The Old Testament priest/scribe Ezra was a man of God. His lifestyle provided a model of practical godly leadership to a people in desperate need of hearing God’s word and seeing God’s will lived out practically.
In the ancient Hebrew language, the infinite construct with the preposition לֽ (pronounced ‘le’) often complements the main verb by expressing the purpose, goal or result to which the main verb points. In Ezra 7:10, there are three infinite construct forms that are used in this way in a verse which highlights Ezra’s personal commitments.
The narrator has already introduced Ezra as a minister with the right pedigree (7:1-5) and the right professional abilities: he was a סֹפֵר
(pronounced ‘sepher’ – a scribe), skilled in the Torah of Moses. Ezra’s every request was granted him by the Persian king and his ministry flourished ‘because the good hand of YHWH his God was on him’ (7:6,9). Ezra 7:10 then provides the reason for this divine favour:
‘For Ezra set his heart to study the Torah of YHWH, and to practice it, and to teach its statutes and ordinances to Israel’
Here we find the main verb הֵכִין (to set, establish) followed by three infinite construct verbs with לֽ preposition לִדֽרוֹשׁ לַעְַשׂ לֽלַמֵד pronounced la’asht, li drosh, le lamed, each of which clarifies the purpose to which Ezra committed himself – to study, to practice and to teach. This progression of action, grounded in God’s word, characterised Ezra’s life and ministry, and modern day Christians are perhaps wise to follow this example. Sound study of the scriptures must give rise to personal practice. Personal practice may then serve as a basis for effective teaching. Fara too often however, preachers and teachers lose the centrality of the Word in their ministry or confuse the order of Ezra’s resolve. So focus on teaching techniques or spiritual gifts at the expense of quality time in the Word will end with a substitution of the true essence of the Christian witness with a cheap and superficial shape or presentation of the faith.
Being quick to proclaim God’s truth but slow to make personal application will result in allegations of hypocrisy and shallowness. Such are those who have forgotten that it is only those of a pure heart that will see God (Matt 5:8). Still others apply the word without actually studying it, thus allowing their own definitions of right and wrong to guide faith and conduct rather than the divine will as revealed in scriptures.
Ezra was serious about understanding God’s word, applying it to his own life and proclaiming it to others – in that order. We would do well to follow that pattern. Paul exhorted the young man Timothy to ‘study to show himself approved, a man able to correctly handle the word of truth’. If there is no study, there is no approval. If a man has no approval then the Christian church really should not be listening to such a man.