(Today’s post by Chris Queen)
Before we dive into today’s reading plan material, I’m going to remind you of the history that has led up to the events in Ezra. The Israelites were sent into exile in Babylon because of their faithlessness toward God – more specifically, for turning their backs on the God who created them and set them apart and chasing after other detestable religions. (For more details, see…well, pretty much the entire Old Testament.)
King Darius’ and King Artaxerxes’ orders to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem led to a renewed faith among the Israelites, and by chapter 8, many of God’s people had begun to return to Jerusalem. Chapter 8 begins with one of those lists of difficult names and numbers of people, but before you get to the point where you give up, the action begins. After Ezra searched for and found Levites to perform the rituals of the Law, Israelites began the journey back home.
21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.”23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
Don’t miss what’s happening here. Ezra and his men made bold proclamations to the king about how God would take care of them, and as a result they were scared to ask for protection for their journey. So, they basically forced themselves to trust in God – and He didn’t let them down.
They measured out what belonged in the temple and consecrated it, setting it all apart for service to the Lord. Then, they continued on their journey, protected by a faithful God, to Whom they were faithful.
Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, they took some time to rest and to organize the temple. Then, what did they do? They worshiped!
35 Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the Lord.
Do you need to renew your faith? If so, you can take some lessons from the Israelites in Ezra.
- Trust in God completely – don’t put your faith in others, or yourself. Allow God to take care of you.
- Take stock – make a mental list of every area of your life. Go over that list and see what you’re giving over to God. (Hint: it should be all of it.)
- Totally worship Him – repent, confess your sins, and thank Him for what He has done for you. Make this a daily act and a lifestyle.
We all need to renew our faith from time to time. Maybe we’re not in as extreme a shape as the Israelites found themselves, but we can take a cue from the renewal of their faith.