Throughout the Bible, God raises up faithful teachers to preserve and pass on his words. In Ezra 7, there are 16 “son of” statements going all the way back to Aaron, in Exodus, making up the identity of “this Ezra” of the text. From the Exodus in 1446 BC until Ezra here 457 BC we have a little less than 1,000 years of generations showing God’s faithfulness in preserving remnants of Israeli leadership, especially the scribes and teachers of the Law. As the Lord remains faithful to his covenant, He also appoints leaders who learn his words and are entrusted with teaching it to all. In preserving the genealogy of the people, God preserves the chronicles of his Word.
My most favorite verse in Ezra 7 is verse 10: “For Ezra has set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statues and rules in Israel.” This verse comes across to me like a simple yet powerful methodology of teaching the Bible. Like many of today’s Bible teachers, Ezra’s passion of teaching is a response to God’s hand being on him (7:9). Also, like many contemporary teachers, Ezra is raised up to teach during seemingly inopportune, tumultuous, transitional, uncertain times. The people of God were beginning to return to Jerusalem and reunite after having experienced hard times politically (they were exiles returning to a destroyed city), socially (they had been dispersed and divided), economically (they suffered great loss and destitution), and spiritually (they lived unfaithfully and chose idolatry on many occasions). Divisions and disunity marked the entire Jewish population, and yet here is the Lord, preparing a faithful teacher to speak gospel truths, in faith, to a nation in shambles.
Ezra’s model of faithful teaching
- Faithful teaching begins with an applied heart to studying. The degree of the teacher’s commitment to studying the Word sets the course of the teaching. Just like we usually only get from a study what we put into it, so are we only able to teach what we study. Ezra “fixes, purposes, and determines with his heart” (in other words, with all his powers and affections) to master the law of God. Long before a teacher teaches, there is the long travail of searching, studying, praying, meditating, dissecting the Bible.
- Before a teacher teaches, a teacher not only studies, but he also does. The doing of God’s Word is a response to the accumulated gospel truths of the studies. The first student of every faithful teacher is his/her own self. Teachers who are successful are teachers who are first to apply and live their own lectures. Ezra’s heart was applied not only on studying theory but on living it out practically in his life. Like Ezra, we also know very well that “the only true theology is applied theology.”
- Teaching of others is the expression of the abundance of personal application and living of God’s Word. Though he had a broader desire for teaching throughout his nation, Ezra didn’t begin by being a teacher. He became one. He began–and continues–by being a student of the Word first and always. “The best teachers remain students all their lives” (John Stott). Biblical teachers love their Bibles and it shows–marks, smudges, lines, notes, coffee stains.
Too often, as Bible teachers, we want to mouth what the head holds without letting it pass through the heart. The Holy Spirit’s greatest priority in every believer’s life is their own sanctification in the image of the Son. Before we impart the Word to others as teachers, it is imperative that we allow the Spirit to impart the Word richly within us and let it begin to change us as we commit to living it out daily.
Ezra “set his heart” on God’s Word. He impacted his nation for Yahweh through the astute learning, personal application, and passionate teaching of the words of God. I pray the same can be said for every gospel teacher today.