I’m not sure who said it, but as I hover over Ezra’s continuing story, I’m reminded of someone saying, “We’re all worship hogs!” But Ezra wasn’t.
Though, within the heart of man, there might be the natural desire to want to receive the credit–especially when credit is due–Ezra seems to be somewhat counter-natural. When we might be prone to see how some accomplishment might build our resume, Ezra seems to have marched to the beat of different drummer. And I’m thinking the beat Ezra marched to was the word of God.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the LORD that is in Jerusalem, and who extended to me His steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
(Ezra 7:27-28 ESV)
It was Ezra who had rubbed shoulders with the highest political powers over Babylon. He who had requested another commissioning permitting exiles with a heart for home to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. It was Ezra the scribe who made the ask, and to whom “the king granted him all that he asked” (7:6). What a guy! What a negotiator! Not only does he secure the permission for the trip, but the funding for it as well. What’s more, he’s ready to return to Jerusalem with financing in place to help in the rebuilding of the temple and of Jerusalem.
But rather than take credit, Ezra took courage. Rather than boast in what he had done, his confidence was bolstered in what God was doing. For in it all, rather than tell about his hard work, he testified of God’s good hand.
Since Ezra comes on the scene in chapter 7 in the book bearing his name, God’s good hand clangs, again and again, like a bell tolling in the background. While a lot is said and done by Ezra the man, there is a repeated acknowledgement that what is being accomplished is by God’s good hand.
. . . the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him . . . he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him (7:9) . . . I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me . . . And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion . . . The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way.
(Ezra 7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 31)
By anyone’s account in any age, this Ezra the scribe was a rock star. What he accomplished was nothing less than amazing. And yet when it comes to getting the glory, he takes a pass, pointing out repeatedly that it was only by “the good hand of our God on us.”
So what makes this guy a glory giver rather than a worship hog. I want to suggest that, at least in part . . . and I’m thinking a very, very, big part . . . it was because, not only was the hand of God on Him, but the word of God was in him.
. . . for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.
(Ezra 79b-10 ESV)
I’m thinkin’ there’s a connection between Ezra’s heart being set on God’s word and Ezra’s head recognizing God’s hand. A tie between his desire to study, to do, to teach, and to give God glory.
He knew that his favor before the king wasn’t just because of his charismatic or persuasive nature, it was because of a divine dynamic. It wasn’t just his convincing arguments that influenced the king’s decision, it was the Spirit’s working that directed the king’s heart. God had set things in motion as He had promised decades before by the prophets. And Ezra just got to be a bit player in the greater story God was directing.
And Ezra inspires me to see the worship hog in me be put down as the word of God in me lifts Christ up. That the “me monster’ would decrease, and that He who is Master would increase.
The good hand of God on me, by His grace. The goodness of God always declared, for His glory.