The king of Babylon had agreed to let Ezra lead a another group of remnant Jews back to Jerusalem in order to take more money and priests to help complete the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra had confidently assured the King that God would protect them from their enemies and rage against all those who abandoned him. So now Ezra was faced with the prospect of making a long journey of several weeks, if not months, carrying a huge amount of treasure with him. The King had offered him every help in the rebuilding project from funds to man power, and if Ezra had asked him, it is very possible that he would also have provided him with an escort to Jerusalem to protect the money they carried. But Ezra felt that to turn to the strength of the king would, in effect amount to him abandoning his faith in the Lord. Ezra clearly wanted the reassurance of the Kings troops by his side, but he knew that the consequences of abandoning his faith in God would be far worse than the threat of robbery he might face on the journey.
Ezra 8:21-25 NLT
And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. I appointed twelve leaders of the priests—Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten other priests— to be in charge of transporting the silver, the gold, the gold bowls, and the other items that the king, his council, his officials, and all the people of Israel had presented for the Temple of God.
There is a very real and daily chance that we believers, us Christians, will fail to practice what we preach. We will probably all fail today, just as we all did yesterday and as we will most likely fail tomorrow. My goal today is to take to heart Ezra’s humble fast before God and his earnest prayer for safe passage. Now, fasting is a new concept to me and one which I have barely ever experienced for myself. But I am beginning to understand the idea that prayer combined with meaningful physical discipline can yield amazing results. I don’t yet fully understand how to embrace fasting, but I can see how it could enhance an awareness of God. All I can do today is pray. And so I pray that I might have the faith of Ezra and resist the temptation to always find a human solution to my problems. I hope that I can put my trust in God and concern myself less with the great unanswerable questions of how my life will turn out and what my future will be.
Ezra 8:21-9:15, 1Corinthians 5:1-13, Psalms 31:1-8, Proverbs 21:1-2