The story is told that during WWII, a church building in France was destroyed by bombs. Upon surveying the damage, the members discovered that the centerpiece statue of Christ with outstretched hands was still standing but with the hands broken off. A local sculptor offered to replace the hands, but after prayerful consideration the church leaders decided not to accept. They understood the biblical principle that “we are the body of Christ”(1Cor 12:12-27; Gal 5:13; Mark 10:43-45; John 13:14-15) and therefore we would be Jesus’ ‘hands’ to serve the needs of our neighbors. What does it look like for you/us to be the ‘hands’ of God in our bombed out world?
GOD’S KIND OF MAN (Ezra 7)
For centuries the Lord had called His men to return to His heart (Is 1:18; Joel 2:13; Jer 24:7; Zach 1:3). He warned that if they continued to live apart from the principles of life found in His Word they would become enslaved to their sin, destroy their families and lose their nation. This is exactly what happened when the Babylonians took them into captivity in 605 BC where they spent 70 years in the far away country of Babylon. God used this season of extreme chiseling to get their attention. His men finally wised up, soft-ened their hearts and repented of their sin to pursue God once again. In response, God faithfully began the return of His people to Jerusalem in 536 BC just as He promised (Jer 25:11) under Persian king Cyrus who had conquered Babylon. 100 years later Ezra (Yahweh helps) asked Persian king Artaxerxes permission to lead more Israelites back to Jerusalem in order to bring spiritual revival to Israel after the temple was rebuilt under Zerubbabel. In Ezra God found a man willing to be His hands to a people with great needs. When God sees a man pursing Him with a whole heart and willing to be His hands, He supports him fully with His own ‘hands’ (Ezra 7:6, 9, 28; 10:5-15; 2 Chron 16:9)!
Memorize Ezra 7:10 and live it! “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach Hisstatutes and ordinances in Israel.”
HANDS AND FEET OF CHRIST
God is asking His men to be His hands and feet for His glory and your growth in a world desperately needing the gospel of His grace. Describe a time when you felt God’s hands on you as you stepped forward to be His hands. Where is God calling you now to be His hands? Can you visualize being His hands, feet, mouth at home? Work? Play? If, like Ezra, you accept your role as the hands of Christ to serve others then you must make the same 5 commitments that he made.
LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE (6-9)
Ezra was comfortably established in Persia his whole life as a scribe. But one day the Lord motivated Ezra to approach Artaxerxes to ask permission to lead thou-sands of Jews on a 4 month, 800 mile journey back to Jerusalem which had been in ruins for 150 years. Ezra was a dude trained in pushing a pen not leading people. What would you be feeling if you were in Ezra’s situation? What could possibly motivate him (you) to take such risk to leave his security and status? Do you see any clues in the phrases “the Law of Moses” or “the LordGod” or “the good hand of his God” (6)? Where is God asking you to give up your rights, die to the comfort you want (Luke 9:23) in order to serve, lead, or care for others? On what will you loosen your grip as God tightens His grip on your heart? Where are you on the diagram below?
SET YOUR HEART (7)
Like a lineman sets his stance so as not to be pushed around while blocking a 400 lb, steroid-filled opponent, Ezra had set his heart (core of his soul, mind, body (Matt 22:37-39; Col 3:16; Deut 6:4-5) so he would not be a push over when things got tough. He was determined (devoted) to respond to the truth of God’s word rather than stay comfort-able in his culture. Like Daniel, ‘conviction’ [Con/with + vincer/conquer, courage] and it is set in a man’s heart BEFORE it is actually tested! How does setting you heart on the truth and life principles of God’s Word motivate your heart to act with courage? Name others in the Bible who acted with courageous convict-ion and inspire you to do the same. What contemporary inspires you to act with solid conviction? Where is God asking you to align (set) your heart to act as His hands/feet? How can being focused on Christ help your living for Christ? How can setting your heart be a great chisel to make you more like Jesus? As a TAG Team, ask the Lord to help you live out a truth from His Word in the power of His Spirit.
STUDY GOD'S WORD (7)
You are what you eat…physically and spiritually (Jer 15:16; Ezek 3:1-4; Deut 8:3; Job 23:12; John 1:1; 6:48, 58)! What do you think of when you hear the word ‘study’? Positive or negative? Why? This word ‘study’ (dawrash) means to ‘trample with the feet’ (think: making juice out of grapes) or ‘beat a path’ (think: building a road). The idea is that if you want great tasting wine, it all starts with someone trampling grapes with their feet. Or, before you can get anywhere, someone has to do the hard work of clearing the forest, leveling the terrain, laying the pavement. The word ‘study’ has many negative connotations mostly because God’s men are often lazy when it comes to the eternal things of God. We want the wine NOW but never consider the long process of growing, stomping, bottling and fermenting the grapes. Or when was the last time you even thought about all that it took to beat a path so you can drive 70 mph? We complain when the traffic is tied up as others laboriously build the road. Men, God is calling us to ‘beat a path’ (trample) into His presence so that we can ‘stomp His Word’ until the refreshing life principles of His truth bring joy into our lives like a cool glass of OJ. What chapters of God’s Word will you ‘stomp’ every day this week until His truth flows into your heart? And no matter what interruptions, when will you ‘beat’ a path to meet with Him? (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 2Tim 3:16-17) Men don’t do what they believe, they do what they value! Question is….do you value meeting with the Father and drinking the refreshing wine of His truth? Why is the hard work of studying God’s Word a great chisel making you more like Jesus? What? So what? Now what?
PRACTICE GOD’S WORD (7)
God calls his men to not only hear His truth but to do it (ezra 10:4; Luke 6:46-49; James 1:22-25). Like the word ‘study’ why does the word ‘practice’ also carry negative connota-tions? Why are we so often quick to hear God’s truth but so slow to actually do it? What has the Lord God your Father asked you to do or not do in the past few weeks that you haven’t gotten around to yet? Why? What would have happened if Ezra thought about but never acted to get out of his comfort zone to help rebuild the Temple? Where would we be if Jesus thought about going to the cross but never got around to it…or if the Father never acted upon raising Jesus from the dead? Hmmmm? (2Tim 2:15)
TEACH HIS WORD (7)
If you were challenged with ‘study’ and ‘practice’ wait ‘til you hear about ‘teach’. It means to ‘beat with a rod’. The idea is not to be harsh (beat up) but to discipline (beat in) yourself so that you can help others get on, walk down and stay on God’s path for life. Look around. How many are walking with God using His life principles? Closer to home….how about you? Are you walking closely with the Lord (John 15:1-10; Matt 16:24; Mark 1:17)? We must be helping each other to get on and stay on God’s path. This requires that you give a few others permission to hold you accountable with God’s truth. There is no other way to grow in Christ! (Heb 10:22-26; 12:11; Prov 9:9; 12:1; 27:17; 2Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pt 3:18) Who are you helping to grow by teaching His truth? It’s all about learning, living, loving God’s Word. If you have a family, what truth will you teach them today with both your life and lips (Deut 6:1-9)? Father filtered truth!
TAG TEAM DISCUSSION
Which insight from this memory verse most chisels your heart? Why? As a TAG team study together Luke 6:46-49 and prepare to share an insight with someone else today!