Ezra 8:21-23 (NIV) 21There, 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. 22I 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.” 23So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
When Ezra had gathered everyone for the journey, he proclaimed a fast. It was a time to humbly ask the LORD for His protection. He could have asked for armed guards, but he had already told the king that the gracious hand of God was on everyone who looks to Him. It would not be much of a testimony to turn around and ask for the strength of man after trying to share that with the king. Do we think like this? Do we remember what we have shared of the truth of our LORD with unbelievers and then carefully guard the testimony by being faithful to live in demonstration of it? I’m afraid we water down our words by our actions more than we verify our words by our actions.
I wonder if Ezra thought, “I put my foot in my mouth now! I’m going to have to make this trip with valuable possessions but without armed guards because I told the king God’s hand was on us and against our enemies. We better pray!”
We are not in the habit of dropping everything, especially eating, and going to God until we get an answer. We could certainly learn from their example here. Ezra says God answered their prayer before they left. It was done before they broke camp. They didn’t have to see it to believe it. In some way that is not recorded, they had the assurance that the prayer was already answered. May the LORD teach us to pray with such fervor and hear the answer with this kind of convinced assurance.
Remember: The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him!
1 Corinthians 10:11-13 (NIV) 11These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Paul always gives a Scriptural passage to back up what he is teaching. Just before this passage, he reminded the reader about Israel’s sins in the wilderness and how God dealt with them. He concludes by saying that those things were examples to us. This shows us how valuable the Old Testament can be to us today. Paul is clarifying thoughts that he addressed from the beginning of this letter. Divisiveness and immorality should not have any place in the church of Jesus. Take a warning from God’s dealing with Israel. God has not changed.
The warning continues with those powerful and humbling words, “… if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” The Proverbs of Solomon tell us that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). It is easy for us to think of someone else when it comes to these issues. Paul is saying that we need to take a look in the mirror before we look anywhere else. Pride is at the root of the sin of divisiveness. A realization of the weakness of mankind should keep us all cautious of becoming spiritually proud.
Then he gives us an encouraging and sobering truth. Every temptation we experience is common to mankind. Every time a believer is tempted, the faithfulness of God provides a way of escape so that we can stand up under that temptation. We can never claim that we just couldn’t do it. We can never say we were overpowered and had to surrender. When we do, we are saying God was not faithful, but in reality it is we who were not faithful. We did not take the way out that He provided.
Remember: Take time to read those examples God so faithfully had recorded for us. Take the way out of temptation that He has provided.