The Provision for the Calling

(Today’s post by Joshua Jones)
Ezra 7
wildernesspathIn the mid-1800’s a man named James Hudson Taylor felt a burden for the people of China. The Taiping Rebellion, a civil war against the Chinese Qing Dynasty, which resulted in over 20 million deaths, had awakened an interest about the Chinese people in England. Amid this rise in interest in the Chinese, and a supposed harvest of Chinese converts to Christianity, James Hudson Taylor offered himself to be the first official missionary to China.
As a doctor, Taylor traveled to China, and at first was poorly received by the people. He decided to adopt the Chinese culture in dress and adopted the native Chinese clothes and even shaved his forehead and the traditional braided ponytail of the Chinese, the queue. Over the years, he met much opposition, with his medical supplies destroyed in a fire and even being robbed of nearly everything he owned, but he did not give up on the Chinese. After marrying and the death of his first child, Taylor and his wife took over operations at a hospital. Here he wrote to his sister:
“If I had a thousand pounds China should have it—if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?”
James Hudson Taylor went on to write a book, “China’s Spiritual Needs and Claims” which generated sympathy for the Chinese and volunteers to enter the Chinese mission field began coming forth. In 1865, Taylor founded the China Inland Mission, and had 21 missionaries join them, raising 130,000 pounds in a year. This organization is now known today as OMF International, a major sending agency for missionaries around the world.
Throughout the entirety of his life, Taylor experienced much grief and heartbreak. He lost multiple children, was shipwrecked, robbed, shunned by the people he was called to serve, faced depression, lost his wife, and the list goes on. However, through everything, he loved the people of China and followed God’s will. There is no telling how many Chinese people have come to Christ through the impact of this man’s life.
So what does this have to do with Ezra you ask? In chapter 7, we see Ezra, the namesake of the book for the first time. He has been chosen by God to teach the people of Jerusalem, as the temple has been rebuilt. Ezra comes from a line that descends from Aaron the Levite. He is chosen of God to be a priest for the Israelites. In verse ten we read, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
However, Ezra was not in Israel; he was in Babylonia. The call of God would not be unanswered though. The Persian king Artaxerxes issued a decree that gave Ezra permission to travel to Jerusalem, establishing him as a teacher of the Law. With that decree came protection and provision for his journey. Artaxerxes was not one of the Israelites, yet he decreed, “Whatever is decreed by the God of heaven, let it be done in full for the house of the God of heaven, lest his wrath be against the realm of the king and his sons.”
After this decree, we see Ezra praising God. He praises him first for the commission that he had received from the King. And with this commission from the king, Ezra praises God for the encouragement to fulfill the task: “and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.”
The lesson for today is this: Where God calls you, he will open the way. The calling on Ezra’s life was clear. I’m sure Ezra knew that as a descendant of Aaron, and as a Levite, he was called to teach the Law. However, exiled to Babylon, far from his home and away from the Temple of the Lord, I’m sure it was hard to see how this call would be fulfilled. James Hudson Taylor knew he was called to China. His life is a modern-day example of a calling being difficult. However, when God calls his people, he always opens the way. Whether it is through a pagan king issuing a decree, or encouraging us through persecution and suffering, his call comes with a promise- that He will open the way and He will be with us.
What has God called you to do that seems impossible? Nothing is impossible with God. Seek him today, ask him to reveal his will, and to open doors that seem shut tight. His provision is sure.
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