Learning From Ezra: Devotional from Lynn Austin

And the winner is…

PilgrimageMarty, please email me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address so I can send you a copy of Pilgrimage. Thanks to everyone for sharing your favorite Bible character!

Keepers of the Covenant

As I researched my novel Keepers of the Covenant, based on the biblical book of Ezra, I was struck by how similar his times were to ours. In Ezra’s day, God’s people seemed more interested in adapting to the society around them than in living His way. They had wandered so far from Him that they’d ended up in Babylon, slaves to an ungodly way of life. But God longed to restore His children, so He made a way for them to return to the Promised Land and to a relationship with Him. Sadly, most people chose to remain in captivity. Only a very small remnant accepted His offer of salvation. But for those who did, God had a leader in place—Ezra.

Many of us have loved ones who have wandered away from God, captured by the culture’s empty promises and enticements. Like Ezra, we long to lead our loved ones home and help restore them to God’s embrace, but how? What qualities did Ezra possess that made him able to be used for God’s purposes? A few things about his character and habits stand out.

Pictures are from Lynn's trip to Israel.

Pictures are from Lynn’s trip to Israel, which she writes about in Pilgrimage.

First, the Bible says, “Ezra was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6). In other words, he knew the scriptures. They provided him with the perspective to look beyond his daily life and see the bigger picture of God’s redemption plan. Ezra would have seen that the Almighty One is a God of salvation and restoration. He would have been waiting for it, longing for it. And when God said, “Now is the time,” Ezra was able to answer God’s call because he wasn’t entangled with his own busy agenda.

Do we also know the scriptures so well that we’ll be able to make the most of every God-given opportunity? In the parable of the Sower, Jesus promised that the man who hears His words and understands them “produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matt. 13:23).  I think Ezra would agree that a key to a fruitful life is knowing God’s Word.

Israel3Second, “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord” (7:10).  The two went hand-in-hand. He didn’t simply spend time studying God’s Word, he put it into practice. This wasn’t easy to do. Ezra lived as a slave to the Babylonians who worshipped many gods and indulged in an immoral lifestyle that contradicted scripture. Ezra would have been misunderstood, maligned, and mocked for failing to go along with the crowd and live their way. Yet he remained devoted to God and to His laws.

Is the same true for us? Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” And the result of such obedience is that “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Ezra discovered that the key to enjoying a close relationship with God and being used by Him was to obey His Word, even when it was difficult to do.

Finally, Ezra said “Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage” (7:28). He knew from studying the Word that God was trustworthy. Ezra enjoyed God’s favor and love because he obeyed that Word. As a result, he could courageously accomplish God’s tasks. He could lead thousands of people on a 900-mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem—and back to God. His caravan could transport several tons of silver and gold to God’s temple without a military escort. He took courage knowing that “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:8). Jesus told His disciples the same thing when He climbed into the boat with them in the middle of a storm. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50). His presence calmed their fears, and He can also calm ours. “Surely I am with you always,” He promised, “to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Read more from Lynn at lynnaustin.com.

Read more from Lynn at lynnaustin.org.

Like Ezra’s life, our lives will be fruitful if we take time to read God’s Word. If we obey that Word, as he did, we’ll enjoy a closer relationship with God. And when we know and love the God who has promised to never forsake us, we’ll have the same courage that Ezra had to go into battle for our loved ones and help them make the journey back to God.Pilgrimage

Thanks, Lynn! And today we’re giving away a copy of Pilgrimage on the blog, a nonfiction book by Lynn with reflections on her travels through the Holy Land. (The winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, September 22 and listed at the top of this post, so check back to see if you won!) To enter, comment with your answer to the following question: who is a character in the Bible who you’ve learned from, and what do you admire about that person?

28 thoughts on “Learning From Ezra: Devotional from Lynn Austin

  1. I have learned a lot from Peter. He messed up and stuck his foot in his mouth so much and yet God forgave him and used him. It gives me hope when I fail and helps me get back up and try again.

  2. I admire Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Though he was persecuted by those close to him, his family especially, God used all for His good. Painful as it was for Joseph, he was very blessed in his life. What we as people feel as pain, hurt, victimization, God can turn it around to bless us and many others as well. God is so good!

  3. The Apostle Paul has always been my hero of the Bible other than my Savior Jesus Christ. When Jesus turned him around and told him he was making him an Apostle to the Gentiles, he obeyed and never let up. When he was knocked down, he kept getting back up and counted it all for joy to suffer for the Lord! He persevered to the end. Looking forward to meeting him! I believe he has a special seat in Heaven alongside our Savior.

  4. So many . . . I have been studying Esther and her story (His story through her) has reminded me, as I (& my hubby) are going through great change(retirement to ministry for the next 30 yrs) to be obedient & follow His commands, to listen, to pray, to trust Him. I am being drawn to Jeremiah/Ezra, Isaiah & Jeremiah a lot lately. Gosh, so thankful for His deliverance and then walking out our faith in His freedom.

  5. The character that I’ve learned the most from is Joseph. When I’m going through trials I remind myself of his example, that he could look back after everything that had happened to him, the evil intended against him and his years of suffering, and say to his brothers that he knew God had meant it for good. His life story shows me that God can redeem any difficult circumstance, no matter how long or terrible it is in the present.

  6. Peter. He was a man of great passion and pride. He was called by Jesus and walked with him throughout his entire ministry. Peter loved Jesus and was very vocal about his willingness to fight for him. Yet when Jesus was arrested Peter crumbled. He was fearful and denied ever knowing Jesus. His greatest shame is laid bare for us to read about in the gospels but he didn’t let his failure defeat him. He overcame and was where God wanted him to be on the Day of Pentacost. Peter was afraid to die with Jesus in the courtyard, but he was willing to die for Jesus long after Christ had ascended to Heaven. The Holy Spirit changed Peter. The Holy Spirit can change us too. That is the power I want in my life.

  7. The Prophet Hosea…who GOD used to teach us HIS redeeming and faithful love. When we are the most unfaithful to HIM…great is HIS faithfulness.

  8. I like Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to be His spokesman even though no one wanted to hear the truth. Like Jeremiah, God calls us to do more than just talk about truth—He calls us to live it! “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth.” Psalm 86:11

  9. Both Esther and Joseph – I know that God see’s the future we do not. I often remind myself when I’m in a situation I am not pleased about – that I may be in this situation for a reason, for His reason. If I do not go through this season in my life, I might not be properly equipped to handle the next.

  10. Ruth! After studying Ruth I really had to ask myself, would I treat my mother-in-law the same way. Would I trust God for my future. She is a great example to me!

  11. Paul’s thinking was so radically changed when he encountered Christ that I am inspired by him. He was passionate, intelligent, bold, and yet humble. He was attuned to hearing God’s voice and he made himself a willing servant. While I’m sure he feared death he continued to press on in the power of the Holy Spirit with his mission from God to spread the gospel. Paul demonstrated the obedience that I strive for and that is why I have been so inspired by his life.

    Amanda Geaney

  12. I admire Paul. His story is a wonderful example of how God can take even the hardest heart and make it completely new. A hater of Christians – he became a servant of Jesus Christ and helped spread the good news.

  13. Its difficult to read this question and have someone other than Paul on the top of my list. His life was so drastically changed and he became so sold out for Christ. The amount of faith he had was admirable, and I can only strive to reach the same level he was at.

  14. I learn so much from Paul. He had a long list of achievements to boast about, but he counted them all as rubbish. He deeply understood his frailty compared to the majesty of the Lord.

  15. David, I have learned that God chooses is to be leaders even when we do not believe we are not strong enough to be and that we will have great days an will accomplish much and then we will have days where we need to humble ourselves and rember to listen to our mentor.

  16. Paul… he persecuted the Christians of his time… then God got a hold of him and transformed him. He learned how to be content in every situation. Oh how I admire that and desire that!
    Thank you for the giveaway! What a gift to have walked through Israel!

  17. There so many characters to me, that I just can’t wait to meet in heaven…. David is one of them.. Can you imagine be called a man after Gods own heart? David loved God and fear him (respected God as a Holy God) and best of all God loved him.. David is a example of a man who did wrong, humbled himself, repented, and came back and serve God more… I love that!!! I love David… I &2 Samuel is one of my favorite stories about David.
    Jonathan is another Character in the Bible I love to. What a friend!!! A example of how to be a friend to our friends. Sorry, I could go on and on Abraham.. What faith!!!

  18. I admire Mary mother of Jesus. Having the angel tell her about that she is going to become pregnant with Jesus. Delivering in the stable, watching Him being crusified. It had I be hard.

  19. Abraham,God made a covenant with him and his descendants. I believe we are the recipients of his faithfulness. All nations would be blessed because of Abraham.

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