Ezra The Scribe
I trust that you will find as much encouragement in this study as
I did writing it.
Like many others before us we are often called to walk a path less
When I began to live in the “Kingdom” with the King I
found I was often misunderstood and even shunned sometimes by former
friends inside the PRS. And so for me Ezra has been an inspiration.
At the dedication of the “Temple” Solomon said (1
Kings 8:17-19) Now it was in the heart of David my father
to build a house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. But the
Lord said to David
my father, 'Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name,
you did well that it was in your heart. David’s wish was denied, but he did the next best thing, he prepared
mightily for Solomon (the next generation) to finish what he had begun.
Ezra found himself in a strange land, unable to fulfil his ministry
calling but that never deterred him from fully serving his Lord.
He could have sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept as he remembered
Zion along with so many others but he didn’t. Ps 137:1
Ezra’s contribution to us is unparalleled.
Ezra was a great student, a great statesman, a great reformer.
Ezra was born in Babylon.
Ezra was a child of the Captivity.
How his heart ached within him to do all he could to turn again the
captivity of Judah, and see the Temple and Jerusalem in the land
of his fathers completely restored to them.
Ezra was what no man before him had ever been.
He was the first Scribe in Israel. The first Scriptural preacher
an he was distinctive among priests. A copy of no man.
Ezra was unique to his time and era.
Ezra was to compile and collate the Mosaic, Historic, Poetic,
Psalms, and Prophetic books that became the only Bible that
Christ and His
disciples and Paul in particular used.
Ezra was chosen because he prepared his heart to seek the
law of the Lord; to do it; and to teach it in Israel as
judgments. He was a ready scribe in the Law (Pentateuch)
which God had given to Israel through Moses.
We are not told why it was that Ezra had not gone up out of Babylon
along with the first body of returning exiles. But just as all those
who experienced reformation before us went only so far before they
settled down, so also there was more than one return from Babylon.
The first had come out of Babylon under Zerubbabel but Babylon never
fully came out those that came with Zerubbabel.
Before long they left
off building the Lord’s house to build their own houses. “Is
it time for you to dwell in your covered houses, and this house lie
waste says Haggai 1: 4.
In this they were disobedient and failed miserably when the New Jerusalem
was facing grave danger from her enemies round about; and additionally
even more so from the slackened faith and the corrupt lifestyles
of her first returnees.
Ezra arose and came from Babylon under “the good hand of the
Lord that was upon him” to become the restorer of Law and order
Happily for us, Ezra included in his autobiography the remarkable
letter that King Artaxerxes gave to him, and by which the Chaldean
scribe was made nothing less than the king's viceroy in Jerusalem.
Here are some sentences out of that royal edict:
“Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of
the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time I make
a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of the priests
and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own free will to
go up to Jerusalem, go with thee. And I Artaxerxes the king, do make
a decree to all the treasurers beyond the river, that whatever Ezra
the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require
of you, it be done speedily. And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy
God that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge
all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the law
of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not”.
This edict gives a remarkable glimpse into the mind and heart of Artaxerxes,
and to the worth, and the immense influence the edict had is seen here.
Before Ezra had time to rest from the exhaustion of his long journey,
he was plunged into a sea of trouble in Jerusalem. Ever since the death
of the two great leaders of the first return the social and the religious
life of the New Jerusalem had been going downhill rapidly into moral
corruption and death. Had Ezra not come to her aid, Jerusalem would
soon have become again what she had so often been before, “just
like Sodom, and Gomorrah” Amos 4:11.
How Jerusalem fell so quickly and so low history doesn’t tell
us; but it needs little explanation as we can see. Never forget hindsight
has perfect vision.
But it was true they were without the law or a teaching priest.
To his absolute consternation, Ezra found that every wall of separation
had been broken down between Israel and the Canaanites. The domestic
and public life of Jerusalem differed in no way from the abominations
that their fathers left behind when they came out of Egypt to become
a separated people unto Jehovah.
It was only then that Ezra saw how good the providence of God had
been to him by providing him with an instrument of such absolute authority
as the king's letter; for it needed all the authority of this autographed
letter, and all the courage and resolution of Ezra as well to deal
with the terrible anarchy that faced him everywhere as he went
Those who know how John Calvin ruled Geneva, and John Knox and his
colleagues did their best to rule Edinburgh will best understand and
appreciate the rule of Ezra in Jerusalem.
So far as those great men could do it, Jerusalem, Geneva and Edinburgh
were in their day true theocracies; that is cities of God, governed
by the law of the God of heaven as Artaxerxes decreed that Jerusalem
should be governed. Not perfectly; not without many mistakes and even
crimes. But withal, both Ezra and Calvin and Knox made the most able
and fearless efforts to set up the Kingdom of God in those three famous
cities. We may criticise their intent but not their hearts.
While yet a young man in Babylon, Ezra had become “a ready scribe
in the law of Moses Psalm 45; which the Lord God had given to Israel.” Ezra
the scribe was the 'pen of a ready writer.'
Ezra was by office a priest; he could trace his unbroken and unblemished
descent back to Aaron himself. But what use is that when there was
neither temple, altar, mercy-seat or anything else of temple order
Like others before (and since) he had no opportunity to be engaged
in the service for which he was born. (Eph 4:11 face
a similar fate today).
Had Ezra not discovered another and better work for himself: and if
Ezra had not adapted himself to his new circumstances, and fitted
himself into his new world, his life would have been just another idle,
wasted and embittered one in Babylon? But Ezra had the humility to
accept what God had arranged for him, and the ability, grace, and the
insight to see that the future seat of spiritual worship, and the true
source of spiritual life on earth was not to be a building any more,
but in a book for that present time.
For us today it’s in a person
who speaks to us from His book John 4: 21-24.
Ages before books became what they are; Ezra was a believer in books,
and not in just any books but Book of books. Those of you who make
good use of your Bible, and have a true love for your Bible, should
never forget your debt of gratitude to Ezra; for it was in Babylon
that our book took form, and it was under Ezra's scholarly and spiritual
hands, that your Bible first began to take shape.
When all other priests and Levites were moping about, not knowing
what to do with themselves because they had no traditional altar at
which to minister (and I include the true followers after truth of
our day who have had to go outside the camp) Ezra established a new
kind of priesthood and ministry in Israel which has outlasted all the
temples and priesthoods in Israel, and which continues this day,
and will endure until the end of time.
Heaven and Earth shall pass
away but My Word shall never pass away. We can easily see what this
young priest-scribe spent his time doing in Babylon when we read
Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it,
and teach Israel its statutes and judgments.
When I read of Ezra's great work upon the law of Moses while suspended
from his priesthood in Babylon, his summons to Jerusalem; standing
in his pulpit of wood, opening the book and in the sight of all the
people reading the book of the law of God distinctly, giving the sense,
and causing the people to understand I yearn for more Ezra’s
Ezra's true successors among us need to remember, and to take note
that Ezra's studies began and were carried on in his own heart when
he had no temple made with hands in which to dwell with God. He learned
to dwell with God in the New Testament Temple of his heart.
Others all around may seem to prosper independently, regardless of
the state of their hearts; this is not possible where truth resides.
Divinity demands devout, humble, penitent and clean hearts above all
else. Truth is love in the heart. Where truth is neglected love cannot
find a home.
Ezra, the father of expository teaching had this testimony “that
he pleased God as he prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord
and to do it”.
Long after Ezra’s day Luther would say, “The clean heart,
even more than the clear head, makes the theologian”.
Every intending teacher should examine himself lest he enters the
arena unprepared or worse still unholy. The ministry of holy teaching
is such a rare one today.
We hear the beloved disciple John's favourite utterance was, ‘beloved
let us love one another’ while Paul's trade mark in his epistles
is 'grace.' But the most frequent utterance in Ezra's autobiography
is this expression, “The hand of the Lord”. Truly the hand
of the Lord was constantly upon him for good.
Despite the fact he was a great civil as well as priestly administrator
when anything prospers with Ezra it is not because of Artaxerxes, or
himself, but because of “the hand of the Lord that was upon him”.
He introduces himself to his readers as a man in all things under the
hand of the Lord.
When Paul says concerning Israel “By them were the oracles of
God” he is referring to Torah which Ezra compiled; it was the
only bible Paul had.
We owe a profound debt of gratitude to this one man Ezra. Be aware
that not one jot or tittle would ever be added to Ezra’s work
on the “Torah”. Four hundred unrecorded silent years elapsed,
in which no inspired record was written regards Israel, from the time
of Nehemiah to John the Baptist.
In closing I would like to draw our attention to my opening remarks.
I see in Ezra a man who was unable to fulfil his priestly ministry
yet he never allowed himself to become discouraged and just pine away.
While others would go down to the rivers of Babylon and weep and complain
about the status Quo, Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the
Lord, and to do it, and teach Israel its statutes and judgments.
Ezra applied himself to serve and promote the Kingdom the best way
he knew how which was to chronicle the books of our Old Testament.