For Ezra Had Prepared

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10).

Ezra was born and raised in captivity away from the Jewish homeland of Israel. I’m sure it could have been extremely easy for Ezra to just fit it with the Babylonian and Persian culture. He could have decided to forsake his heritage and take part in the ways of the people around him.

What was Ezra doing while he grew up?

He prepared. Preparation implies that he knew he had a purpose. He was going to teach God’s law in Israel one day. But Ezra knew that in order to teach God’s word in Israel there was work to be done first.

Ezra prepared his heart. In order to teach, he must first be doing what he was going to teach. And in order to practice what he preached, he needed to seek God’s law to know what to practice.

For Ezra Had Prepared

This required a firm decision, an unwavering commitment to follow this path. Ezra prepared his mind and heart first. Long before he arrived in Jerusalem leading a group of returning exiles, he made a commitment in concrete to seek God’s law. Years before he led the people in repentance (Ezra 9-10), he was preparing his heart and mind to seek, learn and obey God’s Law. Decades prior to him being used by Nehemiah to lead the people in spiritual revival (Nehemiah 8), he was setting his heart firmly to follow God’s word.

The long and short of it is that if we want to be used by the Lord in His church, we need to like Ezra set our minds in concrete to follow God’s word and to live God’s way. Ezra’s steadfast determination to seek God’s law and do it prepared him to be in a position later to teach God’s law. This is the same for us, men.

Wear the seat of your pants out learning the word of God. Read it. Listen to it. Study it. Meditate upon it. Saturate yourselves in it. Put your heart in concrete to do what God tells you. That will prepare you just like Ezra to be a leader one day in God’s church.

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:15-16)

Simon, Simon

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Why would Jesus allow this to happen?

Parents, if you knew a predator was coming after one of your kids, wouldn’t you stop it? If Jesus is all-powerful, can’t he stop Satan from attacking Peter’s faith? If Jesus is all-loving, wouldn’t He want to stop Satan from attacking Peter’s faith?

Please understand that I am purely addressing the emotional aspect here, but this is where a lot of people stumble in their faith. Why does God allow such evil to exist? Why didn’t God just blast Satan into oblivion the moment he rebelled? Better yet, if God is all-knowing, why would God even create beings that He knew would rebel against Him?

We can really get ourselves into a mess trying to pass judgment upon God’s character based on our own emotions and flawed reasoning. I may speak of an “all-loving” God, but what is my definition of “all-loving”? Am I defining that concept from my own emotions and experiences?

Let’s look at how Jesus truly loved Simon Peter.

Jesus loved Peter enough to teach him what he needed to know.

Peter was given an intensive mentoring program with the Creator of the Universe, the Son of God! Think of all that Peter was taught and modeled in 3 ½ years with Jesus. All of the necessary tools were given to Peter to succeed spiritually; he was equipped by the Lord Himself.

On the heels of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial, He took Peter and disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is here that Peter is given another very valuable tool in fighting off temptation. While Jesus prayed, Peter slept – 3 times as a matter of fact. The warning and instruction that Jesus gave to him was, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:36-46). Great advice from the Master Teacher! Jesus Himself was doing these two things that night. Peter slept.

Later in Peter’s life, as an elderly man, he wrote about the importance of watchfulness and prayer (1 Peter 5:7-8). However, he was not going to understand the importance of that teaching until after he fell.

Our Lord may give us the tools we need, but He will not force us to use them. By the way, that is love. Love is a choice.

Jesus loved Peter enough to pray for him.

Jesus talked to the Father about him. Was Jesus praying that Peter would never “fail”? No, he prayed that his faith and his strength would not fail. Jesus knew what would happen that night between the Devil and Peter, but he prayed to the Father that it would not destroy Peter’s faith.

Can you imagine Jesus having a conversation with the Father about you? Do you believe it happens? Please understand that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then your name is discussed in heaven. When you pray, Jesus talks to the Father about you, too!

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Next week, we will continue looking into how Jesus was “all-loving” to Simon Peter. We will look at how Jesus loved Peter enough to allow him to make his own choices and to feel the sting of those choices.