In reading through Ezra, I was once again struck by the summary description of Ezra’s ministry to the returned exiles found in 7:9–10
“For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.“
This text presents several lessons for pastoral ministry:
1. The Call of God – In verse 9 it is stressed that Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem was the result of God’s hand being upon him. A pastor needs to understand that his role is the result of the calling and leading of God, not his own ambition.
2. The Study of God’s Word – Ezra “set his heart” to study God’s Word. This expression involves both the will and the affections. A pastor must be a person who makes the study of God’s Word foundational to his own life and ministry. Without this foundation, pastoral ministry is doomed.
3. The Practice of God’s Word – Ezra sought not only to gain knowledge when studying the Word, but to live it out. A pastor must be someone who not only excels in cognitive knowledge of Scripture, but also applied knowledge of Scripture. Many a pastor’s profound teaching from the Word is severely undercut by a failure to live out Scripture before his people in such a way that his actions match his teaching. Of course, no one does this perfectly, but it must be the intention of the pastor to apply his study of the Word FIRST to himself.
4. The Teaching of God’s Word – Ezra fully intended to not merely gain knowledge of Scripture for himself or even live it out, but also to teach the Word to others. This commitment to the teaching of God’s Word must be foundational to a pastor’s ministry, NO MATTER WHAT CAPACITY HE SERVES IN. This is not merely for the “senior” or “preaching” pastor, but for every pastor/elder who serves in the church. Of course this will look different depending on the nature of his ministry, but it is the bedrock for all pastoral ministry.
In closing, I should note that the call to study, live, and teach God’s Word is not limited to pastors, but to all of God’s people. Are you committed to the study, application, and teaching of God’s Word?
Since 2006 Dr. Matthew S. Harmon has served as Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Find out more at his blog, Biblical Theology, which is a forum for all matters pertaining to biblical theology (and some entirely unrelated).