Is Your Teaching Effective?

PARENTS, elders, proclaimers of the good news—all are required to be teachers. Parents teach their children, elders teach members of the Christian congregation, and preachers of the good news teach newly interested ones. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Timothy 4:13, 16) What can you do to make your teaching more effective? For one thing, you can imitate the example and method of capable teachers mentioned in God’s Word. Ezra was such a teacher.

Learning From Ezra’s Example

Ezra was an Aaronic priest who lived some 2,500 years ago in Babylon. In the year 468 B.C.E., he went to Jerusalem in order to advance pure worship among the Jews living there. (Ezra 7:1, 6, 12, 13) This task required him to teach the people God’s Law. What did Ezra do to ensure that his teaching was effective? He took several necessary steps. Note these steps as recorded at Ezra 7:10:

“Ezra himself had [1] prepared his heart [2] to consult the law of Jehovah and [3] to do it and [4] to teach in Israel regulation and justice.” Let us briefly look at each of these steps and see what we can learn from them.

“Ezra Himself Had Prepared His Heart”

Just as the farmer first prepares the soil by using a plow before sowing seed, Ezra prayerfully prepared his heart to receive the word of God. (Ezra 10:1) In other words, he ‘inclined his heart’ to Jehovah’s teaching.—Proverbs 2:2.

Similarly, the Bible states that King Jehoshaphat “prepared [his] heart to search for the true God.” (2 Chronicles 19:3) In contrast, a generation of Israel “who had not prepared their heart” is described as “stubborn and rebellious.” (Psalm 78:8) Jehovah sees “the secret person of the heart.” (1 Peter 3:4) Yes, “he will teach the meek ones his way.” (Psalm 25:9) How important it is, therefore, that teachers today follow Ezra’s example by first prayerfully bringing their heart into the proper condition!

“To Consult the Law of Jehovah”

To be a capable teacher, Ezra consulted God’s Word. If you were to consult a doctor, would you not listen attentively and make sure that you understood all that he was saying or prescribing? No doubt you would, for your health is at stake. How much more, therefore, should we give profound attention to the things Jehovah is telling us, or prescribing, through his Word, the Bible, and through “the faithful and discreet slave.” After all, his counsel concerns our very life! (Matthew 4:4; 24:45-47) Of course, a doctor can be wrong, but “the law of Jehovah is perfect.” (Psalm 19:7) We will never be in need of a second opinion.

The Bible books of Chronicles (which Ezra originally wrote as one volume) show that Ezra was indeed a thorough student. To write those books, he referred to numerous sources.* The Jews, who had recently arrived from Babylon, were in need of a summary of their nation’s history. They had insufficient knowledge of the observances of their religion, the service in the temple, and the tasks of the Levites. Genealogical records were of vital importance for them. Ezra paid special attention to those matters. Until the coming of the Messiah, the Jews were to remain as a nation with its own land, a temple, a priesthood, and a governor. Thanks to the information Ezra had gathered, unity and true worship could be preserved.

How do your study habits compare with those of Ezra? Studying the Bible diligently will aid you in teaching the Bible effectively.

“Consult the Law of Jehovah” as a Family

Consulting the law of Jehovah is not restricted to personal study. Family study is an excellent opportunity to do this as well.

Jan and Julia, a couple in the Netherlands, have read out loud to their two sons from the very day the children were born. Today, Ivo is 15 years old, and Edo is 14. Once a week, they still have their family study. Jan explains: “Our main objective is not that we cover a lot of material during the study but that the boys grasp what is discussed.” He adds: “The boys do a lot of research. They check unfamiliar words and Bible personalities—when they lived, who they were, what their occupation was, and so forth. Ever since they learned to read, they have consulted such books as Insight on the Scriptures, dictionaries, and encyclopedias. This makes the family study much more enjoyable. The boys are always waiting and ready to go.” As a fringe benefit, both boys now also are at the head of their classes in linguistic abilities.

John and Tini, another couple in the Netherlands, studied with their son, Esli (now 24 years old and pioneering in another congregation), and their daughter, Linda (now 20 years old and married to a fine young brother). However, instead of studying a certain publication by means of the usual question-and-answer method, they tailored the family study to the age and needs of the children. What method did they use?

John explains that his son and daughter chose an interesting subject from “Questions From Readers” (from The Watchtower) and “The Bible’s Viewpoint” (from Awake!). Later, they presented what they had prepared, which always resulted in interesting family discussions. In this way the young ones gained experience in doing research and in discussing the results of their study. Do you “consult the law of Jehovah” with your children? This not only will enhance your personal teaching ability but will also help your children to become more effective teachers.

“To Do It”

Ezra applied what he learned. For instance, while still in Babylon, he may have lived a settled life. Nevertheless, when he realized that he could help his people abroad, he exchanged the comforts of Babylon for the distant city of Jerusalem, with all its inconveniences, problems, and perils. Clearly, not only had Ezra been gathering Bible knowledge but he was ready to act on what he had learned.—1 Timothy 3:13.

Later, while living in Jerusalem, Ezra again showed that he applied what he had learned and was teaching. This became evident when he heard of the marriages of Israelite men to heathen women. The Bible record tells us that he ‘ripped apart his garment and his sleeveless coat and pulled out some of the hair of his head and of his beard and kept sitting stunned until the evening.’ He even felt ‘ashamed and embarrassed to raise up his face’ to Jehovah.—Ezra 9:1-6.

How his study of God’s Law had affected him! Ezra had a clear view of the terrible consequences of the people’s disobedience. The number of the repatriated Jews was small. If they entered into mixed marriages, they might eventually merge with the surrounding pagan nations, and pure worship could easily vanish from the face of the earth!

Happily, Ezra’s example of devoted fear and zeal moved the Israelites to correct their ways. They got rid of their foreign wives. Within three months all was set straight. Ezra’s personal loyalty to God’s Law did much to make his teaching effective.

The same is true today. One Christian father said: “Children do not do as you say; they do as you do!” The same principle applies within the Christian congregation. Elders who set a fine example may expect that the congregation will respond to their teachings.

“To Teach in Israel Regulation and Justice”

There is yet another reason why Ezra’s teaching was effective. He did not teach his own ideas, but he taught “regulation and justice.” That is, the regulations, or laws, of Jehovah. This was his priestly responsibility. (Malachi 2:7) He also taught justice, and he provided an example of what he taught by sticking to what is right in a fair and impartial way, according to a standard. When those having authority show justice, stability is built and permanent results are produced. (Proverbs 29:4) Similarly, Christian elders, parents, and Kingdom proclaimers who are well-acquainted with God’s Word will build up spiritual stability when they teach Jehovah’s regulations and justice in the congregation, in their families, and to interested ones.

Do you not agree that your teaching may become more effective when you imitate to the full the example of faithful Ezra? Therefore, ‘prepare your heart, consult the law of Jehovah, do it, and teach Jehovah’s regulation and justice.’Ezra 7:10.

[Footnote]

A listing of 20 sources can be found in Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, pages 444-5, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[Box/Picture on page 22]

WHAT MADE EZRA’S TEACHING EFFECTIVE?

 1. He brought his heart into a proper condition

 2. He consulted the Law of Jehovah

 3. He set a good example in applying what he learned

 4. He applied himself to teaching the Scriptural view