Ezra 8:18; “And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding.”
I remember on one of many visits to the country of Albania, I was a part of a OneHope conference for the Balkan countries. These conferences were always a highlight on my calendar. Being around believers that had a heart to reach out to the children and youth in their postwar and Islamic strong countries was a great honor. On one of the mornings, I awoke early and decided that a morning run on the beach was in order (something I had done on previous trips). However, this was the first run I had done early in the morning. I was about 3km into the run when I saw two BIG stray dogs coming in my direction. I quickly turned around and started to return towards my hotel. However, the dogs ran faster and started gaining on me. The faster I ran, the faster they ran. They looked hungry and I’m guessing they never had their shots. After several moments of panic, I eventually fought them off with the help of two dear old ladies.
My point is this: I knew that the dogs were out roaming the beach on the morning and yet I never sought the counsel of anybody who knew the area. I never asked those who knew best, “Is it a good idea to run on the beach when these dogs are out there?” I just went for it, not seeing or knowing the dangers. This nerve-racking experience could have been averted if I had just sought some counsel.
Proverbs 15:22; “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.”
Whilst mediating on this aforementioned morning on an Albanian beach, I was reminded of a story found in Ezra 8. Ezra had appointed a meeting point by the river, Ahava, to lead the people out of Babylon and return to Jerusalem. When the day came to leave, he realized that whilst there may have been some priests there, there were no sons of Levi present. Concerned by this, he immediately sent for some. When the priests arrived, they had amongst them a man called Sherebiah. Ezra states that it was by the good hand of the God that He brought this man Sherebiah, who was called a man of understanding. Later when we read in Nehemiah, we see that he was also one of the priests that would declare the Word of God to the people once they were in Jerusalem. He stood (with others) for one fourth of the day reading the Word of God, and spent another forth of the day confessing and worshipping.
It is the term “A man of understanding” that I want us to focus on. In some sense, as I read about Sherebiah I am reminded of a man called Jabez. In 1 Chronicles 4, we see Jabez stand out from the rest of the geology due to an added story line. I feel the same about Sherebiah. There is a reason why God thought it necessary to add to the narrative concerning him. Here we have a man that I would want in my life. For those times of trial, temptation or worry, I want a man of great understanding to be in my corner.
I have made a personal effort to pick a close circle men to be my mentors—to be my Sherebiahs. Having Sherebiahs in our lives is one of the ways we can maintain and gain great spiritual sight, wisdom and knowledge. The Hebrew word used for ‘understanding’ in Ezra’s text is ‘Sekel’ (שֶׂכֶל). This is not limited to the English word knowledge but gives us the further meanings of wisdom, intelligence and interestingly, discretion. A mentor who has ‘understanding and knowledge’ yet lacks ‘wisdom and discretion’ is probably not a good reflection of having a Sherebiah in your life. Since you are likely to open up to these men and woman about things you are unlikely to share with the general public. Select people that are knowledgeable AND have discretion. If we surround ourselves with the Sherebiahs of this world then we will be wise in our actions and not be in constant danger of having our lives crumble in certain areas.
Proverbs 13:20; “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.”
I was reminded of an Aesop fable called ‘The Ass and his Purchaser.’ In this fable a man purchased an ass from a seller and when he brought it to a new stable, it immediately chose to place itself next the laziest and the most greediest of beasts. The new owner took him straight back and the seller was asked if he had tested the animal already. The purchaser said “I don’t need to test him, I know what kind of beast he is.” Aesop’s lesson was this; “A man is known by the company he keeps”. The question for us then is a very searching one: Who are your closest friends? Who do you like to surround yourself with? This is not to say we can’t have friends that are outside of the Church, but surely, any such friendships should be with the foundational desire to bring them ‘into the sheep fold’. I pray that those friends that you regularly surround yourself with are those that will cultivate spiritual health in you and not draw you away from the planned works of God for your life.
Concerning then this great man called Sherebiah whose name means, “The Flame of the Lord.” His fiery counsel has the potential to purify us. Yes, it may hurt a bit, but it is essential to a life dedicated to the pursuit of Holiness. Sometimes, God gives us Sherebiahs to be his purify flame in our lives.
Growing up I worked for four years with gold and precious stones and was always intrigued with the gold purification process. Leaving out a lot of technical details, the gold is heated up so hot that begins to melt. Once it is melted, the pure gold which is heavy, separates itself from the other metals in the gold. As the pure gold sinks to the bottom the other metals rise to the top and then are scraped away. You will find that when the ‘Flame of the Lord’ through the vessel of Sherebiah comes and visits you, there will be times of intense heat. This heat is very uncomfortable but it is serving a purpose. It is allowing of our impurities to be separated and removed so that we are left as ‘pure gold’.
Who are your Sherebiahs?