God moved the heart of King Artaxerxes of Persia to renovate the house of the LORD in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:27). Ezra, a Levite priest whose heart sought to obey and teach the law of God (Ezra 7:10), was given a decree by King Artaxerxes which enabled him to return to Jerusalem with precious metals, animals and material for offerings, and articles for service, all free of tax and customs (Ezra 7:11-26). Ezra gathered by the river Ahava in Babylon all the materials, families, and Levites who were to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:1-20).[perfectpullquote align=”right”]We need to act in a way that is consistent with what we say, so that others can see how our lives have been changed and that God is truly working through us.[/perfectpullquote]
One problem remained: the journey from the river Ahava to Jerusalem would be long and potentially dangerous. Enemies lurked on those roads looking to ambush groups for valuable cargo, and Ezra was travelling with very valuable treasures and vulnerable people. Having told the king that ‘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’, Ezra was reluctant to ask the king for security for the journey. Not only would this request contradict his claims about the goodness and power of God, it could cause King Artaxerxes to become proud – since he might think the safe passage of those travelling to Jerusalem had come about by his own military might rather than by the power of the LORD (Ezra 8:22).
And so Ezra, being a man who knew the ways of God, called a fast (Ezra 8:21, 23). The group humbled themselves before the LORD and the LORD answered them. As they travelled, he kept them from enemies and ambushes, and they arrived safely in Jerusalem (Ezra 8:31-32).
Let us learn from Ezra’s example…
- We should set our hearts after the things of God.
- We must humble ourselves before God, seeking his direction for our lives in the choices we make and in how we respond to our fears.
- We need to act in a way that is consistent with what we say, so that others can see how our lives have been changed and that God is truly working through us.
Ben Strachan, The Church of God in Newcastle