Focal Passage: Ezra 7:1-10
As a parent I command obedience from my children. Sometimes my commands are easily understood, and sometimes they may not be from their perspective. They may see my commands as burdensome or restrictive. I know the things I am asking of them will bring them both freedom and joy. Their obedience will not only cause them to avoid punishment. It will also allow them to walk in joyful fellowship with their father.
The people of God had disobeyed Him in many ways, resulting in exile to Babylon. In the immediate context of Ezra 7-10, one of the clear ways they had disobeyed was by intermarrying with pagan nations. God had warned them against this practice, knowing that marrying those who worshipped false gods would cause the hearts of God’s people to turn away from Him. But, wanting their own way and ignoring God’s commands, God’s people disobeyed and suffered the consequences.
Ezra’s response, upon returning to Jerusalem, was threefold. First, he “set his heart to study the law of God.” He knew that if he and the people were going to walk in obedience, they must first know God’s law. They must meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). Second, Ezra set his heart to “do” God’s law – that is, to obey it. God has not given us His law so that we might simply read it, know it or memorize it. He gave us His law so that we might do it (James 1:22). Third, Ezra set his heart to teach God’s statutes in Israel. He would remind the people of the necessity of obedience to the law of God.
We know, ultimately, we will not perfectly obey God’s law. In fact, Paul says in Galatians that God did not give us the law so we could keep it and be good, but rather to show us that we could not keep it and thus needed a savior. Christ perfectly obeyed and fulfilled God’s law. This does not mean, then, that we can live however we want. It means that because His Spirit now lives in us, He has empowered us to study God’s truth, obey it and teach it to others. Living in obedience to God’s commands, by the power of His Spirit, always results in our good and His glory.