The columnists of Forthright have been invited to devote themselves during the month of June to the topic of duty. They are free to write about any topic. But we’ll highlight on the front page articles tagged with the word “duty.” A few articles of the past tagged this way are already at the top of the front page. Check them out.
The Old Testament speaks frequently of duties of the priest, Levites, and the king. The NLT has Shecaniah saying to Ezra the scribe, who was laid low by the sins of the people:
“Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action” Ezra 10.4 NLT.
What a powerful perspective! Here was a man who saw, like Ezra, the entrenched immorality of the people. But he refused to let it paralyze him. He saw the need for action. He knew what must be done. He also saw Ezra as being a key person in making changes in Israel. He urged the scribe to do his duty, to fulfill his responsibility. Here was a true friend and Israelite!
Today, we need people like Shecaniah and Ezra. Some of us are devastated by seeing the conditions of the church in some places. But all of us have a duty to perform. And some of us need a kick in the britches to get us moving. “There is still hope for Israel,” Shecaniah said, v. 2.
Yes, there is still hope for the church of God! Restoration can still occur. Repentance is still a possibility. And men and women of God need to rise up and do their duty to lead the way so that the church may again become holy and obedient.
Shecaniah told Ezra further:
Therefore let us enact a covenant with our God to send away all these women and their offspring, in keeping with your counsel, my lord, and that of those who respect the commandments of our God. And let it be done according to the law, v. 3.
For God’s people and God’s guides to do their duty, attention needs to be given again to the holy commandments. The Scriptures must again be respected. Duty is not what we define it as being, but must always be determined by the word of the Lord.
Let us mourn, let us fast, let us pray! But never let our sadness at the infidelity among us keep us from doing our duty. May our friends raise us up. And may we be a friend to our fellow servants, to keep them from wallowing in self-pity or in useless lamentation. Let us pick each other up, to “be strong and take action” that will return many to the fold of the faithful.
So Ezra got up and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath to carry out this plan. And they all took a solemn oath, v. 5.
Let us get up and carry out the plan of God. This is our duty.