A Response to Ezra 7:10

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    Amber Zachry

    I loved the beautiful picture that you spoke of, Jane, in Ezra’s seeking and remaining in God’s Word: that “he took it in hand to seek God’s Word as he lived in the surrounding of God’s hand.” These words are powerful imagery and they are just as true for us. Just yesterday, I was helping my son memorize 2 Timothy 3:14-15: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. I love how God uses moments in your day to fasten and tie Scripture together and that time spent studying His Word is exactly the catalyst that the Holy Spirit implements to turn on a light bulb in your mind from what you’ve been chewing on earlier. As I read your post today from last week’s Ezra recap, it struck me that there was an intimacy between Ezra and the Lord that had been established from that constant and consistent leaning in, studying, and learning God’s Word–that day in, day out process of reading, applying, following, practicing, caring for it reverence that only comes from that time spent in it. That “trampled-down path” that has that sort of familiarity and intimacy within it that only comes from having tread it over and over again from either that slow meandering or the well-worn grooves that come from feet pounding in a steady, unswerving gait. That intimacy that rests there on that path is one between friends, intimate acquaintances. Like you mentioned in your post, it is one that the Song of Solomon depicts as the most intimate–that highest form of intimacy that God ordained for us in the Garden of Eden and is a beautiful image of our unique intimacy and union with Him: marriage.

    So, how does all of this tie in to Ezra’s setting his heart to “study the law of the Lord” in 7:10? It’s just as you said, he positioned his heart to allow such intimacy. He allowed God “intimate access” to him through His Word. And that connection to Timothy? Well Paul is commanding Timothy to continue in what he has learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (2 Tim. 3:14). In the Greek, the word used for “continue” is meno and is used in this context to mean of him who cleaves, holds fast, to a thing. Well we know that Paul was charging Timothy to defend the faith from those false teachers in Ephesus who were teaching “different doctrine,” or in other words, anything that disagrees or contradicts what is found in Scripture. Not so much is different today, I’d surmise. So, Paul’s urgency to Timothy is expressed in the Greek word meno (cleave, hold fast) to what he has learned because Paul understands something that Ezra did: all of this cleaving, holding fast to the Word that he’d learned was “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). So, maybe just maybe time spent in the Word, learning, studying, chewing on it, setting our hearts upon it all leads to something rather important: ever-increasing intimacy with our triune God. And there is no immediate pathway to getting to know God’s word intimately, as Sinclair Ferguson notes in his book, “Devoted to God.” We have to go about this the old fashioned way by reading it, taking it in, learning it well…for the truth of the gospel illumines our minds, informs our understanding, permeates our mindset, and in turn, recalibrates our affections to love what we have now come to understand. The Word that we come to understand helps to change our affections. And there it is. This same Word that Ezra was reading is what Timothy had been taught and is now being charged to defend. Paul commands Timothy to defend the Word from false doctrine as if in warfare, for he also understood that what we truly love, we will fight for, even die for. We also cannot love that which we do not know or understand. Just as in marriage, there must be intimacy that grows over time. It must be cultivated. Worked and lived in. Often, it takes hard work learning to live with and grow alongside another and yes, often it is not easy. But neither is finding that hour or more to deep dive into Scripture before the kids are awake and to learn it intimately, to sit with it, think on it, pray it, to really study it and learn it as one would approach anything worthy of such attention and devotion.

    And this love and intimacy that grows over time? This is the beauty and power of God’s Word. Ezra understood this and Paul exhorts Timothy to cleave to it, hold fast to it. Because the more that we come to know Jesus through God’s Word by God’s Spirit, a process of change happens to our feelings, desiring, thinking, willing, and living. Not only are we being sanctified, but our intimacy deepens. It grows. That path gets trampled down more and more as we read His Word, because when we do so, we cleave to Him, we are abiding in the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). And that same Greek word, “meno” that Paul urges Timothy to do in 1 Tim. 3:14? Well the same Greek word, meno, is used for abide in John 8:31-32 when Jesus speaks the words, “if you abide (meno) in my word, you truly are my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” For abiding is something the apostle John understood quite well as he often refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. And just over in 1 John 4:16, he uses the same Greek word, meno, to say that we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever (meno-abides) in love abides (meno) in God, and God abides (meno) in him. This is intimacy like no other. This is intimacy of the highest form. It is cleaving too, holding fast. Remaining, abiding. Just like marriage—and just as in the first God-ordained marriage in the Garden of Eden, God charges Adam to leave his father and his mother and hold fast (or cleave) to his wife, and they shall be one flesh (Gen. 2:24). And the unity between husband and wife within marriage only points to our union with Christ as our Savior. For He is our Husband. And one day, we shall all sit at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as His Bride. But the more that we read His Spirit-inspired words here—well, the more that we grow in our love for Him. We grow in our knowledge of Him. We abide in Him. We are in union. It is a means of grace and of sanctification that the Holy Spirit uses to conform us more and more into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). And the more that we increase in intimacy with Him, the more we long to know Him even more–by trampling down that path of seeking His Word morning by morning and in turn becoming more obedient out of our love for Him. Just like Ezra, just like Timothy–we set our hearts, we continue in what we have learned and have firmly believed. We abide. For the beauty of it all is intimacy–“so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26-27). All for His glory.

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