Summary: In this chapter, we are moving from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to building the people of God. How does that happen? Being guide by our compass, the word of God.
[Re]discovering the Word
Image of Frank Worsley and the ship Endurance Just before the outbreak of the First World War, a small ship named the Endurance set sail from Briton with a crew intent on being the first to cross the South Pole. The ship reached Antarctica, but became ice bound in the Weddle Sea. Soon they had to abandon their ship and the 28-man crew took to their lifeboats. They were trapped on the ice for over a year. A desperate decision was made to take four men in a 20-foot lifeboat across the roughest sea in the world to a whaling station on South Georgia Island some 800 miles away. At the helm was a man named Frank Worsely. All he had to guide them was a map, a watch, and a compass, but it was all he needed if he used them well. A mistake as minor as being off by only one degree would have proved disastrous. The four men endured seas that raged higher than a ten-story building. They were constantly cold and wet from the waves that drenched the boat. They had only the most meager of rations. The journey did not take days, but two weeks. But Frank Worsley guided that lifeboat the 800 miles to South Georgia Island and eventually the entire crew of the Endurance was saved. As a result, he became a hero. The whaling captains who sailed those waters considered him one of the wisest navigators in the world. He was brilliant, but all of his brilliance would have been worthless if he not used the compass. Frank Worsley was wise because he used the compass to guide him. The ancients believed that there are two types of people in the world: people who are fools and people who are wise. Being wise is a matter of using the compass you’ve been given to get where you need to go. Fools choose not to use the compass.
The walls of Jerusalem are now complete and the people have gathered but the work is not done. The city and life in it needs to be rebuilt as well. But now the people gather and cry out for the guidance of their lives through the Word of God. You will recall God brought together a team of four people to begin rebuilding Jerusalem and the people of Israel. First is Esther. Jerusalem could never be rebuilt if it were not for Esther who risked her life to stop the genocide of the Jewish people. Second is Zerubbabel who was called to go back and rebuild the temple, where the people of God come together to worship and center themselves on their identity as God’s chosen people. Third is Nehemiah who is called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so the city could be rebuilt and once again it would be a safe place to raise a family. In today’ scripture, we have the fourth person take center stage, Ezra, who was called to rebuild the altar and lead the worship of God. Ezra was a priest and an expert in the law of God. In this chapter, we are moving from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to building the people of God. How does that happen? Being guide by our compass, the word of God.
First, it starts with a desire for the word of God. Mary Jones in the late 1790’s wanted more than anything to own a Bible. Unfortunately, they were not as available as they are today, and they were very expensive. So she began raising chickens to raise the money to buy a Bible. She worked for six years, until she had enough for a Bible. And this 16-year-old girl walked over 25 miles to buy one, but the pastor had only one left, and it was promised to someone else. Well, she couldn’t hold back the tears, and began to cry terribly. When the minister tried to comfort her and encourage her telling her that she would get the next Bible available, he found out what Mary had gone through. He placed the one Bible he had in her hands and made her take it, reasoning that the other person could wait a while longer. And now Mary Jones had her own Bible that she could now read to her heart’s content. God begins to transform us through the Bible when we desire His word for our lives.
In verse 1 the people gathered and called to Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses out to them. The Book of the Law was the collection of laws for living which were given to the Hebrew people before they entered into the Holy Land from their life as slaves in Egypt. Now up to that point, the Hebrews never had to make any decisions for themselves. As slaves, they were told when to get up, when to eat, when to work and when to go to sleep. They never had the freedom to make any decisions for themselves. The only laws they knew were Egyptian laws but that was not how God wanted his people to live. So God gave them a set of laws which would guide their life in a new land and define and shape them as His chosen people.