July 13, 2013

Hearts That Are Set – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:03 pm by sranderson0103

 “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel…” (Ezra 7:10).

Our hearts are not “totally depraved,” at birth as John Calvin claimed. We are born without sin (“transgression of the law,” I John 3:4). Our hearts are ready to be “programmed” for good or evil. Solomon urged, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23). Therefore, like Ezra, we need to work hard to “set” or prepare our hearts.

The Hebrew word for “set” means, “to be established, be steadfast, be firm, be prepared;” Mounce Dictionary Of The Old Testament.

Ezra grew up in Babylon as a scribe of the Law. Artaxerxes, king of Persia, was now in control. Under the rule of this pagan king, the Israelites were allowed to practice Judaism. Under the direction of Ezra, the Israelites were taught the Law. In the midst of the idolatrous enemies of God’s people, in a far country, among the apostate Jews, Ezra determined to serve God and was successful in teaching and influencing his people to worship Jehovah.

The exiles observed the Passover on the fourteenth of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure. Then they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, both for their brothers the priests and for themselves. (Ezra 6:19-20)

How in the world was Ezra able to accomplish this? The Holy Spirit explains: He prepared his heart to study, to practice and to teach God’s law. Do not imagine his actions were without extreme difficulty or fierce opposition. Nevertheless, his heart was “established … steadfast … firm … prepared.” The result? As we say in Arkansas, he “got ‘er done!”

But, worshiping in Babylon was never the ultimate goal. The Israelites dreamed of worshiping on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. An impossible fantasy? Not for one whose heart is set, who believed God’s promise of return and restoration.

The short version of this story is Ezra asked the king and “the king granted him all he requested…”  (Ezra 7:6)

Now this is the copy of the decree which King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, learned in the words of the commandments of the LORD and His statutes to Israel: “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace. And now I have issued a decree that any of the people of Israel and their priests and the Levites in my kingdom who are willing to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.” (Ezra 7:11-13)

Unimaginable, to most, but not to one whose heart is set firm on the laws and promises of God. Consider his response.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to adorn the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, and has extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king’s mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the LORD my God upon me… (Ezra 7:27-28)   

The significance of preparing one’s heart is emphasized by the opposite example of King Rehoboam, whose rebellion and sin led to the dividing of Israel into two kingdoms and eventually into the captivity. These judgments came when, unlike Ezra, “He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD…” (II Chronicles 12:14)  Ezra “set his heart….”  Rehoboam “did not set his heart…”  The word translated “set” is the same in both passages. Rehoboam’s actions led Israel into captivity. Ezra led them out.

The New Testament gives Christians the same responsibility that the Old Testament gave to Ezra: study, practice and teach God’s word. Ezra’s example is recorded to encourage us to follow.  Set your heart!

 

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