God has always supernaturally protected His Word and always had a remnant of men and women faithfully studying the Bible and seeking to understand and apply it, even in a pagan culture. There is little doubt that we are living in a post-Christian culture, in many ways a pagan one. Are you part of that remnant?
Ezra 7 & 8
Studying the Bible in a Pagan Culture
Ezra 7 & 8:
Preparing the Heart & Studying God’s Word
As you can well imagine, most of the returning Jews who had lived and many been born in a pagan culture had little understanding of God’s law. But chapter 7 verse 6 says:
“This Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given.”
Ezra had faithfully studied and meditated on the laws and precepts of God in spite of the culture around him. And because of his faithful preparation, he was instrumental in teaching the people who returned to Jerusalem after the captivity. God was able to use him in a mighty way because he knew God’s Word!
Do you suppose he ever wondered, “Why am I spending all this time reading and studying and memorizing scripture?” John MacArthur says in his Daily Bible that, according to tradition, Ezra had memorized God’s law. That would have been, at least, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—memorized! Many of us have gotten bogged down just trying to read through the last three.
God has always supernaturally protected His Word and always had a remnant of men and women faithful to study, understand and apply it.
The Job of a Scribe
Verse 6 says that Ezra was a Scribe. Scribes were commissioned with copying the Scriptures by hand, as well as, knowing and teaching them. Did you know there are more than 5,300 handwritten Greek manuscripts of the New Testament alone (many more of the O.T.) and they have very few errors, most of which have to do with numbers or spelling not things which would alter any Bible doctrine.
It’s no wonder that Jesus was so upset with the Scribes and Pharisees in His day. They knew the Word of God and legalistically demanded adherence to the letter of it without grasping the Spirit of it.
Ezra was a great example, though, not just of knowing the law, but living it:
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (7.10).
Notice the order: he prepared his heart, he sought to understand the Word of God, he purposed in his heart to obey it, and then he taught it to others. It’s not that we are ever going to do things perfectly, but before we seek to teach others, we should be doing our best to understand and be doers of God’s Word ourselves.
What about you? Are you faithfully studying God’s Word for yourself or are you content to be spoon fed on Sunday mornings? What if it was suddenly against the law to own or read a Bible, do you have enough of God’s Word hidden in your heart to sustain you and to allow you teach others?
Today’s Other Readings:
Trusting God in Times of Trouble
This psalm is a lamentation. The psalmist was apparently in distress and did not understand why God had not answered his prayers for relief. Can you relate?
88 O LORD, God of my salvation,
I have cried out day and night before You.
2 Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry.
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to the grave.
4 I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man who has no strength,
5 Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.
But he still called God, “Lord, God of my salvation.”
He continued to trust in God and he understood that this world is not all there is. We, too, need to understand there are times when God will not answer as we see fit. There will be times when there are things going on that are good and good for us, but it won’t seem so to our limited understanding. That’s when we must process them through the grid of who God is. As another of the psalmists said, “You are good, and do good” (Ps. 119.68).
In What or Whom Do You Trust?
Verse 22, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty, And brings down the trusted stronghold.”
Strong and powerful men put their trust in their strength, thinking nothing can bring them down. But a wise man, one who fears the Lord, will persevere not on the basis of his own strength or wisdom, but because he seeks to love, honor, and please God, who will fight the battle for him.
We can see this beautifully illustrated in the book of Ezra as God gave the people favor with the King and protected them on the dangerous journey back to Jerusalem.
God’s Timing and Protection
Paul had returned to Jerusalem and was arrested after a near riot by the Jews who wanted to kill him. Once the Commander realized he was a Roman citizen, he placed him in protective custody until he could decide what to do with him.
While he was there, a group of Jews made a pledge to kill him when he’s transported from one place to another. But, once again, God supernaturally protected him by exposing the plot.
We, too, can rest in God’s timing and protection, if we seek to live our lives to please Him. Though Paul would eventually die a martyr’s death, it would be in God’s timing.
What about you? Questions to ponder or journal:
What are you looking to for the answers? To God or to the world? In what or whom are you placing your trust?
Are you faithfully studying and growing in God’s truth? Do you apply it to your daily life?
“God is good” (Ps. 136.1) and He always “causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8.28). Romans 8.29 gives us a glimpse into what that overall “good” is, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son …”
Whatever problems God allows us to experience, He is using them to grow and mature us and cause us to become more like His Son. So what are you struggling with today and what might God be doing in your life? What characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is He developing? love? joy? peace? patience? kindness? goodness? faithfulness? gentleness? self-control? (Gal. 5.22-23).
Are you co-operating with God’s good work in your life or fighting against It?
In the next few days, we’ll look at the biblical grounds for divorce, how an entitlement attitude affects our contentment, the worthlessness of religion, and how flattery can result in great temptation. Be sure to sign up so you won’t miss any of these upcoming posts.
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