Ezra is named after the great reformer in the Old Testament. Leading a group of exiles back from Babylon, Ezra was used by God to call the people of God back to Word of God: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel” (7:10). And since the “good hand of his God… [was] on him” (7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31), Ezra did just that.
With a humility that led him to trust God more than men (8:21-22), to willingly identify himself with others’ sins before God (9:3-9), to lead by first going to God in prayer (8:21; 9:4-6; 10:1), and to develop leadership in others (10:4; Nehemiah 9:1-5), Ezra led the Israelites to become, once and for all, a “people of the book.” Whereas before the Israelites had “cast [God’s] law behind their back,” (Nehemiah 9:26), now they desperately longed for it, listening to it read and explained for hours upon hours and days upon days (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 18; 9:3). As the people heard God’s Word, they began to understand as Ezra had, that all of history painted a picture of God’s unfathomable love, grace and faithfulness to a rebellious, ungrateful people: “You have been righteous… you have dealt faithfully, and we have acted wickedly” (Nehemiah 9:33).
In Nehemiah 10, 13 years after Ezra first arrived in Jerusalem, God’s people signed a covenant to “walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and statutes” (Nehemiah 10:29). Ezra’s heart had become the nation’s heart. And with that, Ezra receded into the background (Nehemiah 12:26, 36), letting his faithful students ascend to lead the next generation of Israelites to follow after the Lord their God by knowing God’s Word, obeying it, and teaching it to others.
The name “Ames” comes from the protagonist, John Ames, in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead. Ames is a Congregationalist minister in the small, fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, where he’s lived his whole life. When the novel begins, Ames is 70 years old and has recently learned that he is dying. Having remarried and fathered a son quite late in life, Ames attempts to write down the story of and lessons gained from his life to his young son, whom Ames fears will scarcely remember him.
Ames is a truly remarkable, ordinary man. He is intentional in his every action, thoughtful in his every step, and honest in his every word. He longs for his son to “live long and… love this poor perishable world,” just as he has. Ames sees magnificent beauty in the every day world. He finds the grace of God in every raindrop, meal, friendship, gain, and loss. His eyes are full of thankful awe wherever they turn, no matter how insignificant something may seem.
Like glasses on his aged eyes, Ames sees the world and all of its history through the lens of God’s grace, which he calls the “absolute disjunction between our Father’s love and our deserving.” May we see the world the same.
Ezra Ames, it is our prayer that you will grow to be a man who cherishes God and His Word, who sees the grace of God in all of life, and who gives His life so that many would see and fear and put their trust in God.
In case you’re interested, here’s why our daughter is named Sarah Auden.