Read: Ezra 7:1-10 and 8:15-36
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. Ezra 8:21
Ezra, who has access to and favor with King Artaxerxes (king of the Persian Empire), gets permission to lead an expedition back to Jerusalem. The king is sympathetic to the Jews and even gives them gold, silver, and some of the Temple artifacts that were taken from Jerusalem during the Babylonian invasion.
5000 people travel with Ezra on a 4 month journey, and amazingly make it safely with tons of silver and gold. They would have been a prime target for bandits. Ezra didn’t want to ask the king for troops to protect them, because he had told the king that God would protect them. So he called everyone to fast and pray.
Ezra is forced to put his money where his mouth is, so to speak. He had bragged on God’s power and faithfulness, and now he needed God to be powerful and faithful. So he called for group prayer and fasting. He was leading from a position of dependence on God and needed God to come through.
God does come through and gets them home safely – treasure and people intact.
So often we depend on the practical and ignore the spiritual. Think about it… if you were Ezra and had favor with the king, wouldn’t you have asked him for some protection for the journey and not leaned so hard on the protection of God?
Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking practical action. In fact, God often works through our practical action and wants for us to plan and act wisely. What this passage demonstrates is the need to depend on God regardless of whether or not you have practical precautions in place.
Humility, prayer and fasting are powerful tools and remind us that ultimately, God is in control, and it is His favor and hand upon us that carries us through. As God followers, these spiritual habits should be a regular part of our lives, regardless of how things are going.
So what is your default? To get the practical in place or to seek God for what you are facing? Usually we tend toward one or the other. Both are important, but forgetting the God factor is a bad option and it will ultimately lead to destruction.
Like Ezra, there will be times when the practical part just isn’t an option. Then you’ve got nothing but the Lord. But true spiritual maturity is when we keep the Lord front and center regardless of our resources and how well things are going.
Consider fasting sometime soon, even if it’s for a day…
Father – I declare my dependance on You today. It’s by Your hand that I am kept safe and so I ask Lord that You would place Your hand upon me today. Guide my journey through life and get me home safely… In Jesus’ name, amen.