When Ezra returned to Jerusalem after being held captive in Persia, he found that his people still living in the land had forgotten their God and His Word. Seeking to rectify the situation, Ezra set about the task of training young men to follow his example and teach the people who they were, what God expected of them, and how to live as a light for the entire world.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. – Ezra 7:10
Ezra’s disciples learned how to study God’s Word, put it into practice themselves, and then teach others how to do the same thing. Notice the progression… study, practice, teach. Ezra is credited by some with breaking down the first five books of the Bible into 54 sections, also know as portions. Each portion corresponded to a week on the Jewish calendar.
How It Worked
All week long, people talked through the scheduled passages for that week’s portion. What they said, meant, and looked like when lived out were all open for discussion. When the Shabbat arrived, the family would go to the synagogue where they would hear the passages read from the podium. A short message was given about the issues raised from the text. These were things that everyone had already been thinking about through the week. All in all, this approach to teaching the people of the congregation was very effective. This system was firmly entrenched in Israel during the life and times of Jesus.
This systematic process for becoming equipped for life is as relevant today as it was when Ezra first decided to do something about the rampant idolatry in his own country around 2,500 years ago.
The Scriptures vividly describe humanity’s continual struggle with idolatry. Idolatry is not just a Jewish problem. It is a human problem, that has infected all of Adam’s descendants since the Garden of Eden. Webster’s dictionary defines idolatry as the worship of a physical object as a god. I don’t think that goes far enough, particularly in our modern world where truth is subjective. Anything that replaces God as the primary focus of our attention is an idol. There are a lot of idols to choose from.
God will not share the worship that He alone is due with anyone or anything else. Those of us who have found faith in the only name where salvation can be found are not immune to the alure of the idols of this age. The testimony of many believers is destroyed by their worship of the things of this world which they serve. This is idolatry.
This Week’s Portion
This week marks the 21st week in the Torah reading cycle that has existed since Ezra’s time. In Hebrew it is know as Ki Tisa. The English translation is “when you take.”
Set aside 30 minutes this weekend to read Exodus 30:11-34:35. You might also want to look at 1 Kings 18:1-39. Once you have finished reading through these passages, get a sheet of paper and make a list of the things you serve that get in the way of your worship of God. Now don’t cheat. Follow the order.
- Read and study what God’s Word says.
- Think about the things you need to put into better practice.
- Watch the video covering the portion known as Ki Tisa, from One For Israel.