It has been several weeks since I have written about the book of Ezra. The reason is this: as I came to Ezra chapter 8, I was excited about the powerful lesson learned in this chapter; but as I began to write, I didn't have peace about it, and felt that I was missing something; and so I have read this chapter over and over in conjunction with my devotions over the last few weeks, asking the Lord to show me what I was missing. Early this morning, I realized what I had missed: Ezra's enemy was as of yet unknown and unseen - he was preparing in advance for the unknown. I had realized that he was preparing for the enemy, but it wasn't until this morning that I realized that it was the unknown "enemy in the way" (vs 22, 31).
Several years ago, I had faced a troubling, overwhelming, life-changing problem. After going through it, I faced terrible Satanic attacks that left me in very dark, weak, scary places, battling horrible memories from the past. The main problem was that I didn't know when these attacks would come; often I would awaken in the night, and I didn't know how to fight something that was already upon me. It was then that my pastor and some other men of God taught me the power of preventative prayer: the all-knowing, loving God can go before us and help us even before we know what is going on, and we should praying to this end.
That type of preventative prayer is what we see in this passage in Ezra chapter 8. Ezra was leading a group of people to Jerusalem. He knew that there were enemies along the way; he didn't know when or where the attack would be, but we see here how he handled it - IN ADVANCE.
- He Refused to Accept Man's Solutions (vs 22) - Ezra said that he "was ashamed" to get help from the king, because they had told him of the hand of God and the power of God. Do you know the hand and power of God on your life? Have you sought him yet to the point that you would be ashamed to seek man's help in His place? When it comes to the spiritual battles that man faces, the world can offer seemingly good advice in the form of counselling and psychology, but its time that we become ashamed to seek man's answers, so that we can know the power of hand of God.
- He Did What it Took to Do Things the Right Way (vs 21) - They had a long journey to take and a job to do, yet they stayed there by the river for 3 days (vs 15) and fasted and prayed (vs 21, 23) to find the way to go, in God's direction and protection. Are we willing to do what it takes to get God's heart on the matter? Are we willing to give up what is necessary to hear from God, and pause and wait on Him for guidance?
- God Protected Them (vs 31-32) - God was intreated of them (vs 23) and they went on their journey without incident in the protection of God! It should make us shout with excitement to see the power of God in this situation, and to know that the same God is our God, and the same solution is available to us, if we will follow the same pattern!
(Ezra 8:21-23, 31-32) "Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. (22) For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. (23) So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us. ... (31) Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way. (32) And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days."