Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Ezra 8:21-23

I proclaimed a fast by the Ahava River, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us, our dependents, and all our possessions. 22 I did this because I was ashamed to ask the king for infantry and cavalry to protect us from enemies during the journey, since we had told him, “The hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his fierce anger is against all who abandon him.”

23 So we fasted and pleaded with our God about this, and he was receptive to our prayer.

The Original Intent

1) Where is Ezra traveling to and who is going with him?

This passage is full of plural pronouns which tell us there are more travelers than Ezra alone. If we back up to Ezra 7:11-26, it is clear these verses are referring to any Israelites in captivity in Persia who desire to return to Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes declared, “Any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who want to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.” (Ezra 7:13)

The Israelites were being released from captivity to travel back to their homeland of Jerusalem. The Israelites, who choose to return, are headed back to the Promised Land, their inheritance from God as His chosen people. An inheritance they had been removed from because of their rebellion against the Lord God 70+ years prior.

The Everyday Application

1) Where is Ezra traveling to and who is going with him?

The Israelites were provided the opportunity to go back home, but first, they must accept the invitation the king was offering. If they decided not to return with Ezra, they were actively choosing to remain in the same circumstances of exile they had been living in for most, if not all, of their lives.

While our circumstances are much different than those of the Israelites, we are given a similar invitation. Jesus came to earth, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the tomb, taking our punishment so we could have the opportunity to go Home with Him for eternity.

However, we must choose to either accept the invitation provided in Jesus’ sacrifice or reject it. Rejection of Christ relegates us to the same status we already live with, active rebellion against God whose wrath we rightly incur because of our sin.

Acceptance of His offer to forgive our sin completely and give us new life through His Spirit opens the door for us to go Home with Him just as Israel was free to go home to Jerusalem. Acceptance of this gift necessitates our true repentance and turning away from our sin.

The Original Intent

2) What prompted Ezra to pray for a “safe journey”?

The journey the Israelites are embarking on is 900 miles as it stretches from ancient Babylon to Jerusalem. The trek would largely be made on foot, making it incredibly long with plenty of danger along the way. Ezra is fully aware of the risks he and his fellow Israelites will face, but, interestingly enough, he chooses not to ask the king for armed protection. (verse 22)

Instead, he turns to the Almighty God, seeking protection for their journey. Ezra confidently knows God is more than able to provide exactly what they need and the challenges they will face.

The Everyday Application

2) What prompted Ezra to pray for a “safe journey”?

Ezra prays publicly for a safe journey after he makes the choice not to ask King Artaxerxes for armed protection. Verse 22 tells us he was ashamed to ask the king for infantry and cavalry because he had already told the king God would provide for them. Ezra’s confidence in God’s provision was sure and certain.

We each face our own set of challenging journeys throughout our lives, and while ours likely won’t look anything like Ezra’s, we should look with confidence to the same God Ezra did. Only the One True God can provide safety for us along the journey we are walking.

The dangers and temptations of this world bombard us on a daily basis and we have access to the One who can provide the safety we so desperately need; all we need to do is ask!

The Original Intent

3) Why did Ezra fast and pray?

Ezra knows God is the One allowing Israel’s return to their homeland of Jerusalem. God’s sovereignty supersedes all human rule and authority. He also is confident God will protect His people, but through his action of humble prayer and fasting, he also demonstrates his understanding that God desires His people to ask for their needs to be supplied through faith. 

As a result of Ezra’s leadership, the Israelites commit to fasting and prayer. This time of setting aside their physical desires through fasting allows them to spend uninterrupted time petitioning God to accomplish what only He can for His people. Through this act of intentional humility, the Israelites demonstrate faith in the God who provides, and they acknowledge God for Who He is and His all-powerful ability. Then, they choose to actively trust God to fulfill their requests.

The Everyday Application

3) Why did Ezra fast and pray?

We face difficult times and situations in life just as the Israelites. When we do we should turn to the Creator of the Universe who holds everything in His sovereign hands. One effective way we can demonstrate this is through fasting and prayer.

Jesus Himself spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness and praying to His Father. (Matthew 4) As there is no better example to follow than Jesus’, surely, we would not be so arrogant as to think we have no need for the humble disciplines of prayer and fasting. As Jesus fasted, He was tempted by Satan and His tactic for combatting temptation and fleeing sin was to wisely wield the truth of Scripture.

When we fast, we are actively demonstrating a complete dependence on God and are provided with time and space to fill with prayer and meditating on His Word. We can follow Jesus’ example and use this time in Scripture and prayer to fight against the schemes of Satan. Instead of taking time to eat, we can spend those minutes in the presence of the Lord, denying ourselves physically and instead feasting on His Word and asking Him to accomplish what only He is able to do.

As we face difficult times, sisters, let’s be challenged to turn to the God of the Universe through fasting and prayer, bringing our needs before the Only One able to provide all we will ever need.

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