READING: Ezra 6-8, John 21
“The king had granted him [Ezra] everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him.”
In my early days of ministry, I likely would have argued that my ministry was fruitful because I studied hard, ministered a lot, and preached the Word. I was a 20-year old pastor, and I thought I needed to prove myself – so I worked overtime to be “successful.” Receiving recognition for leading a church that was one of the most evangelistic churches in our state only validated my thinking.
Frankly, it took me several years – and more than my share of absolute failures – to realize that any effectiveness my ministry exhibited was due solely to the grace and blessings of God. It was because of His grace that I was a pastor at all, and it was also His grace that granted me any good gift. Given my arrogance early in ministry, I wonder why God tolerated me at all . . . except to show His grace again.
The writer of Ezra rightly recognized what it took me too long to learn. Listen, in fact, to these descriptions of how God Himself worked to return His people to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra the scribe:
- “They observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days with joy, because the Lord had made them joyful, having changed the Assyrian king’s attitude toward them, so that he supported them in the work on the house of the God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:22, emphasis added)
- “The king had granted him [Ezra] everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him.” (Ezra 7:6)
- “He began the journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month and arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month since the gracious hand of his God was on him.” (Ezra 7:9)
- “Praise Yahweh the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s mind to glorify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and who has shown favor to me before the king, his counselors, and all his powerful officers. So I took courage because I was strengthened by Yahweh my God, and I gathered Israelite leaders to return with me.” (Ezra 7:27-28)
- “Since the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah—a man of insight from the descendants of Mahli, a descendant of Levi son of Israel . . . .” (Ezra 8:18)
- “We set out from the Ahava River on the twelfth day of the first month to go to Jerusalem. We were strengthened by our God, and He protected us from the power of the enemy and from ambush along the way.” (Ezra 8:31)
What more can any of us add? God is the only reason any of us have life.
- Re-read the texts above, and meditate on them. See the hand of God in the lives of His people.
- Consider specific instances in your life when God’s leadership and care were undeniable.
PRAYER: “God, it is because of Your grace that I have even this privilege of speaking to You. I praise You for Your leading.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Ezra 9-10, Acts 1