Let’s now consider the final two examples of those who acted with “Purpose of Heart” to please God.
Ezra the Scribe
In Ezra 7:10, we read “For Ezra had prepared his heart (set his heart) to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”
The Dedication of Heart – A Readiness
“This Ezra” was a man of distinction and dedication. He became a priest by ancestry and consecration, but he only became a ready scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given, by the personal study of the Word. While, by virtue of consecration, the priest was entitled by grace to minister before God, he could only minister acceptably before men when all was done in obedience to the Word.
It would have been impossible for him to teach unless he had been acquainted with the mind of God. It was neglect of this second part of their office that led to the failure and corruption of the priesthood. So completely forgotten was the Word of God in the days of Josiah, that the finding of a copy of the Law in the Temple became an epoch in his reign.
Moving on from the scope of Ezra’s attainments, consider the secret of these in his ambition (v 10). This is a great verse!
Acquisition of divine truth for himself – to learn it
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law.” God reveals the precious things of His Word to the hearts of the believers. Ephesians 1:18 reminds us, “The eyes of your understanding (heart) being enlightened, that you might know what is the hope of His calling” (ESV). In John 20, we clearly see that it was to the heart of Mary Magdalene that the Lord manifested Himself at the sepulcher and not to the intelligence of the disciples (see also 1 Cor 8:1-3; Heb 10:22; 1 Jn 3:20-23).
Inclusion of divine truth in his life – to live it
As Ezra “prepared his heart,” it was first and foremost so that he might “do it.” It was not so much to increase his knowledge or add to his reputation as a teacher, but that his heart, life, and ways might be formed by it. It was his desire and determination that his own life might be the very embodiment and exposition of the truth he taught. Many years ago, the great assembly writer, John Ritchie, gave a very definite warning to believers of the tragic possibility of “trafficking in unfelt truth.”
There are three New Testament examples of Ezra’s desire to live out divine truth in daily life:
Acts 1:1: “The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.”
Philippians 4:9: “The things which you both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
James 1:22: “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves.”
The Communication of divine truth to others – to teach it
Ezra’s goal was to teach others. This is exactly what Paul told Timothy in relation to the truth of God in (2 Tim 2:2), “And the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
Daniel the Stalwart
In Daniel 1:8, we read “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.”
Determination of Heart – A Resolve
Attempts were made to change the names, speech, and food supply of Daniel and his companions. The world of today continues to make such an attempt upon the believer. In exchange for their nationality, there was held out to them a free course in the best education in the land, the finest of available food, and an exalted place in the king’s palace.
However, involvement with the king’s scheme would present some difficulties for these devout Jews. It would involve disobedience to the Word of God. Eating food offered to idols was strictly forbidden by God. The test presented to them was clear. Would they disobey the direct instructions of the Word of God for the sake of promotion, privilege, and protection?
Daniel and his companions no doubt would have considered these appealing options and arguments:
Expediency: To raise an objection would probably spoil future opportunities of being useful to others. It may also create difficulties for the other captives.
Reason: Thinking rationally, it was an act of God that brought them into captivity, and to refuse might be seen as rebellion on their part. Perhaps the only right thing to do would be to submit to the authorities.
Compromise: Providing they would not be required to give up their belief in God, perhaps they could comply with the instructions relative to food and drink. It might be unnecessary to insist upon the strict observance of the letter of the Law.
But Daniel and his companions decided that whole-hearted allegiance to the true God of heaven was the only way. This strength and determination came from their hearts being right with God: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.”
Firmly, yet politely, Daniel requested that he be excused from defiling himself. He had already made up his mind, yet he had no desire to antagonize the prince of the eunuchs, who showed such compassion. Instead of being influenced by others, Daniel is effectively influencing them.
In verse 10, the prince explains the difficulties and dangers inherent in Daniel’s request. Daniel immediately proposes a ten-day diet test, consistent with their law. This proposal was accepted and the result was amazing, as verse 15 reveals: “Their countenances appeared fairer, and they were fatter in flesh, than all the youths that did eat the king’s meat.” Such conditions were not attributable to pulse and water but to their confidence in an unfailing God.
This amazing incident of absolute resolve, faith, and obedience results in a richness of life beyond their adversaries’ wildest imagination. In verses 16-21 we see that they had knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom. The king found them to be ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in all his realm.