Return from Exile: Ezra 7-10 (3)
Pray Psalm 20.1-3.
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice.
Sing Psalm 20.1-3.
(St. Leonard’s: May the Mind of Christ My Savior)
Jesus, Savior, hear my pleading, set me safely, Lord, on high.
Help me by Your gracious leading and receive my cry.
May You by Your Church support me; gladly, Lord, receive my praise.
May my thanks a good report be with You all my days.
Read Ezra 8.1-23; meditate on verses 21-23.
1. Why did Ezra proclaim a fast?
2. Where did he turn for guidance and safety?
Ezra gathered the company of priests and Levites who would return with him to set the worship of God in order in Jerusalem. They camped for three days “by the river that flows to Ahava” while he prepared them for the journey and made sure he had all the folks he needed (vv. 1-15). Finding no Levites in the mix, he sent for their representatives to provide Levites for the service of the temple (vv. 15-17). God moved among the Levites and sent to Ezra just the men he needed (vv. 18-20).
So far, so good. Ezra proclaimed a fast that the people might humble themselves to seek the Lord for the journey (v. 21). He refused to ask the king for armed protection, since he had boasted so confidently in the Lord’s provision (v. 22). They needed guidance, and they would doubtless require protection against bandits and other ne’er-do-wells who patrolled the highways. But Ezra resolved to trust the Lord, insisting that He would show them the way (v. 21) and “His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him” (v. 22). So they fasted and prayed, and God answered their prayer (v. 23).
Ezra’s heart was captive to the Lord and His Law, and he firmly believed that God would take care of those who had volunteered to serve Him and whom He had gathered for His work. When our hearts are fully captive to God, we will not be anxious or afraid; rather, we will demonstrate our faith through prayer, worship, and daily obedience, thanking God for His many blessings and looking to Him for all our needs.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“When our hearts are fully captive to God, we will not be anxious or afraid; rather, we will demonstrate our faith through…” You name it. Anything that we are concerned about, that we can do nothing about, that is totally in God’s loving hands, we must trust Him with. And we must trust Him in such a way that our faith is obvious to Him.
In Hebrews 11, God spells out as clearly as He possibly can, to our human minds, what faith is:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (v. 1). And even before we get into the heroes of the faith—those martyrs that were stoned and sawn in two and did not lose their faith in God even then—we read about God’s faithful, first on the list: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (v. 3). So, we who believe that God made the world in six days, just as He said He did, and that He created everything out of nothing (Gen. 1.1-2.3), are first on the list of those who have faith.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (v.6). So, bring it on! The harder it is to believe, the more credit we get for our faith. “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (Prov. 30.5). “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Ps. 119.160).
Our daughter Ashley is a schoolteacher, and this year she has the privilege of teaching her own son, George, in the combined 5thand 6th grade class. Recently, she gave an assignment in a course entitled Answers in Genesis, that entailed reading Job 40 and 41—which describes in detail the behemoth and Leviathan—and then writing about some of the characteristics of these beasts. George wrote without hesitation, and full of trust and faith, believing that God’s Word is absolutely true: “it can open doors with its face, they stick together, and it sneezes a flashlight”. Dear, sweet George. George loves God and believes Him. Every word. No questions asked. I want faith like that! And God wants me to have faith just like that. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mk. 10.15).
Ezra also trusted God. He trusted Him with the well-being of all those going back to Jerusalem. He trusted God that He would take care of them and all their needs. And God did exactly that. “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.”
“So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer” (Ezra 8.22, 23).
I’m with George and George’s unquestioning faith. Fully captive to God. Fully believing His Word. Trying to please Him through absolute faith…sneezing flashlights and all!
1. Ezra wanted to trust in God completely for the journey and all its needs. Why do you suppose that was so important to him?
2. What does it mean for you to trust God—to cling to His every word—for all your daily activities? How does God see you trusting Him?
3. Whom will you encourage today to greater trust and delight in God’s Word?
All our concerns about ourselves, our families, and our estates, it is our wisdom and duty, by prayer to commit to God, and to leave the care of them with him. And, on some occasions, we should decline advantages which are within our reach, lest we should cause others to stumble, and so our God be dishonored. Let us ask wisdom of God, that we may know how to use or to refuse lawful things. We shall be no losers by venturing, suffering, or giving up for the Lord’s sake. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ezra 8.21-23
Pray Psalm 20.4-9.
Seek the Lord’s will and purpose for this day. Thank and praise Him for His salvation, and resolve to trust Him for all your needs. Thank Him that He hears and will answer your prayers.
Sing Psalm 20.4-9.
(St. Leonard’s: May the Mind of Christ My Savior)
Grant my every earnest longing. Let my counsel be fulfilled.
May I joyous song be strong in, living in Your will.
In Your Name we raise our banners; Lord, fulfill our every prayer.
Saved are we in glorious manner, free from every care.
Answer from Your holy heaven, save us by Your mighty hand!
Some to earthly boasts are given; in Your grace we stand.
They have bowed and fallen, Savior, while we rise and stand upright.
Grant to us Your royal favor, hear us day and night.
T. M. and Susie Moore
Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.