By Jamin Roller
I spent a few semesters at a Christian university before running out of money and transferring to a smaller college. The university had a complicated spiritual climate. There were encouraging things like chapel services that preached the gospel and created an environment for students to grow in their relationship with God. On the other hand, there were aspects of the university that were confusing or even contradictory to orthodox Christianity. For instance, above the main entrance of the science building, the words of Colossians 1:16: “For everything was made by Him…” were etched into the stone. My first semester, I had a class in that building, and the professor not only denied Christianity but would often mock the claims of Christianity. The message inside the building contradicted the message on the outside of the building.
It took seven chapters, but we finally meet the man behind the name of the book we have been reading, Ezra. The first few verses offer his genealogy and tell us he came from a long line of priests. Like those who came before him, he was “skilled in the law of Moses,” and the “hand of the LORD his God was on him” (Ezra 7:6). Throughout the chapter, we are told the Lord had given Ezra a very specific task.
Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.
The timing of Ezra’s ministry in the book caught my attention. The temple has been completed. The important work of rebuilding was done. Chapter 6 ends with a feast and celebration because the work was finished, but that’s not where the story ends. God sends Ezra to teach the people so that they would know and obey the law of God. It reminds us of what we hear throughout the Old Testament story: God does not simply want holy places; He wants holy people. As important as the temple was, God never intended for His people to be known for a “godly” building, but to be known for godly hearts. Ezra was commissioned with that sacred task. The building was complete, but there was work needed in the hearts and minds of the people.
God wants us to pay attention here. There is a tendency in my heart, and maybe yours, to emphasize the external parts of our relationship with God and neglect the change He wants to bring on the inside. We don’t simply want Bible verses etched on the walls; we want Christlikeness to form our hearts. This is the work God has always been after in the lives of His people. May we respond to Him with faith.