Putting your money where your mouth is
Ezra 8: I proclaimed a fast there beside the Ahava Canal.
Ezra tells us his own story starting in the middle of chapter 7. His desire to join the returned exiles in Jerusalem is infectious. Several Jewish families are ready to join him in this great adventure. Beyond that, Artaxerxes the king becomes excited about the project and gives Ezra all the support needed for him to go to Jerusalem, to rule there, and to oversee the worship of Jehovah God there. Even people who aren’t relocating to Jerusalem make generous donations. Ezra puts out word that the great caravan will be formed at the Ahava Canal and people begin to gather. At first a few, then more, and then a great flood of people come, all with their families and their belongings. Suddenly Ezra realizes what an undertaking this is. In some ways he’s like Moses about to lead the people to the Promised Land. They have hundreds of miles to travel across sometimes desolate and lawless territory. He knows he ought to ask for a military escort, but can’t bring himself to do that because he’s told Artaxerxes how God’s hand is on his people and how God blesses and protects those who serve him. At this point Ezra decides he must practice what he preaches. Instead of calling for soldiers he calls for a fast. Before beginning this possibly perilous journey, they’ll call on the Name of the Lord asking for his guidance and protection. I think that not only is the king impressed by Ezra’s trust in the Lord, but that God is pleased too. Decades earlier the ancestors of these exiles had turned to military alliances with Egypt and other nations when faced with great danger. Ezra gets this enterprise started on the right foot: he calls on God.
Take Away: Better to have the protection of the Lord than to be surrounded by all the armies of the earth.
My “A” game
Esther 7: So Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he had built for Mordecai.
Esther uses every tool she has in her efforts to save her people. She relies on her intelligence, her beauty, and the support of all those who are fasting before the Lord over the outcome. She issues not one, but two invitations to the King to attend lavish dinners. Xerxes is fascinated and filled with curiosity about all this. Then there’s Haman who’s also invited. His ego is so great that he never sees the trap Esther has laid for him. When the time is right Esther speaks and the end result is that Haman is hanged on the gallows he built for her uncle and Xerxes grants her permission to act in his name to save her people. A few devotional observations can be made here. Esther uses her natural gifts in her service of the Lord. People fast over this and God hears. The result is that the people of God are protected and saved. I’m to bring my “A” game to my service of the Lord, giving it my best while at the same time knowing that it’s all for nothing without the intervention of the Lord. I also need to remember that I’m part of a larger family of believers who will join me in petitioning the Lord for his help. As I give my best and as my family of faith joins me God moves to make all the difference in the world.
Take Away: The Lord loves working in partnership with us.