see in verse two, him reciting the words of Cyrus thus says Cyrus king of Persia, the Lord, the God of heaven is give me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judah whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with them what sin is or seven of the good hand Lord was on Ezra.
May his God be with him let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel is the God who is in Jerusalem, and if you know anything about the end of second Chronicles, you know that that this very same thing is said and and second Chronicles typically and how the Hebrew canon is ordered.
Sometimes Ezra Nehemiah comes last but but usually at second Chronicles the very last idea in in that book is is to go up to rebuild to be part of this. This spiritual revival that the Lord was going to work through this remnant and Ezra took God at his word.
He actually took these these pagan kings at at what they said and articulating that the word of God, and he returned to help this restoration of a remnant in Jerusalem. I think it's it's instructive. The Ezra was was not pray he did not order his life according to his circumstances, which is so easy to do, but according to the identity and in the calling of his God. He didn't just look around his miserable circumstances and try to survive. He didn't give up on his calling as a priest even though he was 900 miles away from a city that had no temple or even a united people to worship God. He understood that God's people needed revival. They needed a Reformation of of worship of holiness of a commitment to the covenant, and so Ezra prepared himself in the words of Esther for such a time as this. See not only is believing response but but a blessed heritage. I read those first five verses of this chapter intentionally not to drag us through Hebrew names, but because that there's a heritage here heat the seas descended from Aaron. He was a priest. He didn't cast that off from one standpoint, you could say that Israel's history was one that, as the priests went, so went the nation you had really bright spots like Jehoiada and in his his mentoring of Joash you had really low depths like the sons of Eli. Ezra evidently understood that his blessed heritage which I think many of us, maybe not. In an ironic priesthood way, but many of us in this room have that kind of heritage entailed a high calling. And thirdly, in terms of context and background. If you turn with me to chapter 9 verse six. If you know anything about Ezra you know that there's this amazing prayer here near the end and selling verse six in response to these these appalling circumstances. Ezra says on behalf of his people. Oh my God I'm ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to you my God for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens since the days of our fathers, to this day we've been in great guilt, an account of our iniquities.
We are kings and our priests have been given into the hand of the Kings Lance of the sword to captivity to plundered open shame as it is this day.
But now, for a brief moment.
Grace has been shown from the Lord our God to leave us and escape remnant and to give us a peg in his holy place stop the reading. There the King James. I love the King James wording at the beginning of verse eight it says now for a little space there was a little space a little. We would call it a window of opportunity for God's infinite grace to come in and transform these people and Ezra had prepared for that moment even just all of a sudden realize and say I gotta scurry and get something together in the moment. He had prepared for that moment he knew there was a window of opportunity to come a little space for the infinite grace of God and so we see this devotion. How did he prepare well in a word, he prepared with devotion if you notice this verse chapter 7 verse 10 it says that Ezra had set his heart. The word set is using the Old Testament for appointing a representative from each Israelite tribe it's used for establishing the Lord's establishing David as King. It's the word used for Haman's preparing the gallows for Mordecai. Ezra made a firm appointment for his heart. He established its direction. He prepared it he did everything necessary to set it up to devote it and what he devote his heart to do.
I think when I think of of devoting our heart to the Lord in his word I think of the personal seal of the reformer John Calvin my heart. I offer to you Lord promptly and sincerely. So the Lord wants from us is people servants chosen and being equipped.
He wants her heart as her mind touched her hands as her heart. We are what we think about and we think about what we love. You know the Old Testament concept of the heart.
It it it has to do with our intellect has to do with our motion.
It has to do with our volition. It's very full idea. Jonathan Edwards talked about the affections of a truly religious a truly regenerate person that the disposition of your will that the inclination. How is your heart inclined whatsit bent toward what is our supreme desire what is ultimate in our lives what what did Ezra devote his heart to was a very simple outline right.
Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and teaches statutes and ordinances in Israel to study the law of the Lord. The word study has the idea of an inquiring of being on a search. He established his heart to explore God's word carefully you notice in verse six that we read chapter 7 it says that he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses that would skilled as I can tell happens only occasionally three times the Old Testament one of the other times is Proverbs 2220 90 read it. Do you see a man skillful in his work. He will stand before kings, he will not stand before obscure men to how many of us can have the chance to to preach before a king or president or somebody else, seemingly important. I don't know, maybe not many but but what kind of opportunities is God preparing you to step into a window of opportunity. A little space for grace to step in and speak a momentous word for God's glory.
That's why we prepare reminds me of a parallel verse New Testament. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth, second to Billy 215 study. Be diligent, be earnestly committed. Be ready to expend energy and effort in discharging this obligation of presenting yourself as a workman one ready to be at the disposal of the one whose work you are doing would propose that how we esteem the book of God, the Scriptures evidences itself and how we handle the book. There are obstacles to this right in our culture, our quest for maximal efficiency. If I can get it done faster.
It probably is better the features of our technology that gives all kinds of shortcuts, many of which are legal, not all of which many of which are legal shortcuts.
The premium will that we put on results in the immediacy of results are innate pension to commit compare ourselves among ourselves. I didn't study as hard as he did, but but look at this other 17 people that I did study harder than he studied the law of the Lord because his heart was devoted to it. Secondly, he did the law of the Lord. I think of Daniel. He purposed in his heart to follow God's laws in a distant land and he was given favor in the sight of God and man. They found themselves in this this foreign land far away from home and they they decided that they were going to follow what God had prescribed there working to try to follow a novel pathway new circumstances new ideas. Some new ideas are necessary. Of course, but but they establish their hearts to pursue God's glory. According to what he had already said and that meant for Ezra to study the law of the Lord and to do it personally to do it. He didn't forget the middle term your thinking a lot about study. Hopefully your thinking a decent bed about teaching about but counseling about preaching God's word but don't forget the middle term Psalm one Blessed is the man who delights in God's law. He meditates on it day and night, and he flourishes not just his head flourishes his life flourishes because he's committed imperfectly but sincerely to do the word of God. Think of what Jesus said to the scribe. Speaking of of of people who were scribes in Matthew 15.
Eight they honored Yahweh with their lips, but where were their hearts. They were far from him.
Warfield set a minister must be learned on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work, but before and above being learned. A minister must be godly but godly doesn't mean perfect. God uses very imperfect vessels were gloriously reminder that the very first sermon of our semester that the doctor music preach, but we must pursue God personally. We can't forget what we see in the mirror we do something about it by his grace and I would suggest the Ezra's devotion to doing the word of God positioned him to do the hard thing in ministry that faced him when he first arrived in Jerusalem would have time to get into this at any length but if you look at it the end of Ezra 8 the beginning of Ezra 9. He shows up and he carries out some preliminary tasks and then I can just envision Ezra having the sense of okay and finally here M and start teaching and there's going to be revival and Adobe all kinds of Bible studies and and and prayer meetings that break out and there's going to be this Reformation that sweeps the land and what happens the condo and say all these people are intermarrying. Work work work completely compromised with the surrounding Gentiles, only what you do gonna crawl in the corner because it's not what you would hope you would be doing well.
What is he do Willie humbles himself he confesses on behalf of the people. He sees himself as one of them. He does the hard thing he sees sin for what it is and he leads with spiritual humble conviction that can be very hard to do and less. By God's grace were not only studying the law of the Lord, but doing it. Trying to carry it out in the power of the Spirit in our own lives and finally he set his heart to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel. We don't know everything that is rethought, but we do know that 13 years later in 445.
There was this amazing moment in the history of Israel that's described in Nehemiah 9 where Ezra gets up and he opens up the scroll, he elevates the scroll in the sight of all of these people and they how, in reference and he reads the scroll of the Torah and they respond they that that they they confess their sins that they they weep. They recommit themselves, they drop a covenant to be faithful to the Lord.
The moment did come when all of that learning all of that studying came to fruition. That window of opportunity materialized. He stepped into the little space for God's infinite grace and he was prepared because he had devoted his heart to the word. I mean think of this.
He's reading the Hebrew text without bow pointing's gotta tell you, this would visit we've Artie taken a potshot at Hebrew. I was in my study yesterday about log us up on my screen. There's Hebrew over in the left-hand column. My six-year-old comes in and she looks at it. Scott crinkles up her nose is what is that probably not the first person history of the world. It is said that kind of reaction immature immature reaction to Hebrew he's reading this text, and that Annie's explaining it.
Why because he had devoted his heart to this he knew it the a continuing ministry rabbinic tradition tells us that he directed a group called the sofa ream which were the forerunners of the Maza REITs who were the preservers and maintainers of the Hebrew text for centuries and we are benefiting from Ezra's devotion to the word today reading his words, the God inspired that's a continuing ministry. If I ever heard one was one more thing I think we need to notice if you look back at this verse I think there's a very helpful word at the beginning that we need to observe for four Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord not notice what proceeds that he began to go up and he arrived because the good hand of his God was upon him, for he had devoted his heart. I don't think this means that he earned God's grace. Why did God favor him because because he worked hard.
I think that connector there is telling us that God favored him by his working hard, his diligent effort was the evidence that God's grace was at work in his life, God was favoring him through his devotion to the word that was the favor. We must push past reductive explanations of God's grace God works graciously and mercifully not to make up the difference or to excuse law for apathy but to enable us through faith filled devoted diligence. How would you and I know that the good hand of the Lord is upon us one way we would know is because before it seemingly matters we fix our heart to study and practice and teach the word of the Lord.
Preparation for ministry involves much more than what we've considered this morning. Of course, but certainly no less. I propose to you that God equips his servants by blessing by favoring by enabling their devotion to his word. That's how equips us.
That's how he graces us through faith filled devotion to his word. I want to challenge us to think beyond the immediate results of studying the Scriptures in seminary what might God be preparing for you down the road what counsel Lee needs the careful exegesis and heartfelt application that you're working on this week on that assignment.
What congregation needs you to understand that text of Scripture and the spiritual entryway.
What denomination might need the kind of skill that God is equipping you to have Romans 12 says to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.
It's the only worship that makes sense in light of the mountain of God's mercies that he's piled up for all of us. It's what God is established. Our hearts to do. And so we must dedicate our own hearts to it. If there is anything that we should care about most, and work at hardest. It should be by God's grace to study and do an minister, the word of the Lord may help us show we pray father in heaven we thank you that you would be so kind as to rescue sinners like us and to keep forgiving us and to keep leading us along. We pray that our hearts would be devoted to you and your word and that you would be pleased to use that in whatever way you see fit for your honor and glory.
We pray in Jesus name you been listening to a sermon by Dr. Eric Newton one of the seminary professors at Bob Jones University. I'm Steve Pettit, president of Bob Jones University and I invite you to join us at our beautiful campus in Greenville, South Carolina to see how you can be prepared academically and spiritually to serve the Lord through one of our more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. For more information about Bob Jones University, visit www.btu.edu or call 800-252-6363. These daily programs are made possible by the many friends of Bob Jones University and this radio ministry if you appreciate this program to benefit from the faithful preaching and teaching of God's word would you consider sending us a special financial gift. You can easily do that to the website. The Daily Platform.com. Thanks again for listening. We look forward to the next time as we study God's word together on The Daily Platform