Devoted – Having the Gracious Hand of God Upon You
“6 this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. 7 Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.
8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”
Ezra 7:6-10 NIV (emphasis mine)
For a long time in my Christian life, I liked to try and make deals with God. I often tried to bargain with Him. I’d find myself making promises to God and telling Him that if He gave me a certain blessing, I would be more devoted to Him.
God if You give me a higher pay, I would be more devoted in my giving.
God if You give me more time, I would be more devoted to serving You.
God if You made things better in my life, I’ll be a better example for You.
Ezra 7 teaches me a biblical truth about currying God’s favor.
Ezra didn’t tell God that if God would give him favor, then he would live for God. Rather, God’s gracious hand of favor was upon Ezra because Ezra lived a life devoted to Him. The scripture shows that Ezra devoted himself to several things (that I should be devoted to as well). Ezra teaches me that if I want the gracious hand of God upon me I should be devoted to several things:
1 – He was devoted to the study of God’s Word.
Ezra was devoted to the study of God’s Word. In order to live with God’s favor upon me, I need to be devoted to the study and understanding of His Word. I must learn to value God’s Word as more than a piece of literature or history. God’s Word is more than stories of long ago and God’s law is more than rules that people of long ago lived by. God’s Word is a living and active
God’s Word is not to be denied. It is not to be despised. It is not to be distorted (twisted to say what we want it too). It is not to be dissected (we cannot cut out the parts we don’t like). God’s Word cannot be disregarded
God’s Word requires my devotion and dedication. This is how I receive the instructions that God has for my life. God’s favor came upon Ezra since Ezra had devoted himself to God’s Word.
2 – He was devoted to the practice of God’s Word.
While devotion to God’s Word is required, it cannot end there. Devotion to knowledge of God’s Word without a practical application of it, leads to the development of Pharisees. I must also be devoted to the practice of God’s Word, The word, “practice”, in this verse means to do, execute, and exercise. I read that Warren Wiersbe says, “Faith is like a muscle — unless you exercise it becomes flaccid.” In order or my faith to grow, I must be devoted to the practice of God’s Word.
The great evangelist D.L. Moody said, “The Bible wasn’t given for our information but for our transformation.” Ezra lived his life not only devoted to the study of God’s Word, but to the practice of God’s Word.
3 – He was devoted to the teaching of God’s Word.
I read a story about a very influential professor named Dr. Howard Hendricks learning from a professor who made an impact on his life. Dr. Hendricks often saw the wise old professor pouring over his books. One day, Hendricks asked him, “Doctor, I’d like to know, what is it that keeps you studying? You never cease to learn.” He answered, “Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream that from a stagnant pool.” This tells me that I need to keep those whom God brings across my path drinking from a running stream of Living Water and not from the cesspool of the world.
It is important for me to remember that teaching the Word of God means more than just lecturing or preaching. Teaching of God’s Word means to instruct and mobilize God’s people to rise up and to reach their Kingdom potential. It means to push people out of their comfort zone and closer to the Lord will for their lives. Like Ezra, I am called to be a messenger that trains and teaches God’s people so they can be empowered to do the work God has for them to do.
The last part of this devotion is something I read a few years ago. I don’t like including poems or writings like this in my devotions, but I believe this summarizes the devotion that Ezra had in order bring the gracious hand of God upon His life.
“I Rather See A Sermon”
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example always clear;
And the best of all preachers are the men, who live their creeds,
For to see the good action is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn how to do it if you’ll let me see it done,
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be wise and true;
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
Lord Jesus renew my heart to be fully devoted to You. Amen.