Old Testament roots for New Testament faith
By Scott Morgan
I had the wonderful fortune of being raised around my grandparents. My grandfather was larger than life to me: hard working, caring, loving. Loved to laugh, in spite of his tough exterior. Through his words and his example, he passed those principles on to me, adding “The one thing nobody can take from you is your education.” He was my first father figure and one of my greatest inspirations.
The wonderful thing about what he passed along to me is that those lessons are timeless truths, and the reasons they’re timeless truths is that they are just as relevant to pass along to my son as they were for his father to pass along to him. Hard work, love of family, and education are concepts that are not likely to die out. They provide a foundation for living.
As Christians, we take our foundation for living primarily from Jesus and the teachings of the New Testament. We, however, must never forget that what we read in the new has its origins in the old. And nestled in the heart of the Old Testament is a passage that would become not only my life verse, but serves as one of the earliest blueprints for how we might live as Christians.
Ezra 7:10 (HCSB) reads, “Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra laid out a foundation for Christian living hundreds of years before Christianity was even a thing. It all starts with determination of heart–the innermost core and concept of who we are. It beings with having an all-in attitude and desire for one’s objective. And he channeled that into three aspects of living.
First, he committed himself to the “study of the law of the Lord.” Ezra wanted to know God’s word, inside and out, front to back. This was important for a couple of reasons; one being that he was a Hebrew priest and scribe (the job called for it), but also because “the gracious hand of his God was on him” (v. 9). He was a man of God, and the man after God’s heart seeks to know Him and His word in a deep, intimate way that can only come with time spent in earnest prayer and study of Scripture.
Second, Ezra dedicated himself to obeying the law. It’s never just enough to know something if you don’t apply it. This is certainly true in relationships and is all the more true in our relationship with Christ. As we read in 1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV), “To obey is better than sacrifice.” Time and again we see examples of the Lord wanting (and rewarding) the obedience of His children.
Last, he purposed in his heart to “teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” As a priest and scribe, standing before the congregation to deliver the Word of God came with the job (see Nehemiah 8:1-12). But he didn’t teach just to do it or because it was his job; Ezra communicated God’s truth because it was in his heart to do so. He had a burning desire in his core to see lives changed and transformed (the highest motivation for those who teach). It was in his DNA and part of his core.
To put it another way, if Ezra was a New Testament Christian, he wouldn’t just be on the front row on Sunday morning. He’d be living the life as a disciple the rest of the week and lead a Bible study (or two)…all out of his love of the Lord. That’s commitment!
As Christians, it’s sometimes easy to say “That’s fine, but that’s Old Testament.” Next time you’re tempted to say that, just remember some of the lessons your parents or grandparents might have taught you. Those truths are timeless, just as the truths Ezra used as his foundation.
Scott Morgan is a proud Oklahoma State Cowboy, and the father of an LSU Tiger and an LHS Mighty Lion. He is an insurance advisor, as well as a trainer and speaker, and co-hosts two personal development podcasts in Lafayette. He is also a member of Crossroads Church, where he serves in the MAPS, small group, and media ministries.