August 8 - Ezra and Paul
Both Ezra and Paul were greatly used of the Lord, the former in rebuilding the temple and the latter in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. In today’s readings, we find similarities and differences between their styles of ministry.
Ezra was descended from Aaron the chief priest. He was also a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses. The hand of the Lord was on him and the king Artaxerxes granted him favor to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The reason for such favor from God was because he was not only a student of the Law, he also practiced it before he taught God’s statutes and rules in Israel. From being a student, he became a practitioner, then a teacher of the Law. He was a great teacher in that he studied and then did what he eventually taught. Today, many teachers know the Word in principle, never do it themselves and dare to teach the Word to others. Ezra is a model teacher for all of us.
Paul, however, had several roles that he played throughout his ministry. First, he saw himself as a servant of God, as a steward of what God had given to him. What he wanted to be was to be found faithful. Only God judged him, not others and not even himself for he was God’s servant. As a steward, he also realized that everything he had came from the Lord for him to use and keep. There was nothing he could boast about and he urged others to think alike. Today, you may be wise, capable or even beautiful in appearance. When you come to think of it, all these have been given to you and you did not do anything to earn them. You may sometimes think that you come from a good gene but all have come from God. We should not boast of them or elevate or despise others according to those criteria.
More than that Paul saw himself as an actor, performing a play for men and angels. He knew that he was living his life in the presence of human and spiritual beings. His life transcends what can be seen and heard to the spirit realm. Whatever he was enduring from, he gladly accepted it with good cheers, knowing that what is seen is only temporary and he had to answer to a higher authority. Even though he was treated like the scum of the world and the refuse of all things, he knew who he was and what he was supposed to do.
Even his relationship with the Corinthian Christians was very special. He gave birth to them through the gospel and they became his own spiritual children. Although there were many teachers, even good ones, but there were very few fathers. Paul had the heart of a father, reflecting the heavenly Father. Ezra might be a great scholar, practitioner and teacher, but Paul went beyond all that. Are you aspiring to be a great teacher or a father with spiritual children? Ask for God’s help now.
Ps 84:9-12 Ezra 7:1-8:20 1 Cor 4:1-21 Prov 20:28-30