The following post is a new series on The Good Book Blog featuring devotionals from the collection, “Feeding the Soul of the Bible Study Leader.”

"Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah . . . this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.

And there went up also to Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king, some of the people of Israel, and some of the priests and Levites, the singers and gatekeepers, and the temple servants. And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." (Ezra 7:1, 6-10, ESV)

I love studying the Bible and teaching it to others. There is a joy in understanding a passage and helping others understand it well, too. It’s exciting when someone has an “Aha!” moment and comprehends an important truth from Scripture. But, as exciting and enjoyable as these experiences may be, they can actually make us miss God’s greater purposes in giving us the Scriptures, and our teaching can become a danger to our souls and to those we teach.

As I read over this brief description of Ezra and what he set his heart to accomplish, I am encouraged and challenged by how he approached his task. It causes me to wonder how well I am doing with the teaching responsibilities God has given me. From what this passage shows, it seems there are a couple of temptations I should watch out for, temptations that Ezra appears to have successfully avoided.

It says that “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (vs. 10). The first temptation I recognize for myselfe is one of studying the Scriptures just so I will know it well and be thought of as a knowledgeable Bible teacher. There is a subtle temptation to pride as we study the Scriptures. Helmut Thielicke, a theologian writing in the 1960s understood this temptation and warned against it when he wrote:

Truth seduces us very easily into a kind of joy of possession: I have comprehended this and that, learned it, understood it. Knowledge is power. I am therefore more than the other man who does not know this and that. I have greater possibilities and also greater temptations.

(A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Eerdmans, 1962, p. 16.)

Increased knowledge of the Scriptures can lead to pride, particularly if our main aim is to understand and use our knowledge to lift up ourselves over others. There is status in being a teacher, and we have to guard our hearts so that this does not become our goal of study. Ezra avoided this first temptation. He was not content just to know God’s Word, he committed himself to do it, to live it out, to allow God to teach him what it means to follow His instruction, not just to know it. Ezra demonstrates a teachable spirit, a willingness to obey God even when it is hard. He did this as part of equipping himself to teach others.

This highlights the second temptation I face, at times, as I teach. When I prepare a Bible study for a group, it can be easy for me to focus on what I have come to call “second-hand truth,” giving attention to the lessons in Scripture that my group needs to hear and respond to, but somehow thinking they don’t need to apply to me, or that I can teach them just because I understand them. But God really wants to teach me first, to work His truth into my heart and life, so that when I teach, I can share from my own experience how good God’s will is. God wants me to learn and grow first before I teach, so I have “first-hand truths” to share, and then I can encourage those whom I teach to see how good God’s teaching is, even if it is not always easy to put into practice.

I want to be more like Ezra, and I pray that God will help me. Ezra seems to have escaped these two temptations we may face as Bible teachers. He was skilled in his understanding of the Scriptures, and he used these skills to study God’s Word to understand what God desired of His people. He also set his heart to do and to live out what he learned from God, not just to understand it. Then he set his heart to teach God’s statutes to God’s people. This is a powerful combination — one God can use to transform us as we prepare to teach, and then transform those who join us in learning from God through His Word!

Father God, help me never to be content with merely knowing your Scriptures well. Keep me from the temptation of the pride of knowledge. Help me desire to live out what I learn from you in your Word before I attempt to teach it to others. May you be my teacher, and may I be “first learner” as I carry out the teaching responsibilities you have given me. Please bless my teaching ministry. May your “good hand” be upon me. May you be glorified as I teach, and may your Holy Spirit work in me, and in those I teach, so that our hearts and actions better fit your desires for us, and please you. Save us from anything less. Amen.

This devotional is one of fifty-two from a collection, “Feeding the Soul of the Bible Study Leader.” If you would like to read more or share them with a friend, you can access them online at and they are also available in book form through