Diligent Preparation Demonstrates God’s Grace
Eric Newton: It was a privilege to speak in seminary chapel on the ministry of Ezra. As you well know, he was an Old Testament scribe; he helped the people of Israel after they had returned from the Babylonian captivity. And there’s this verse in chapter 9—it’s actually in the middle of a prayer by Ezra when he’s confessing on behalf of the Lord’s people their sins. And he says that there was a “little space” for God to show His grace. In other words, we would call it a window of opportunity, and they needed to capitalize on that, repent of their sins and turn back to him.
When we think of God’s grace, we tend to think of God giving us an opportunity or a platform for ministry. And God certainly does that by His grace. But I think what Ezra’s ministry teaches us is that, actually, God shows his grace by enabling our preparation for those moments. Two chapters earlier it says, Ezra had set his heart—he had established, he had devoted his heart—to study the law of the Lord, and to do it—to obey it—himself, and to teach the Lord’s statutes in Israel. In other words, for decades probably, Ezra had been preparing for this moment of grace—for this little space. And now the moment had come, and he was stepping into it with all this preparation.
I tend to pit God’s grace against human effort. But as one author puts it, God’s grace is is not against effort; it’s against earning. It’s the opposite of earning. And so what we see in Ezra’s ministry is that the good hand of the Lord was upon him not just in that he enabled his ministry when the time came, but his grace was shown in enabling Ezra to prepare for that moment and to establish his heart in that direction. And by God’s grace, we can follow that example.