At the end of the exile, God moved the heart of the pagan King Artaxerxes to allow Ezra — a scribe and priest — to return to Jerusalem in 458 BC. Fourteen years before Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra returned to rebuild the people. He did it by calling them to return to the Word of God.
Ezra shows us both how to prepare for the opportunities God provides and how to protect ourselves from what threatens them.
JERUSALEM’S WATER GATE & Ezra’s Priority
The best-known verse in the book of Ezra serves well as Ezra’s life verse:
Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel. —Ezra 7:10
Ezra’s threefold passion models a priority for all of God’s people. Each part is essential, as is the order in which they occur:
Determined . . . to study the Law of the Lord
Determined . . . to obey the Law of the Lord
Determined . . . to teach those decrees and regulations
One of the recorded instances in which Ezra taught the people occurred at Jerusalem’s Water Gate.
Truth Told at Jerusalem’s Water Gate
The location of the Water Gate in the City of David is still debated. But archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer believes, with credibility, that it likely lay near the Gihon Spring — perhaps as a distribution point for water. If so, the location where Ezra read the Law — near Jerusalem’s only source of fresh water — provides in itself a powerful metaphor.
He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law. —Neh. 8:3 NLT
When Ezra first stepped on the scene years earlier, the post-exilic Jews struggled with weak spiritual lives (Ezra 9:1-4; 10:2, 10). But Ezra’s teaching of the Word of God — combined with a life that modeled the Scriptures — assisted the people to reignite their devotion to the Lord.
It prepared them spiritually. Because Ezra devoted himself to dispense God’s Word to the people, when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem fourteen years later, the people responded immediately to his challenge to rebuild the walls.
It protected them spiritually. When enemies threatened to discourage their work, the people pressed on despite the threats. Ezra’s preparation of the people with the Word of God had made this possible.
So, it’s no surprise why the people requested Ezra read them the Bible that day at the Water Gate. Ezra had whetted their appetite for truth for years.
The Source of Truth Flows into Our Lives
In our lives, we need to remember that guarding our intake of God’s Word is as essential as walling off our only source of water.