Last year, Forbes magazine highlighted a recent workplace phenomenon: employees withholding job-related information from their colleagues. Experts call this office dynamic “knowledge hoarding.”
Among the various reasons given for knowledge hoarding, many leadership coaches and teamwork specialists have focused on the individualized nature of the workplace. Organizational success and cohesiveness have become less important than individual motivations: promotion, obtaining a raise, or being deemed the “star” of the business. By refusing to share knowledge or teach newer employees about the best practices of the office, the selfish employee may benefit individually, but the team will suffer as a result.
In the same way, God’s people suffer when they do not understand the law of the Lord, and God’s people are blessed when teachers devote themselves to publicly proclaiming the truth of God’s Word.
When Ezra the priest returned to Palestine from Babylon, he was charged by King Artaxerxes to restore Israel to her former glory, establishing them in their homeland and rehearsing God’s Word to them.
Ezra’s personal commitment did not end in his study, or personal application, but included this public commitment: “For Ezra had set his heart . . . to teach [God’s] statues and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
The Israelites had not seen their homeland for 50 years from the time Nebuchadnezzar took them captive into Babylon until King Cyrus allowed them to return home. The temple and capital city of Jerusalem were destroyed, the protections for the nation against their hostile neighbors were gone, and false teaching had risen among the people.
Nehemiah, the political leader of the people, and Ezra, their spiritual leader, were tasked with the difficult responsibilities to rebuild the nation, restore the protective wall around Jerusalem and reinstate temple worship and true obedience to God.
Into this time of turbulence for the nation comes Ezra, teaching God’s law and restoring His statutes among the people.
Here is what Ezra does, as described in Nehemiah 8: “And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. … So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, … and he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday” (Nehemiah 8:1-3).
Ezra literally gathers the entire nation of Israel—men, women, and children—together in one place and, over the course of several hours, he reads the entire law to them. Tradition makes clear that Ezra would have read the entire Torah to the people—the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy.
Verse 9 continues this account by describing the reaction of the people: “All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:9). They were so convicted by their sin, and so challenged by the Word of God that the entire nation literally wept as one voice before God.
The people were now united in their desire to repent of their sinful practices, rebuild Jerusalem and their protective wall, and restore all the sacrifices, holy days and customs God prescribed in the law.
What was true for God’s nation then remains true for His people today: the faithful teaching of the Word will create a faithful body of Christ dedicated to serving Him.
This command to teach is carried forward today in the New Testament command for the pastor (or elder) to preach and teach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2), equipping the church body for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11).
Are you attending a church where you regularly hear the faithful teaching of the Word? If you are a pastor, are you following in the footsteps of Ezra, reading the Word of God to your congregation and making God’s truth clear to them?
Let me encourage every Christian reader to seek out a church that magnifies God, not the speaker. Look for instruction that transforms culture instead of conforming to it. Listen to make sure that sermons find their source in God’s unchanging truths instead of a minister’s opinions, no matter how interesting and compelling they may seem.
But Ezra's example isn't just for pastors and elders in the church. We all have a responsibility to teach the Word of God to those around us— both saved and unsaved.
Parents, are you instructing your children in the Scriptures? Are you fostering an environment at home where the Bible is the source of true wisdom? Do you welcome your children’s spiritual questions, or hand them off to youth pastors and Sunday school teachers?
Furthermore, do your conversations touch on spiritual matters where you work? When in social gatherings, do your conversations extend beyond the weather and sports teams? Do you salt your words with references to the Lord?
Let’s take Ezra’s example seriously. Let’s make his passion our own. Let’s study the Word, live the Word, and speak the Word into the traffic patterns where God has assigned us as His ambassadors.
My prayer for you is the same prayer I pray for myself, as a husband, father, pastor, and child of God: “Lord, make us people of the Word . . . for the glory of God.”