Summary: This is a New Year’s Sermon using Ezra as a paradigm for the church
A New Year’s Example for the Church of Jesus Christ
Ezra 7:10 (KJV) 10For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Ezra 7:10 (Amplified Bible) 10For Ezra had prepared and set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord [to inquire for it and of it, to require and yearn for it], and to do and teach in Israel its statutes and its ordinances.
As we approach another New Year in a few days, many of us will continue a tradition that we have followed for hundreds of years. I am referring to the practice of making New Year’s resolutions. I am not going to tell you that whether or not you make New Year’s resolutions will have a spiritual impact of some sort on your life. Yet, whether or not you decide to make New Year’s resolutions, there is a powerful example for us to follow in the Biblical Character of Ezra. Many of you may argue that Ezra was a man who lived in a different era of time than you and I. That is true. Ezra did live somewhat differently than you and I do today. Nevertheless, let me remind you of this scripture. 2nd Timothy 3:16, 17 (KJV) declares the following: “16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine , for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : 17 that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2nd Timothy 3:16, 17 (Amplified Bible) reads, “16Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), 17So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Having said that let me bring you up to date on the times of Ezra and the context surrounding our text of Ezra 7:10.
The Book of Ezra is named for the book’s principle character. This scribe rejuvenated the Law of Moses as the basis for Jewish religious and social life during the period of restoration following the Babylonian exile. The Book of Ezra details the history of the Jews’ return from Babylon captivity. It continues the story that 2nd Chronicles left unfinished. The first half of the book (chaps. 1-6) concerns the expedition ordered by King Cyrus (538 B.C.) to rebuild the temple under Sheshbazzar of Judah. The book continues the theme of temple and priesthood that was begun in Chronicles (Ezra 3:1-6, 10-11; 6:16-22). The importance of the Levites and priests to the community is evidenced by the careful cataloging, detailing, and listing of those who returned from Babylonian captivity (2:36-54, 61-62). The Levites supervised the rebuilding of the temple and were reorganized in time to officiate at the first Passover celebration (3:8-9; 6:16-20)
Priests and Levites were a major concern of Ezra’s administration (chaps. 7-10). Ezra was careful to include them among those returning from exile (7:7, 13, 24; 8:15-20, 24-34). Their sinful intermarriage with Gentiles provoked Ezra’s reforms (9:1-2). They were placed under oath (10:5), and the guilty were noted (10:18-24).
Ezra’s theological focus is how God accomplishes His will through different human agents. God restored His people by moving the pagan ruler Cyrus to release Judah (1:1-2) and by inciting the Jewish people to volunteer (1:5). The Cyrus Cylinder inscription gives the Persian account of Cyprus’s decree. It explains that the Babylonian god Marduk called him to release the exiles to return to their homelands. The Hebrew version of this decree applied to the Jews (2nd Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). Biblical writers interpreted the decree as the act of God (Isaiah 45:1-3) in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10). Cyrus and Darius even supplied necessary provisions for the temple (Ezra 1:7-11; 6:8-10). The Gentiles were perceived as coworkers in the building of the Jewish temple (6:22).
The LORD also was responsible for the success of Ezra’s expedition. Ezra was called and protected by the LORD’S “gracious hand” (7:9; 8:18, 22). God used the Persian government to enable Ezra to accomplish his task (7:27-28).
God accomplished His purposes through special spokespersons as well. The prophets Zechariah and Haggai delivered the message of God, which motivated the people to complete the temple (5:1-2; 6:14). Together pagan kings, godly leaders, common people, and prophets were the LORD’S hands and feet to do His building.
The book reflects the optimism of a restored Davidic throne, keeping the messianic hope alive. Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel, who returned from exile to lead Judah, were descendants of Judah’s king Jehoiachin, who had been taken captive to Babylon. (Compare 1:8; 1st Chronicles 3:18-19 [Sheshbazzar = Shenazzar?]; and 2nd Chronicles 36:9-10). The prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai during this period depicted the messianic age by idealizing Zerubbabel and Jeshua as the new David and high priest Zadok (Ezra 3:8; 5:1-2; 6:14; Zech 3:1-4:14; 6:9-15; Hag 2:6-9; 3:23).