Today’s passage chronicles several major things, the first being the names of those who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem from Babylon. This second wave was coming some 57 years after the Temple of The Lord had been completed in Jerusalem. After many years exiled in a pagan land the people were in desperate need of an expert in God’s Law to teach them how to live according to God’s standards. God had called Ezra for this specific purpose and given Him the provision to get back to Jerusalem and even recruit more priests to serve The Lord when they arrived.
This journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would not be an easy one (taking 4 months), especially with the large number of people traveling (many women and children), and the vast amount of silver (22 tons) and gold (3.75 tons) they were bringing as offerings to The Lord. Needless to say, they would have been prime targets for thieves, bandits, and vagabonds up to no good. Knowing the unpredictable traveling situations they might wind up in, Ezra calls the people to fast and pray to God for safety on their journey. Something that I thought was interesting about this passage was in verse 22:
22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”
It’s interesting to me that Ezra could have asked the king for protection on the journey. Certainly the king would have given it to him; he had given the Jews everything else they needed for the trip. So, why not just ask for some soldiers and horsemen to go with them? Ezra clearly tells us why he didn’t do that in the passage. Ezra desired that God receive all the glory for Israel’s safe return to Jerusalem, not the Persian King. Not only that, Ezra desired that Artaxerxes see God’s provision for His people and know the reality of who The Lord truly is. So, Ezra called the people to humble themselves through fasting and prayer and allowed God to provide exactly what they needed to get them to their homeland. The journey still wasn’t an easy one, but because of God they made it.
Many times in our lives we settle for worldly protection, provision, and wisdom because we’re too proud to seek God for His. So many times we “go ask the king” instead of truly seeking The Lord. I don’t know what situation you’re facing today, maybe it feels like a four month journey is ahead of you and you don’t know how you’re going to make it through. Be encouraged today that God is the same today as He was in the day of Ezra, and if you seek Him you will find Him.
Jeremiah 29:13 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
The example of seeking God in this passage is one of fasting and prayer. When is the last time you fasted (giving up literal food so that you could seek God and be filled more fully with Jesus Christ the Bread of Life) and prayed fervently for God to move in your life? There is no better time than today to begin. I want to challenge everyone who is able and willing today to fast and pray. Maybe you fast one meal. Maybe you fast from something other than food (TV, social media, etc.). The purpose of fasting is not just giving up something, but rather that you fill that desire you have for something other than God, with more of God! Devote the time you would be spending eating, watching TV, scrolling through Facebook, etc. to seeking The Lord in prayer simply asking for more of Him.
By: Matt Mofield