smiling bearded man September 18 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezra 8:15–10:44; 1Chronicles 3:17-24

Godly Leadership

Some may think that being a minister is an easy job—you only have to work one day a week. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Whether you are a minister, parent, teacher, of some other Christian leader, godly leadership requires more than just a once a week commitment. Today, we will look at the characteristics of godly leadership from Ezra the priest.

From our last Bible study, we learned that Artaxerxes, king of Persia, was so impressed by Ezra, the priest and great teacher of the Mosaic Law, that he allowed him to return to the land of Israel with many of his fellow Jews and a royal delegation. His new assignment was to teach the people in the Trans-Euphrates (an area which included Judea and Samaria) the law of the LORD and to appoint governors who would act with justice and fairness. Ezra had consistent godly character, and the king realized the God of heaven was with him.

In today's Bible reading, Ezra takes his journey to Jerusalem. He looks at the group going with him and realizes there is not a single Levite among them. He needs good faithful Levites to help with the temple service, to lead in worship, and to help him teach the law to the people. He sends a delegation of men to enlist some Levites to help. Two hundred twenty temple servants and thirty-eight of the priestly line of Aaron, the original high priest, join Ezra and the others in their trek to Israel. Besides having good character, a great leader organizes a good team to help accomplish worthy tasks.

Ezra knows they need the LORD ’s help to be successful. He proclaims a fast for God’s protection. They fear bandits might steal their valuable treasures needed for the temple service. God protects them, and when they arrive, all the treasures are safe.

Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD.

They also delivered the king's orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God (Ezra 8:35-36, NIV).

After a few days, Ezra gets to the business at hand. First, there is an assessment of the situation. The report is not good.

The leaders came to me [Ezra] and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness” (Ezra 9:1-2, NIV).

Ezra, realizing the gravity of the situation, is deeply grieved and angry. He
knows in times past this rebellious behavior has been responsible for God's wrath in removing them from their land and sending Israel and Judah into exile. Ezra prays. He confesses the sins of his people and publicly shows his grief, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of the LORD. Godly leaders lead others in repentance when wrong has been done. Ezra's grief draws a large crowd, and the people also weep bitterly over their sins. What can they do?

One of the Jewish leaders suggests there is still some hope for Israel, if they make a covenant with God to send away their foreign wives and their children. This is a difficult thing to do, but Ezra agrees. So at an appointed time, each case of infidelity is examined, and the foreign wives and children are sent back to their own lands. Should today's Christians do the same if they marry unbelievers? No; we are not Jews and are not in their situation. The Apostle Paul instructs us,

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.

And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1Corinthians 7:12-16, NIV)

Although we are not called upon to divorce our unbelieving spouses, the larger principle of Ezra 10 does apply to us. The Bible says,

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

What harmony is there between Christ and Belial [wickedness or Satan]? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” [Ezekiel 11:20, NIV].

“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2Corinthian 6:14-18, NIV).

God wants us to avoid getting into trouble by not joining ourselves to unbelievers. This would include but not be limited to marriages. Unbelievers do not share our spiritual values and may undermine them. Marrying an unbeliever can hinder the faith of future generations. Adding an unbeliever to a church staff could cause spiritual compromises. Going into business with an unsaved partner could compromise its integrity. If we want to maintain a close walk with God, we need to separate ourselves from close relationships or joint ventures with unbelievers. If we are already in that relationship, however, we should pray for God to intervene and help us.

Lessons to Live By

  • Being a godly leader is not easy, and he knows that he needs the LORD’s help to be successful.
  • Godly leadership requires consistent godly character, tenacity, wisdom, boldness, constant vigilance, humility, support, and the ability to make difficult decisions and carry them out. When challenges arise, good godly leaders will meet them.
  • Do not be unequally joined with unbelievers so that you make compromises which displease the LORD and hinder your godly leadership.
  • Are you a believer in Christ? He offers each of us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). He can help you to be a godly leader.

Focus Verse

1Corinthians 16:13(NIV) “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”

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A Look Ahead: How can we Lead in Tough Times? Get some answers and encouragement from Nehemiah in our Next Lesson.

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