Let me ask you . . . how many of you have actually read any of the books of the “Old Testament”? I hope some of you have, and if you have read many of my messages I presume you have been motivated to do so. But sadly, many believers skip right over the OT Scriptures and delve right into Gospels, or more likely, the letters of Paul. Well, I encourage you to scrounge around the Old Testament. First, because it is the foundation on which the “New Testament” is built, but secondly, because there are some really interesting characters and stories found there.
For instance, look at Ezra. He was a man of God who was able to awaken his entire nation. Scripture tells us that Ezra was a man who had God’s hand upon him. In fact, Ezra said of himself, “I was strengthened and encouraged as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me . . .” (Ezra 7:28). I can’t think of a better way to be strengthened and encouraged! The Lord had stretched out his hand, enveloped Ezra and turned him into a different man. I trust each of us can make such declaration!
But here is my question: Why would God do this with Ezra? Was he better looking, or smarter? Did he come from a better home? I mean, at this time there were hundreds of scribes in Israel. All of them had the same calling to study and explain God’s Word to the people. What is it that set Ezra apart from the all the others? What caused the Lord to “put his hand” on this one man, and give him charge over 50,000 people to rebuild the fallen city of Jerusalem?
Well, Scripture does give us the answer! In the tenth verse, of chapter seven, we read:
“Ezra had prepared his heart and devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws . . .” (Ezra 7:10).
It’s simple: Ezra made a conscious decision. He determined above all else to seek God’s Word and obey it and he never swerved from that decision! He told himself, “I’m going to be a student of the Word. And I am going to act on everything I read.”
The important thing to see here is that long before God laid his hand on him, Ezra was diligent in searching the Scriptures. He allowed himself to be examined by it, washed by it, and cleansed of all filth of body and spirit. Read the study of the Song of Solomon, I had sent you. This is the life-style escribed in that Song. In the case of Ezra, he hungered for the Scriptures and rejoiced in them. He allowed the Scriptures to prepare his heart for any work God chose for him. That is why the Lord laid his hand on Ezra and anointed him! I truly hope you are understanding the message in that. If you have to, read it again.
You see, when I read about the exploits of godly men like Ezra (as well as others), my heart burns. These servants were so burdened for the cause of Yahweh’s name, they did powerful works that amaze (and baffle) the minds of most Christians today.
These saints from the past were like rocks in their refusal to go forward without a word from their Lord. They wept and mourned for days at a time over the backslidden condition in the Lord’s house. They refused to eat, drink or wash their bodies. They tore out clumps of hair from their scalp and beard. The prophet Jeremiah even lay on his side in the streets of Jerusalem for 365 days, continuously warning of God’s coming judgment.
Now, I am not suggesting that you tear out clumps of hair from you head or anything, but where did these saints get the spiritual authority and stamina to do all that? They were certainly men of a different sort, servants of a totally different type from those we see in the church today. Most of us simply cannot relate to them and their walk. I know I’m not totally like that. In fact, I don’t know a single Christian who is.
That bugs me. According to I Corinthians 10:11, their exploits were recorded as examples and warnings to us:
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (I Corinthians 10:11).
Their stories are supposed to show us how to move God’s heart, and how to bring a corrupt people to repentance.
So, were these men a special breed? Were they supermen, with a predetermined destiny, given supernatural powers unknown to our generation? Of course not! The Bible states emphatically that our godly forbearers were people just like you and me, they got up each morning, changed dirty diapers, and were even subject to the same passions of the flesh that we are (see James 5:17). The fact is, their examples reveal a pattern for us to follow. Those believers did, however, possess something in their character that caused the Lord to lay his hand on them: the believed Him. They trusted Him. That is why he chose them to accomplish his purposes. Now, he is urging us to seek that same character quality today.
Oh Father, I so yearn and hunger to have your “hand” on me. I truly desire to be encouraged and strengthened by you. I submit to your rule and guidance. Have your way with me and whatever the cost, let me be one of your ambassadors to the world around me. My eyes are fixed on You, that You may be Glorified in the Earth! Amen!
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I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.