Ezra’s “Doh!” moment

Ezra praysLast week I was reading from Ezra. Chapter 8, verse 22 made me chuckle because it sounds just like something I would do. It says this:

And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. Ezra 8:21-23 (NLT)

I can just picture Ezra kicking himself and thinking, “Shoot! We told the king that God is in control and will protect us, but now we actually have to stake our lives on it.” To make matters worse, they had over 36 tons of gold and silver to transport with them (verses 26-27). Now, I’m no genius, but if I were a bandit it wouldn’t take me long to figure out that 36 tons of gold and silver is a pretty good loot. If I’m going to attack anyone, it’s them!

So Ezra orders everyone to fast and pray for God’s protection. The best part is verse 23: “…and he heard our prayer.” They don’t leave camp until verse 31, but they are confident that God heard their prayer and are ready to act on it. The result?

And the gracious hand of our God protected us and saved us from enemies and bandits along the way. So we arrived safely in Jerusalem, where we rested for three days. Ezra 8:31-32 (NLT)

Ezra took a astronomical risk. He risked the lives of many people and all the treasures for the temple, but even more important, he risked the reputation of his God. He laid it all down on the line. He told the king that God is in complete control and then was placed in a position where he had to prove it. Through prayer and fasting he put his actions where his mouth was and watched God prove His faithfulness in astronomical ways.

As a Bible teacher, I challenge the students in my youth group to do a lot of things. I tell them how God is in complete control, how powerful He is and that He is always faithful. But then in my own life I work hard to maintain control over everything I can. I don’t take some risks because the outcome is uncertain. Some risks seem so foolish I immediately dismiss them as illogical, but how illogical was it for Ezra to take off through the desert with all that gold and silver and no military protection? That seems pretty stupid to me, but God called them to go to Jerusalem and they went, no matter the cost, and God took care of all the details. I wish I had that kind of guts, the kind of faith that would cause me to fast and pray and follow in obedience even if it may cost me my life. I’d rather die following God than live in spiritual disobedience.

Maybe I don’t see the power of God at work in my life as much as I’d like because I don’t often give Him the opportunity to do so. In the words of Mark Batterson, “The problem with 100% guarantees is that it completely removes faith from the equation.” I desperately want to be like Ezra. I want my personal life and my ministry to both reflect Ezra’s guts and Ezra’s faith in God.

Posted on May 10, 2007

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