I’m currently reading through the Old Testament book of Ezra which tells the story of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem following the exile of God’s people to Babylon. I have read the book before, but have to confess that I am much more familiar with the account in Nehemiah. However, I’ve found the book of Ezra to be both captivating and refreshing, with one chapter in particular that has really blessed me as a preacher, and given me courage this week as I’ve preached the gospel on numerous occassions and in various contexts.
In chapter 7 Ezra enters the scene for the first time and it quickly becomes apparent that this bloke is a serious contender for the ‘Old Testament Dude Of The Faith’ title! What I found especially helpful in this chapter, however, was the way in which it paints a picture of Ezra as a powerful proclaimer of God’s Word, yet also reveals the secret of his strength – He was a two-handed preacher!
1. The Hand Of God Was Upon Him: Three times in this chapter Ezra is described as having the hand of God upon Him:
“He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.“ (v6)
“For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (v9-10)
“I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.” (v28)
Each of these 3 references reveal something special about knowing the hand of God on your life. Firstly, that Ezra was skilled in his handling of the scriptures and found favour in the eyes of the king. Secondly, that God preserved him and granted him success on his journey. And finally that God’s hand gave him great courage and diligence in leadership.
So humbly abiding under God’s mighty hand is a good place to be. However, there was a second hand in the story of Ezra that also inspired me…
2. The Word Of God Was In His Hand: Ezra loved the Bible – simple as that! King Artaxerxes could see that a mile off,which is why in his gracious letter of provision regarding the rebuilding of the temple, he made these statements to Ezra:
“For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand“ (v14)
“And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach.” (v25)
I just love this picture of Ezra – a mighty prophet of God who experienced first-hand (excuse the pun) the power of God’s hand upon Him – leading, guiding and preserving him, yet all the while his own hand clung to the Word of his God. I believe the two hands come together. As we desire, study and faithfully proclaim God’s Word, He draws close and enables us to enjoy His power, His presence and His pleasure in a deeper way!
Lord make me a two-handed preacher like Ezra, for your glory!