The Foundation of Heart Architecture
We’ve been the exploring the lives of three OT characters: Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. Last week, we finished with Zerubbabel. Today, we will look at Ezra. Next week, we will finally get to Nehemiah. Each played a significant role in the restoration of God’s people from exile.
Zerubbabel rebuilt to TEMPLE. Nehemiah will rebuild the WALLS of Jerusalem. Ezra led a REVIVAL among the people of God. By the end of Ezra 10, the people are God are coming forward, confessing their sin, re-committing their lives to YHWH God, and desiring his presence. How did that happen? By the end of this post, I hope you will see that revival requires the movement of God in the heart of his people.
Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer make this statement in their book, Transformational Church: “There can be no renewal, revival or rebuilding without a vision for and an experience of the all-consuming, all-illuminating presence of God (Transformation Church, pg. 15).” If you want revival, you need a hunger for God. You must desire him, and his presence, before anything else. How does this transformation happen? It starts with the architecture of our heart; revival is an inside out event. This is the foundation of the Second Wave Spirituality found in Ezra 7-10.
Love the Word of God
Second Wave Spirituality begins, first, by loving the WORD of God. Revival occurs with a renewed focus on God’s Word. Just to be clear, the Word of God revealed to us today is captured in the 66 books of the Old and New Testament. It is God’s special revelation, his love letter to his people. It reveals who he is, what he has done, and how we should live in response. This was true of Ezra, the priest. Look at Ezra 7:10,
“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 (Ezra 7:10, ESV).”
Ezra is in the business of HEART ARCHITECTURE. He is called the BUILD UP the people of God. This one verse offers some rich applicational points for us. What does it look like to love God’s Word?
- It moves our EMOTIONS. It captures our affections. Other translations say Ezra devoted himself to study. He dedicated all of his life to learning God’s word. It was on his mind when he went to sleep and when he woke up. Has God’s Word capture your affections? An affection is a fondness for something. When you wake up in the morning, do you see your study as something you have to do or something you get to do?
- It stimulates our INTELLECT. Our study expands. When we love God’s word, we want to go deeper in understanding God’s Word. That may mean joining a bible study, a small group, or even taking graduate level courses. If you love someone, you want to know more about them. What is your level of study with God’s word?
- It transforms our WILL. In other words, our lives are changed daily. When you spend time with someone, it changes you. You start to take on certain shared qualities. If you love God’s word and you are studying it deeply, you will be transformed. In fact, I would suggest that you would act different on the days you don’t study God’s word.
- We take ACTION. We are hungry to teach others. If you love God’s word, if you are studying it deeply, if it is transforming your life, how can you NOT tell others? This was Ezra. The Word of God exploded from his heart. He had a gift he could not help but share because he believed it offered the key to a flourishing life.
Trust the Hand of God
When you love the Word of God, you see how God works. What does Ezra say repeatedly? “The hand of the Lord my God was on me.” Ezra saw that God was guiding him and it built his faith. Do you trust the hand of God? You see, here is the thing, many of say we love the Word of God. We may read it every day, multiple times a day. However, when push comes to shove, when faced with a challenge, do we trust that the hand of God will be with us? And if you don’t trust the hand of God … why? For some of us, we do not have a Christian worldview. Others of us, we have a difficult time trusting anyone because of our life experience. Still others, we do not trust the hand of God because we want the glory for ourselves; we want to be the architect of the building.
Trusting the hand of God is all about heart architecture. Sometimes God challenges us so that we can see his hand at work in our lives. He wants to build our faith IN HIM! Ezra encounters a major challenge in 8:21,
“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods (Ezra 8:21, ESV).”
Let’s talk about Ezra’s specific journey for a moment. I want you to see how big a deal this way. (1) First, this journey was LONG—it was not a short trip. The total distanced covered would be 900 miles because they had to go north along the river to secure a water supply. They could not take the shortest route. (2) Second, this route was dangerous. There were many robbers and looters along the route who would seek the attack them. Ezra and his people were bring a considerable amount of Gold and Silver with them for the temple. After counting the costs and praying for a safe journey, Ezra says this:
For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” (Ezra 8:22, ESV)
Just to summarize—Ezra is leading 5000 people (men, women and children) on a dangerous 900-mile trip—on foot! They will be carrying with them thousands of pounds of silver and gold under threat of ambush. Ezra says, “I was ashamed to ask the king for help because I told him God would protect him.” This passage raises an important question: How do you balance FAITH and DISCERNMENT?
This question gets at the heart of God’s providential work in the world. I believe God works providentially in different ways. Was Ezra wrong? No. He was trusting in God’s SUPERNATURAL PROVIDENCE. Sometimes, God may be calling us to trust him and it makes no sense to anyone else. Some of us think Ezra is crazy. “Just ask for the escort and swallow your pride! You are being FOOLISH!” Now, what is interesting is that if you skip head to Nehemiah 2, he asks for an escort! All my preppers and planners say, “That’s right, Nehemiah is the wise, spiritual leader!” Was Nehemiah wrong? No. I think he was also trusting God. He was trusting in the MUNDANE PROVIDENCE of God. God supplied protection to Nehemiah because he had an escort from the king. Both can be true and both can be the hand of God. What is true in your situation?
Seek the Face of God
In Ezra 9 we learn that Ezra and his people have been in Jerusalem about 4 months. They are living with the people who came before them, they are tending to the temple, the people are hearing the Word of God! However, there is a problem. It comes to Ezra’s attention that the people of God have compromised their holiness. It was widespread. What is nature of the problem? The people of Israel, even their priests, are in bed … literally … with the people of the land. How does Ezra respond?
“As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled (Ezra 9:3, ESV).”
Okay—woah! Calm down Ezra—this seems extreme. You learn about some mixed marriages and you are tearing your clothes and ripping out your hair? Crazy! At least he is not as bad as Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 13, when there is problem—Nehemiah ripped out the offenders hair! Ezra was the pastor and Nehemiah was the political leader, so I suppose they act different! Now, some of us may be wondering why this is such a big deal. The laws forbids this action because who you marry deeply affects your children. Any foreigner would have worshipped a different God. As such, a generation of children would grow up confused.
Ezra loves the word of God. He has experienced the hand of God. And now, in the midst of deep spiritual grief, he seeks the face of God. He knows he is completely dependent upon him. He knows his people are completely dependent upon him. The rest of the chapter is a prayer of confession to God.
Ezra’s response shows us an important application point: Our Holiness Matters. You may think you secrets sins are no big deal, but they can affect the entire community. In this case, there was some cultural normativity to this practice that was far reaching. The question we should all ask ourselves is this: Am I spiritually compromised? Is that preventing a work of revival God wants to do in my heart? God cares about our holiness—he wants us to seek his face.
Where is God bringing conviction into your heart today? Conviction leads to revival. Maybe God is opening your eyes to a practice you thought was normal … but it’s not pleasing to him. Maybe there is a relationship that needs to be mended. Maybe we have not been seeking his face in prayer as you should. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and set you heart on fire—that’s revival! And if you feel spiritually dry, ask these diagnostic questions:
Do I love the Word of God? This is how God reveals himself to his people. If you don’t love his Word, how can you love God himself?
Can you say, like Ezra, the HAND OF GOD was with me? When you step out in faith and trust God … you see him work.
The psalmist once prayed, your face, of God, we seek. Are you pursuing the face of God? When you do your heart will be open to him in fresh ways. You will confess sin. You will have new affections and motivations. Your life will be different. And, I would argue, revival is just around the corner.