Ezra was a man of God who awakened his entire nation. Scripture says Ezra was a man who had God’s hand upon him. Ezra testified, “I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me” (Ezra 7:28). In other words, God stretched out his hand, enveloped Ezra and turned him into a different man.

Why would God do this with Ezra? There were hundreds of scribes in Israel at the time. They all had the same calling to study and explain God’s Word to the people. What set Ezra apart from the others? What caused the Lord to put his hand on this one man, and give him charge over 50,000 people to rebuild the fallen city of Jerusalem?

Scripture gives us the answer: “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10). It’s simple: Ezra made a conscious decision. He determined above all else to seek God’s Word and obey it. And he didn’t swerve from that decision. He told himself, “I’m going to be a student of the Word. And I am going to act on everything I read.”

Long before God laid his hand on Ezra, this man was diligent in searching the Scriptures. He allowed himself to be examined by it, washed by it, and cleansed of all filth of body and spirit. Ezra hungered for the Scriptures and rejoiced in them. He allowed the Scriptures to prepare his heart for any work God chose for him. That’s why the Lord laid his hand on Ezra and anointed him.

When I read about the exploits of godly men in the Old Testament, my heart burns. These servants were so burdened for the cause of God’s name, they did powerful works that baffle the minds of most Christians today.

These saints of old were rock-like in their refusal to go forward without a word from God. And they wept and mourned for days at a time over the backslidden condition in his house. They refused to eat, drink or wash their bodies. They tore out clumps of hair from their scalp and beard. The prophet Jeremiah even lay on his side in the streets of Jerusalem for 365 days, continuously warning of God’s coming judgment.

I wonder, where did these saints get the spiritual authority and stamina to do all they did? They were men of a different sort, servants of a totally different type from those we see in the church today. I simply can’t relate to them and their walk. I know I’m not totally of their kind. And I don’t know a single Christian who is.

Something about this troubles me. The Bible says these men’s Old Testament exploits were recorded as lessons for us: “All these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Their stories are meant as examples, to show us how to move God’s heart, or how to bring a corrupt people to repentance.

So, were these saints a special breed? Were they supermen, with a predetermined destiny, endowed with supernatural powers unknown to our generation? Not at all. The Bible states emphatically that our godly forebearers were people just like you and me, subject to the same passions of the flesh (see James 5:17). The fact is, their examples reveal a pattern for us to follow. These men possessed something in their character that caused God to lay his hand on them. That’s why he chose them to accomplish his purposes. And he’s urging us to seek that same character quality today.