Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Preparing the Heart for the Word

UV 1682/10000 Preparing The Heart for the Word
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments
Ezra 7 v 10

Ezra was a ready and willing scribe for the Lord as he was filled with zeal for the Lord. By studying the Word, he added knowledge to his zeal. His tongue was the pen of a ready writer in the hands of the Lord. What he wrote, did and spoke was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Just as the soil needs to be tilled and ploughed and watered in order to receive the good seed and grow it, so also our hearts and souls in order to be the good soil, need to be prepared. Ezra prepared his heart with aone time prayer of commitment to seek the Word lifelong and daily for he understood that it contained the law of the moral and spiritual universe in which we live. He committed his life to studying the Word diligently, applying it steadfastly and teaching it faithfully. He lived on every word that proceeded from the mouth of God. He used the Word of God to move the mountains in his life. The result was that he had the grace of the Lord and the favour of the king. The king granted whatever and whoever was needed for the project of re-building the temple at Jerusalem. Ezra had success in fulfilling his vision and mission in life. Hearing or reading the Word after prayer is the equivalent of cooking food but to live by it is equivalent of eating the prepared food. The people of Israel was attentive when Ezra taught and spoke from the Word and they were given understanding, reverence and wisdom. When we pray over and meditate on the Word, we prepare our own hearts for the Word. When we pray and teach the Word, we are preparing the hearts of others for the Word.

Unlike Ezra, most of us prepare not our hearts but our minds to hear and understand the Word. We, too in our day and time need to prepare our hearts to seek the Lord, to study the Word, to do it and to teach it to our generation. To seek means to actively and persistently search. We will find great wisdom and riches of understanding in the Word that will bless and enlarge our lives. It requires preparation of our hearts to seek and understand the Word. Ezra not only prepared his heart but he prepared the hearts of the people of Israel by beginning with praise and thanksgiving before the public reading of the Word. He read the Word aloud for half a day and it moved the people to mourning and repentance. Ezra then comforted them and asked them to rejoice. Whatever be our sorrow, when we read, memorize and meditate on the Word, we will be caused to rejoice. To rejoice implies to be joyful again. Our flow and our glow will come from the Lord. Despite the defeat, the humiliation and the captivity of the Jews in the Babylonian empire, they were able to rejoice again. This is the process of salvation: sorrow or repentance at our sinful state, understanding of God’s holiness, grace and mercy, blessings of eternal life and a harvest of peace and joy everlasting. The promises of God need to be sown with the sweat of obedience and the tears of repentance and persistence in prayer before we can have a harvest of joy and blessings.

The Word acts as a spiritual dual image mirror to reflect the image of God and our own. That image is not meant to make us feel inferior or guilty but to inspire us to apply the principles embedded in the Word so that we reap the blessings. Faithful application implies that we consciously and diligently try to bridge the gap between our own image and the image of God. The statutes of the Lord contain the principles and the promises. Knowledge becomes wisdom when we apply it. The judgements contain the application of the principles and promises to our everyday real-life situations. These principles teach us what we should do and what we should not do in every conceivable real life situation. They keep our eyes from tears and our feet from stumbling. They are guideposts, signboards, a lamp for every step we take as well as a light to give us eternal, long term perspective. Believing and claiming a promise is also obedience or application. Sometimes, due to miscued timing, we jump the gun like Sarah did when she suggested that Abraham needed help to fulfil God’s promise to him by offering him a surrogate mother - Hagar. Sarah tried to substitute God’s will, method and timing with her own will, method and timing. We should not end up substituting our will, method and timing for God’s will, method and timing. The Word is God speaking to us. The fulfilment is God acting in us and for us. We need to wait patiently, expectantly, thankfully, ‘praisefully’ and joyfully for God to act and not to try to jump ahead as we seem to be running out of time. Preparing our hearts amounts to waiting as long as it takes the Lord to act. Preparing our hearts to study the Word implies that we devote ourselves to understanding the Word, practicing it in our daily lives and communicating to others our understanding as well as our experience of the blessings of practicing, doing or believing it.

Prateep V Philip

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