This morning, I met a friend to have breakfast and to discuss a few general matters, one of which was related to Jenny and my will. Because of lockdown and having to leave the church where we worshipped and served for many years, fellowship with believers has been sparse. It was so sweet to meet in fellowship with this brother in Christ. Interacting with the world is so different to interacting with Christians. Like many others these days, we are always seeking ways to reduce our budget. Due to retirement we needed to find content insurance cover for our home, as previously it was covered by the denomination. In the process, I asked the company covering our vehicles to give me a quote for the content and the building. Once they coupled the vehicles, content and building, the quote was very reasonable to the extent that the building cover was cheaper than the existing one we have. I called the existing company to cancel the building policy. I was given instruction, and I adhered to it … only to receive a terse email response. The way of the people of faith is different to the people of this world. The reason is that in Christ there is one code of operation and interaction. It flows from the Bible. It’s called gospel living.
Consider the gospel life of Ezra. In the first few verses of Ezra chapter 7, we see he comes from a godly, priestly family line. Then, in verse 6, we find he returned from Babylon as a teacher of God’s Word, smartly groomed in the Truth. We also see that he made requests of King Artaxerxes and that the king responded with favour because he saw God’s hand upon his servant. Ezra’s life in God was visible to the pagan king. It made a huge impression. He demonstrated the effects of his upbringing and the Word of God in front of the king. This caused the king to be favourable to his requests. Yes it is true that God worked in the king’s heart, but the effects of Ezra’s presence touched the king’s heart!
In verse 9, we find God granted Ezra a safe journey that took four months. Notice God’s hand upon him because of his diligence, not only by studying the Law of God, but also by putting it into practice in his daily living and by teaching it to Israel. By the time we get to verse 14, we find again how the king viewed Ezra’s godliness, genuineness and faithfulness because the Law of God was in his hand [v14]. This means that Ezra knew, used and lived God’s Word. Again, the king’s response is that whatever Ezra needs to rebuild the temple would be provided [v18-24]. The king again repeats that Ezra is a teacher of the Law of the God of Heaven [v22]. It’s so amazing that Ezra’s holiness and lifestyle made deep impressions upon the pagan king, so much so that whatever God prescribed for the temple needed to be provided with diligence [v23]. Look at exactly how the king sees Ezra. He sees God’s servant enjoying the wisdom of God [v25]. The presence of Ezra is so overwhelming that the king instructs him to teach the law to those ignorant of it [end of v25]. The king is so struck by the holy aura of Ezra that he instructs that should anyone disobey the Law of God and the law of the king, serious punishment would follow [v26]. Ezra has such confidence after the king’s letter of instruction that he not only echoes the praise of God, he “took courage” and “gathered” some of the leaders of Israel to take the four month journey and relocate from Babylon to Jerusalem with him [v28].
In this chapter, you see a godly man and the effects he has upon a pagan king and upon his own people. His life is shaped by the God of Heaven through the Scriptures because he did not only study it, he also knew what it said and what it expected of him; plus, he put God’s Word into practice. His behaviour, his speech, his reasoning and his relationship with those around him, including those superior to him, reflected God in his life. He had an amazing testimony that was cultivated over many years.
Now, let’s get back to my interaction with the insurance company. The one consultant wanted a letter from the new company, which I provided. Another consultant responded to this letter by saying it was insufficient. My issue was that he was terribly blunt. No business skills. No finesse. Actually he was downright rude. That’s the world. On the other hand, my meeting with my fellow brother in Christ was flavoured with us being seasoned Christians rooted in the Word, representing Jesus wherever we go. Over the last while I have been doing most of the daily cooking. We have cereal most days for breakfast, but on Sunday I fry eggs. When I started frying eggs, I broke the yokes over and over. I had the plate too hot. I used too little butter. In general, I was too hasty. It took me some time, but I learnt the basics through trial and error … yet getting the eggs done to perfection was another story. This comes through practice. In a similar way, the effects of life change through the Scriptures don’t just happen overnight. It takes years of study and application through prayer. It is absolutely necessary for converted people to do spiritual exercises correctly. Listening to sermons need diligence. You need to try and take notes if you want to get to the bone. Then you need to pray about the lessons arising from the message. You need to take up the Bible in daily devotions–that is, using credible material that helps you understand the Bible’s message in an applicatory manner. You need to pray with intelligence, meaning that you pray about what you have gathered in your devotional time, asking God to shape your life, heart, emotions, desires, attitudes, behaviour and speech. Like with Ezra, it takes hard work, the right attitude and years of time!
Dear God, give me a hunger for Your Word coupled with a desire to live Your Word for Your glory. Amen.