Title: Finding the Favor of God by Fulfilling your Purpose in Life.
Text: Ezra 7
Introduction: We’re in chapter 7 of Ezra. The next few sermons will reflect the previous messages on Ezra. In Ezra 1-6, we saw an edict from a king, a return of the people and strong opposition by the inhabitants of the land. In Ezra 7-10 we’ll see much of the same thing: a decree from the King, a return of the people as they face strong opposition.
Let me begin this morning by asking you a question: What is your purpose in life? Let me show you where I’m going with this as you ponder this question: What is your purpose in life? At Calvary, we say our purpose is to develop passionate followers of Christ. Calvary, what is your mission statement? …developing passionate followers of Christ! That’s why we’re here at 6704 Old Jacksonville Hwy.
I’m reading a book entitled: 7 men and the secret of their greatness. These 7 men are men who have impressed Eric Metaxes. Show video: Let me tell you about a couple.
- George Washington, who had every opportunity to sieze power and become the 1st King of America, but saw a greater purpose for his life. And boy are we blessed today because of his selfless actions.
- William Wilberforce, who saw the purpose of his life was the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners. This purpose drove him.
- Eric Liddell – missionary to China, Olympic Gold medalist, Chariots of Fire. He died in a concentration camp at the young age of 43 in 1945. Metaxes writes that in 2008, just before the Beijing Olympics, Chinese authorities revealed that Liddell had refused an opportunity to leave the camp, and instead gave his place to a pregnant woman. He could have been freed. He could have been reunited with his family, yet chose to sacrifice his pleasure for that of a woman in need. Apparently, the Japanese and British, with Churchill’s approval, had agreed upon a prisoner exchange. News of this final act of sacrifice surprised even his family members.
- Dietrich Bonheoffer – murdered by the Nazis. He actually fled Europe and made it to America, only to return to face the Nazis, to be imprisoned. He, a pastor, a professor, a mentor to young men, was in the group of men who plotted and planned the assassination of Hitler. A movie was made starring Tom Cruise – Valkyrie.
- Jackie Robinson – who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The trial and tribulation he endured is almost unimaginable. Just because his skin was the wrong color.
- Pope John Paul II: A truly amazing story.
- Chuck Colson: One of my all-time heroes.
Each of these men had purpose. They saw what they were doing gave them purpose – and it drove them. What is even more amazing is that they faced severe trials during it all. Like, God where are you in all of this kinds of trials. And yet they persevered. Today, we’re going to the purpose Ezra had and how it drove him to follow God.
Transition: I’ve outlined this passage, thus –
- A Description of Ezra, the Priest
- A Decree by Artexerxes, the King
- A Doxology of Blessing and Favor
So, let’s begin with the 1st section…
- A Description of The Priest: Ezra (1-11)
exp.: rd v 1a;
- He gives a Date (1); in the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia – 465-425 BC; v 7 tells us the 7th year of the king – that’s be 458 (BC); rd v 1b-5;
- He is a Descendant of the High priestly line (1-5) – this alone doesn’t determine who he is; it isn’t to make him proud or arrogant (though many High Priests seem to take this line). No, it is to show us that God is faithful. He keeps his promises.
app.: Some of you are from godly stock. Your parents were strong believers and raised you in the church – as did their parents for them – your grandparents. I think that is truly awesome. But that doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Some of you came to Christ without the benefit of godly parents – or godly grandparents. That doesn’t make you any worse. God’s faithfulness is demonstrated though both! Celebrate that and boast in Him. Next,
- A Description – rd v 6;
- Position: Scribe (6); a lawyer, copied the law. Rd 6b;
- Ability: Skilled; Learned (11); this is more than position – a priest; I’m sure there were many men who were priests who were not skilled; But, Ezra knew God’s Word so well that the King knew he knew it.
- Leadership: rd v 7-9; The Group & Their Journey (7-9); He takes the time to assemble of team of quality, of men to accomplish this task. If you missed it before: the hand of the Lord was with him in v 6, 9; This has been the desire of my heart – that God’s hand would be with me in this ministry. Will you pray that for me – God, let your good hand be upon our pastor and this ministry. And here is where we see his purpose as expressed in his character; rd v 10a
- Character: defined in His Purpose; set his heart: The Law of the Lord (10);
This past week I taught the NT class at Venture and one of our discussions was upon the purpose of Christ in Luke: He set his face toward Jerusalem in 9.51. Time and again, Luke brings the reader back to that purpose. Chapter after Chapter, reminding us as Jesus makes his way toward Jerusalem – and then it culminates in the cry of our Master as he stands on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem. 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Earlier in Luke, as he makes his way to Jerusalem he cries out: 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Christ knew his purpose. And here, Ezra knows his purpose, too: rd 10b; a three-fold purpose
- To Study the Torah
- To Do it (Obey the Torah)
- To Teach the Torah
Ill.: in my 1st year as a pastor – 18 years ago, I had came to a point of struggle. I had no idea what I was doing. I had a book from my college days that led me to create a purpose statement for my life. I’ve shared this with you before:
I will strive with skillful hands
To build and equip leaders to accomplish the Great Commission,
By being an example through service,
An effective communicator of God’s Word,
And a faithful and loving husband and father,
As I work daily to conform to the character of Christ.
app.: Who you are isn’t determined by your success or failures; who you are is determined by what you do based upon your God given ability given you and the usage of those gifts in your life to fulfill your purpose. The Results: those are God’s. You do – he blesses. You obey – he uses. You give – he accomplishes. You don’t know what God is doing. Your job is to trust. Hold on to what you know – and keep the faith.
I didn’t write out my purpose statement in a few minutes. It took work, re-wording, moving things around. It took thought and input from those around me who I’ve given permission to speak into my life. I want to encourage you to do the same thing. If you have questions, I’ll share my journey. I’m sure I can find the book that helped me. Aubrey Malphurs.
Transition: A description of the priest. 2ndly,
2. A Decree from The King: Artexerxes (11-26)
exp.: Ok, I say “A Decree” and that’s true, but really, as you read this, you’ll see it as two decrees. The 1st one is v 13-20 and the 2nd one is v 21-26; Now, verse 11 begins this next portion. I added it to the last section because the comments here fit with the previous section: a man learned in matters of the commandments and statutes for Israel. It’s interesting to see how many times the word Torah or the context of the Torah appears in this passage (ch 7):
- 6 – He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord,…
- 10 – For 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.
- 11 – a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel
- 12 – the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven.
- 14 – For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand
- 21 – Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence,
- (24), – We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll
- 25 – all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach.
- 26 – Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”
exp.: There is a short introduction in v 12 and the Decree is 13-20; The 2nd Decree is outlined in 21-26;
- Decree #1 (11-20) – Whosoever may freely go;
- Decree #2 (21-26) – How it is to be funded – this is how it is going to be paid for…
Look at the beginning of this 1st Decree: rd v13-14; according to the Law of your God, that is in your hand. You’ll see this again in v 25, at the end of the 2nd Decree; rd v 25; And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand… It’s pretty subtle, but don’t miss this: it really is a sweet comparison – The King, and I’d say Ezra, too, since he’s the writing this out here before us – when Ezra holds the Torah of God in his hand, he has the wisdom of God in his hand, too. Too often we take the O.T and we divide it up into parts. We read Psalms and separate them from the Torah, or the History, or the Apocalyptic portions – like they’re not wisdom liturature. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, this – hold your copy up – Go ahead – this is the wisdom of God, right here in your hand.
Challenge: Teachers, Elders, Deacons, Bible Study Leaders, Missionaries, Staff – look at the end of the 2nd decree: rd 25: 25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. You shall teach them the manifold wisdom of God. That’s my challenge to you: teach the manifold wisdom of God!
ill.: Paul told Timothy: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (Grandma Lois and momma Eunice) 15 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. (2 Tim 3.14-15) Parents, Moms, Dads, Grandparents – teach the manifold wisdom of God to those in your care.
app.: the wisdom of God in your hand! Wisdom, that leads to salvation. Teacher, ask your students if they want to receive Christ and the forgiveness of sin. Teach them of salvation and lead them to it.
This final section is entitled:
3. A Doxology: Blessing & Favor (27-28)
exp.: Blessed be God…who; look at the work of God:
- Who put it on the King’s heart to beautify his Temple… What a great reminder for me that God is in control. Aren’t you glad that God is still in control of this crazy world? I’m reminded when I look at the people running for president… the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord… Proverbs 21.1: The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
- Who extended to me his steadfast love… Aren’t you glad for God extending to you his steadfast love? He says to you, what the King said to the Jews – whosoever will, may come!
This thought actually crossed my mind as I read this 1st decree: rd v 13; And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. Whosoever desires to go – may go. And that’s the gospel. Anyone, whosoever desires to come, let him come along with us! Come with me! If you’ve never asked Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and found the promise of heaven…Come!
- Transition: In just a moment I’m going to ask Chris to come and lead us in a time of singing. During this time, if you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or you just have questions… come.
That same cry goes out to you today. Freely, heaven has been made available to you. Do you get that? At no cost to you, the price has already been paid in full – all you have to do is receive the free gift of God!
Transition: rd last sentence of v 28: I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.
Normally, here is where I outline my take-a-ways, but this morning I wish to do things differently. Can I ask you to take courage and respond, if the hand of the Lord is on you now?
If you’ve never asked Christ to come into your life, would you do it now?