Learned For The Lord 1 – Beyond The Call Of Man
Updated: Mar 13, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. (Ezra 7:6b-7)
Almost 60 years passed between the events of the last chapter (when the Temple was rebuilt) and this chapter (when Ezra returned to Jerusalem). A lot happened in those six decades.
Darius who helped the Jews to rebuild the Temple had died. Xerxes who succeeded him was the one responsible for giving us the graphic novel and movie “300”. He invaded Greece and the Spartan King Leonidas famously resisted him at Thermopylae despite overwhelming odds. Xerxes was also the one who married Esther (a couple of years after his failed invasion). Artaxerxes succeeded Xerxes about a dozen years later.
Like Cyrus and Darius, Artaxerxes also reacted very favourably to the Jews. He provided Ezra with a lot of resources (Ezra 7:15-16, 22) for the Temple. He also gave Ezra very considerable authority: “And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates – all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.” (Ezra 7:25-26)
Who was this Ezra? Why was he so well respected and trusted by Jews and Gentiles alike?
Ezra was a priest, according to his birth and lineage. He was also a teacher, according to his learning and function.
Ezra was born into the priesthood, where he could serve God by performing the various rituals in the Temple. But he went beyond that, studying diligently to become well versed in the Mosaic Law so he could teach others too. He became so good at it that Artaxerxes even entrusted him to appoint magistrates and judges and train them!
We applaud people who serve with the talents they’re born with, in the roles they are assigned to, and rightfully so. But what about those who stretch their talents and serve beyond what they’re called to? How much more should we respect and imitate their desire to glorify God?
We are all blessed with different abilities and resources. Some are more skilled, some have greater wealth, some have more experience and some have more time. The question is, how much of these are we using for ourselves and how much for God? Why are we so consumed about meeting our own needs (which are mostly well met already) that we forget about the much greater needs that others have?
We often find ourselves encouraging, persuading and even challenging people to use their talents to serve God and others. Society is so selfish that we are even relieved when we see some people doing just that. Have our standards dropped so low that we’ve become satisfied just because people give out of their God-blessed abundance? Don’t get me wrong, we should be appreciative that they’re not hoarding all their abilities and resources to themselves. Better something than nothing, right? But shouldn’t we expect more?
Do we dare to call people to sacrifice, just as God has called us to? Do we encourage people to step out of their comfort zone? Do we challenge people to stretch their limits, so that they learn and grow through the process? It is only when they attempt beyond their ability and rely on faith that they can see God work miracles.
Our church needs people who are willing to take ownership and exercise initiative. The world needs it too. In fact, if we really care for the people around us, we will do that. A lifeguard would save a drowning man after his office hours. It doesn’t matter that his shift is over, or if he’s not trained to do a certain kind of rescue. He would go beyond the call of duty and try his best because a life is at stake.
Souls are at stake.
Do we simply perform our human assigned roles, or do we allow the Spirit to move us? Do we serve within our abilities and give within our limits, or do we serve with faith in God’s power?
Let’s learn from Ezra’s example. Let’s stretch ourselves beyond the call of man, and fulfil the call of God.
Read more about ‘Learned For The Lord’: Learned For The Lord 2 - Devoted To Study, Observe & Teach
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry of the Central Christian Church. He describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.