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Ezra 7:10:

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

How exactly did Ezra the Scribe go about manifesting this?

A similar question but seeking a different answer.

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    Contemporary application is off-topic on this site.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 19 at 0:13
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+50

In Ezra 1:5 we are told, “Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” Also, that the Spirit of God stirred up the spirit of king Cyrus to authorise the rebuilding in the first place (vs. 1). This was in order to fulfil previous prophecies about restoring God’s people to the land after their designated years of captivity had been served.

Much later, when the rebuilding work had stalled and another king was in place, Ezra 7:6 tells us,

“…and he [Ezra] was a ready scribe in the law of Moses which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his requests, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.” [KJV]

This shows us that God’s hand was already upon Ezra, before he sought the new king’s permission to spur on the work in Jerusalem. That Ezra had prepared his heart regarding the law of the Lord prior to getting this permission is clear. So, what had he done? is the question.

Ezra, being a scribe, wrote copies of the law of God. He had to transcribe the Hebrew Torah into the Aramaic language of the day. He also wrote genealogies of the tribes of Israel (e.g. Ezra 8:1-14). He was a man of letters and a top librarian and his reputation was known to the king. That is why his commission to Ezra reads as it does, including this vital clue:

“And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates – all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.” (7:25-26 NIV)

In order to teach those who didn’t know those laws, Ezra would have to transcribe the Hebrew scriptures into Aramaic, for by then, the Israelites had virtually lost their original language, having lived for some 70 years in Babylon and also under Cyrus the Persian. Ezra had probably already done that before heading off to Jerusalem so that he would have a supply of Aramaic scripture scrolls ready to pass on to the first group of returned exiles.

This caused Ezra to praise God, “Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me” (vss 27-28). He already knew the restoration work in Jerusalem had stalled, so that he would have been in earnest prayer to God about this problem. Ezra’s desire was that true worship be restored, and he knew that obeying the law of God was vital in that respect. He knew exactly what God’s law stated and he had a burning, heart-desire to see Jerusalem lifted up with the temple being a house of prayer for all nations. This is evidenced by Ezra proclaiming:

“a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children and all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer” (8:21-23).

There is the answer to the question: First, by knowing and loving the law of God and the importance of teaching it to all the Israelites, he was moved to seek the king’s permission to kick-start the work in Jerusalem again, then to fast and pray before setting out with the great company of other Israelites on the risky journey. His preparation no doubt included rewriting the Hebrew scriptures in his possession up till that time, into Aramaic, to enable his teaching task.

Preparation of the heart has to combine accurate knowledge of God, love of God, and humility to seek God, and God’s hand is surely on all such. Ezra knew that from experience, and now when he had to put it into practice for this vital matter, his heart was prepared. He was seeking God, you see. And his desire was to teach the law of God to those already in Jerusalem who did not seem to be enjoying the Lord’s hand upon them. The rest of the account shows Ezra’s zeal in rectifying gross law-breaking (regarding marriage) when he discovered that particular violation of God’s law. He did not have a purely academic interest in the law of God. His heart burned to see the people carry it out, in order to experience God’s blessing upon them.

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This is an interesting and subtle question.

To prepare/set your heart to do X means to make a determined decision to do X. It means you truly want to do X and have decided you will do it, with no hesitation or doublemindedness.

So ultimately this is a question about singleness of purpose. It is intimately related to the question of faith.

The idea of a prepared heart is mentioned in many places in the Bible, but usually it is of the form "a person with a prepared heart does X". For example, we know that according to the Psalms, those with prepared/fixed/steadfast hearts sing to the Lord and praise him:

Psalm 57.7

My heart is steadfast, O God; My heart is steadfast. I will sing and give praise.

But the question is, if your heart is not steadfast, and you give praise, will that make your heart steadfast? Can you fake it until you make it?

We have to be careful here, because it's like in the peace offerings, we can't give the peace offering unless we already have peace in our heart. Otherwise we are giving the offering falsely (e.g. "God is spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth" - John 4.24).

Thus if you are already determined and single minded to study, then you just do it. That's what Ezra did.

But what if you are not in that position, because you have doubts, or your heart is divided, wanting sometimes to do X and sometimes not? Then you are in need, and God needs to give you a steadfast heart, which does happen in the scriptures, in the following cases:

  • to those that are afflicted/humble:

Psalm 10.17

LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear

  • to those who give to the Lord with joy:

1 Chron 29.17-19 -- David's beautiful prayer for Solomon and for the people:

I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee: And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for the which I have made provision.

  • to those who can at least set their heart to seek him. In this way, God will allow them to set their heart to the other things:

Matt 6.33

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

Matt 7.7

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:"

2 Chron 19.3

"Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God."

So although we can only get what we want with a prepared heart, if we can't set our hearts to study, we can set our hearts to want to set our hearts to study. Whatever we ask, we must ask with singleness of purpose, but we can work our way up:

Mark 9.23-24

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

But again, the key is to have singleness of purpose for what we ask, even if what we are asking is to have singleness of purpose. But singleness of purpose is required in order to get anything from God:

James 1.7-8

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

This idea that all you need to do is ask is common in the Wisdom literature, and great riches are promised to those who seek and ask, even to fools who ask:

Job 11.12-19

For vain man would be wise, Though man be born like a wild ass’s colt. If thou prepare thine heart, And stretch out thine hands toward him; If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, And let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; Yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear: Because thou shalt forget thy misery, And remember it as waters that pass away: And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; Thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning. And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; Yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety. Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; Yea, many shall make suit unto thee.

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  • Beautiful answer indeed beloved
    – יהודה
    Jul 13 at 4:17
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    Contemporary application is off-topic on this site, and you haven't really explained much about how Ezra himself prepared his heart. Could you please edit this to talk more about Ezra?
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 19 at 0:14

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