A Prepared Heart
The Scriptures say, “And Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” (Ezra 7:10). This verse is actually a summary of Ezra's life and purpose. He was determined to fully accept the Lord's direction in life. This desire came from deep conviction and reverence for God. This led Ezra to seek out the Lord's will in His revealed Word, the Scriptures.
It is no different today for those who desire to be faithful men and women of God. This is a worthy desire to have, but it is not fulfilled by happenstance or serendipity. It takes purpose of heart. “On this day, I resolve to live for God and all that this entails.” As Ezra knew, this purpose involves seeking to know the law of the Lord, to do it, and to teach it to others.
A Christian Named Ampliatus and His Friends
Some complain that the Lord's will is too difficult to understand. But others, like Ezra, have had no problem in understanding it. There is a whole list of just plain, regular folks in Rom. 16 who all understood it quite well. Notice some of them:
8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
10 Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord.
12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.
Now, what else do you know about any of these people other than what you have read here in these verses? Nothing! These are not people of fame or fortune. They are common, everyday people. They are “regular folks” as far as worldly renown in concerned. But they served their God in a commendable way. They were approved and worked hard for the Lord. They were successful in the same way as Ezra was: they had prepared their hearts to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and judgments.” So can we all.
Timothy is said to have understood it as well. Of course, he was a preacher and had the extraordinary experience of companionship with the apostle Paul.
But wait. It was not Paul who first familiarized Timothy with the sacred writings. Timothy was knowledgeable in the Scriptures long before he had ever met Paul, or before he had ever thought about being a preacher of the gospel. That knowledge of the Scriptures gave Timothy a great advantage when he did finally meet Paul in that it allowed Timothy to critically examine the things Paul was teaching.
Paul writes of this in his second epistle to Timothy:
14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
So, Timothy knew the sacred writings even from childhood long before meeting Paul. Who had been Timothy's instructors? It had been his mother and grandmother that had passed along their faith to Timothy:
For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5)
See the point? When we seek to know the law of the Lord, we can come to a clear enough understanding of it to do it and to teach to others. It was meant to be that way.
Why is There Misunderstanding?
The fact is, Jesus said that some would never understand. But it was not because of a lack of ability but rather a lack of will. They have unprepared hearts. To understand, Jesus insisted that one must desire to have God in his or her life. He or she must be willing to open eyes, ears and heart.
The parable of the sower sowing seed is a case in point, well illustrating how important it is for us to prepare our hearts to understand and receive the words of Christ (Matthew 13:3-9; 18-23). One who is unwilling will often complain it is just too difficult to understand, but Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15).
In dealing with a rebellious people, the Lord chose Isaiah to be His prophet. Through Isaiah, Jehovah charged, “I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear.” (Isaiah 65:12). These people had turned their backs on God, and the more alienated they became the more their nation's problems grew until finally their nation fell.
They did not answer God's call. It is important for us to understand that God still calls today; not through prophets like Isaiah but through the gospel of Jesus Christ, His Son. The Scriptures affirm that God “called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Answering this call means bringing our lives into harmony with the teachings of the gospel; to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12).
We do not know what the future holds for our own nation today. We can continue to ignore God's call and slide into tragic defeat just the way Isaiah's people did long ago. Or, we can remember our foundation and reclaim it. Though none of us as individuals can decide for our nation, we each can decide for ourselves to answer the call of God. Prepare your heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to share with others the Lord's statutes and judgments.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 17.5; May 2010