The Prepared Heart


I’m a “take the hill” kind of guy. This is neither a good nor bad thing. It just is. It’s how I’m wired.

It does, however, present me with specific challenges at work. I manage projects, and the first step in managing projects is planning. But me? Nah!

What are we building? A Gazooberator? Alright! Sounds good. Let’s do it. Let’s take the hill!

Of course I’m overstating that. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are very good, meticulous planners. But just as they help me, I also help them. There comes a time when we must say, “Okay, we have a good plan. Now, let’s take the hill!”

We plan or prepare for road trips. We may plan our stops ahead of time. We plan vacations. We prepare for retirement. We plan for holidays. We may plan our education or career.

Spiritual Preparation

I read an astonishing statement this week in Ezra. It forced me to stop and ponder. I don’t normally read the King James Version but in this case I did, and their translation of a particular verse brought my reading to a halt. It was their choice in translating kûn.

kûn is a term of preparation, fashioning, making ready. It can be rendered “arranged” or “set up.” It is to take something and cause it to stand upright, erect. Most translations render this as “set his heart” or “firmly resolved” or “determined to.” All of those are valid renderings, but look at this in the KJV translation.

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
– Ezra 7:10, KJV

Let that resonate with you a bit. I cannot recall a single instance where I stepped back from an undertaking and said, “I’m going to need to prepare my heart to engage this task.”

The Context

To feel the full impact of this “preparation of the heart” we need to set the context for this verse, looking at where Ezra was, who he was, and what was going on.

Who is Ezra

Ezra was technically a priest, one of the descendants of Aaron. He is believed to be the son of Seraiah,1 a man ordered put to death by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, when he conquered Jerusalem and carried off the inhabitants to captivity.2 Ezra was not the eldest, and therefore not a high priest, but certainly closely related to the high priest.

Ezra the Scribe

Ezra is better known for being a scribe, “one who writes.” Consider our terms scribble or inscribe. They come from the term γραμματεύς (grammateus) from which we get our word, grammar.

As a title, scribe is a term of some distinction, since the ability to read and write was not widespread in ancient Israel. The ability to do so gave one a certain assurance of employment, since there were numerous documents that needed to be produced and reproduced. Prior to the invention of the printing press, all written materials, including holy scripture, had to be hand-copied if they were going to be distributed. Scribes were used for the production and transmission of legal, military, political, and personal documents. Every village had at least one scribe.

Originally, the title of scribe carried no inherent religious connotation. Beyond their usual work, the scribes were eventually tasked with making hyper-accurate copies of the scriptures, using a complex system of mathematical calculations to achieve precise reproductions. Those texts that did not meet the mathematical standard were discarded, and the scribe had to recreate the lost work. This intense focus on accurately reading and copying the holy texts gave the scribes an unparalleled expertise in what those scriptures said.

From a religious perspective, the first of the scribes was Ezra. He is described as “learned in the words of the commandments of the LORD and His statutes to Israel.”3 Following Ezra, we see a line of rabbinic scholarship that remains even to this day as a core element of traditional Judaism The role of the scribe evolved into that of a teacher, an expert in the Law of Moses. If you’re thinking ahead, you can see how these scribes evolved into that class of men described as “lawyers” in the New Testament.

The Captivity

Following the Battle of Carchemish (605 BC), king Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. To pacify Nebuchadnezzar, Jehoiakim, king of Judea agreed to pay tribute. For three years, Jehoiakim grit his teeth and paid the tax but in the fourth year he refused to pay further tribute. This, of course led to another siege of the city and, in 586 BC, Jerusalem fell, was laid waste and, through multiple deportations, the people were carried off into Babylonian captivity for 70 years.4

It is with reference to this captivity that God made his oft’ quoted-out-of-context promise to prosper his people.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Ezra 7:10, NIV-1983

The Prepared Heart

This is where we find Ezra, a priest and a scribe, serving in the court of a pagan king, surrounded by enemies of God’s people, far from home. Even his own people were abandoning their God. This is the context in which it is said of Ezra…

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
– Ezra 7:10, KJV

There are tasks we face as Christ-followers that are so daunting, so overwhelming that we dare not engage them on nothing more than will and a sense of duty. We absolutely must prepare our hearts to engage. Ezra did this, fixing his heart on the laws and promises of God. Because he did this, he could later say, “I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me.”5

In contrast to this, King Rehoboam acted in rebellion and sin and led to the dividing of Israel into to kingdoms and eventually into captivity. In stark contrast to Ezra, Rehoboam did not prepare his heart.

And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the LORD.
– 2 Chronicles 12:14, ESV

Prepare your heart, Christ-follower. Come to God and to his Word in contrition and humility. Seek him with a bowed heart and bended knee.

You have heard, O LORD, the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts. You will incline Your ear,
– Psalm 10:17, BSB

We note in this Psalm that it is actually God who prepares our hearts. We seek him and he prepares us.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
– Proverbs 16:1, KJV

Humble yourself to seek the Lord, so serve him, and he will prepare your heart for what comes.

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon
X – @DamonJGray
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1. Some believe grandson or even great-grandson.
2. 2 Kings 25:18-21
3. Ezra 7:11
4. Jeremiah 29:10
5. Ezra 7:28b

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Damon J. Gray

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