Ask any Bible-believing Christian to identify his or her favorite verse and you’re in for a good time. Watch their face. Some will smile and immediately dispense with joy the exact words of their “life verse.” Others will demure and pontificate on how all the words of the Bible are equally important – as if you doubted that very fact. Others, however, will pause, their brow furrowed, and search for just the right words.
Truth be told, most of us have several verses that bring great joy to our hearts. On any given day, in any particular circumstance, I might give you several – John 3:16, Zephaniah 3:14-17, 1 Timothy 1:5, Deuteronomy 29:29 or Ephesians 2:4. But in our present context, life at Charleston Southern University, I find one passage especially helpful for both professors and students: Ezra 7:10.
The seventh chapter of Ezra describes the scribe’s desire to return to Jerusalem from exile. Grieved by ill news of events in Zion, Ezra sought the blessings of the king. There, before the king, Ezra pled his case and, mystery of mysteries, the king agreed. Ezra’s request was granted. In fact, the king offered to help fund Ezra’s quest.
At this point, the reader is rightly befuddled. Why would this pagan monarch agree? Why would he pay for Ezra’s pilgrimage and help restore the nation of Israel?
The key to Ezra’s success is found in the passage itself. Twice the Bible says “the hand of the Lord his God was on him” (Ezra 7:6 and 9). God’s good grace was upon Ezra. God gave Ezra success, something we are all seeking.
But, again, we must ask “why?”
And again, the answer is in the text. The very next verse explains why God shed his grace on Ezra. Verse ten says, “For (substitute the word ‘because’ here) 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.”
Three things stand out, three things worthy of our emulation if we want to please God and experience the joy of success that comes when “the good hand of God” is on us:
First, the Bible tells us that Ezra “had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord.” Notice, Ezra had made a conscious decision, he “set his heart,” to spend time in the Word of God. He wasn’t merely reading the Bible when the mood struck him. He wasn’t simply skimming the pages so that he could claim that he had read his Bible that day. He had “set his heart,” he was determined, driven by a desire to truly understand what God had revealed in its pages.
Second, having studied the text, Ezra then set out “to do it.” Convinced that there was great value in studying the Bible, Ezra understood that any right understanding of its teachings would result in right actions. If we really believe what the Bible says, we’ll do what it says. Ezra knew that and was determined to follow through.
Third, having studied the Bible and applied its teachings to his life, he was determined to share this life changing knowledge with others. The news was too good to keep to himself. So, he taught others.
And, the “good hand of his God was on him.” Ezra was successful. Not because God “owed” him something for his efforts but because Ezra’s reading of Scripture had led him to do what God had already commanded. There is great joy and safety as we live within God’s revealed will.
In the end, goals are important. Success is something that we should all strive for, whatever our field of study or service. Remember, however, those things are fleeting. If we want to enjoy true success, the blessing of God on our lives, we must commit ourselves to his word, his will, and his ways. We will study, practice, and teach his word so that others can share our success.