“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, ‘The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.’ So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:21-23).
Ezra was a scribe who had lived in Persia during the years of Israel’s captivity. Cyrus, the king of Persia, had allowed some of the Israelites, under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the priest, to return to rebuild the temple which had been previously destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:8-17). Though their attempts to rebuild the temple had been at times thwarted by the people now living in the land, God’s people eventually succeed in finishing the rebuilding the temple (Ezra 6:15).
During the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra was still living in Persia. Ezra had received the blessing from Artaxerxes, the current king of Persia, to lead another group of Israelites back to the Promised Land and bring with them some of the furnishings from the temple which had been carried away by the Babylonians (Ezra 7:11-26). In addition, Ezra was going back to instruct God’s people in the ways of the Lord: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
As the opening verses above indicate, Ezra had not requested any soldiers from the King of Persia to escort the people he was leading back to the land of Israel. He was ashamed to do so because he wanted to show that his faith and trust were in God, not in man. Instead of seeking soldiers, weapons or armor in which to protect themselves from potential enemies, Ezra had the people fast, humble themselves and seek God before they left for their journey (Ezra 8:21, 23). God answered their prayer for protection.
As Ezra describes how God worked on behalf of His people as they were preparing and making this journey, it is very interesting to observe how often Ezra mentions how “the hand of our God was upon us” (Ezra 8:31; cf. 7:9; 8:18, 22). Notice the effect of Ezra’s being able to see God’s hand upon him: “So I was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me” (Ezra 7:28). Through the eye of faith, Ezra saw God acting multiple times on his behalf during this journey and he was greatly encouraged by it.
As I think about these events in the life of Ezra, I consider: “Do I see God’s hand acting upon me and around me as I serve Him?” We are told: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is important for every child of God to take time to be encouraged by observing how God is answering his or her prayers and how God is acting to work on their behalf. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:31). Today, I will take time to rejoice and observe how God’s good hand is upon me!
"Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16).