The book of Ezra makes for some good reading reminding us of how God plans ahead and can use pagan kings but also just plain normal people for His bigger purpose. Ezra was a scribe and had a passion for God’s Word and Law, but in his heart he knew that he had to go and teach it in Israel. With God’s intervention the king granted him everything he wanted as well as gold and silver for the Lord’s temple (Ezra 7).
Their was however, only one problem: With this big caravan going through the desert and with all the riches for the temple, the king never gave Ezra any men or horses to protect them. Why? Because Ezra had so much faith in The Lord that he told the king he did not need any protection:
…we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him.
Nothing wrong with this, but I think when everyone got together to ready themselves for the trip Ezra must have started worrying that maybe he spoke too fast and that there is a good chance that they could be assaulted on the way.
Rather than pushing forward and hoping for the best he ordered everyone to fast and to pray seeking God’s protection before going anywhere and Scripture tells us that God listened.
So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty
There are a couple of things that just grabbed my attention in this small section of Scripture:
- The first is Ezra’s absolute faith in God’s plan and that He will protect those who seek His will. I am sure the king probably offered protection and maybe Ezra was a bit naive, but in his mind there was no better protection than the Lord’s.
- Secondly, Ezra could have fasted and prayed on his own but he didn’t. He made no move towards Jerusalem until everyone in that caravan was in the same spiritual mindset, focussing and submitting to God, understanding and proclaiming their total dependence on Him.
God’s presence cannot be requested on demand because He is always present with His children.
I also don’t think He only gives us protection when we ask for it, however through prayer and fasting we recognize our dependence on Him which makes our faith grow stronger and keeps us focussed on God alone.