Monday, October 7, 2013
Out On a Limb
Ezra 8:21 ¶ Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions.
Ezra 8:22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since 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.
Ezra 8:23 So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Ezra, the priest, was leading a team of people back from Babylon to Jerusalem. They had made it part of the way home when they stopped to fast and worship God. They knew they needed to pray for God's safety for this entire journey for it was a treacherous one. There were enemies that surrounded them on every side, but Ezra had not asked from any assistance from Babylon. Instead, he had gone out on a limb, and insisted that God would protect his people. He had faith to believe this, but also had made the statement as a testimony to the very nature of God. The Israelites were coming home, placing all of their hope and trust in God!
What does it mean for you or for me to put all of our trust in God? The Israelites had been captured and taken into exile because of their unfaithfulness to God. They had spent 70 years in Babylon learning some really hard lessons but now we see their faith in action. I think back to the three young men in the fiery furnace -- they had vowed never to worship another god! That was something for the incredible infidelity that the Israelites had practiced. These people were returning home a new people -- a people who were renewed in their love for and faith in God. He would supply all of their needs. And just as he supplied their needs, so God will supply our needs if we will trust in him.
Trust in God means going out on a limb for our faith as well. I remember well learning these verses when I was a little girl:
Prov. 3:5 ¶ Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
Prov. 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Ezra had to acknowledge God in the midst of the return to Jerusalem. Yes -- he had to go out on a limb and declare that God would keep him safe, and yet he was a little scared! Isn't that true for all of us? We do acknowledge God and yet we may be a little scared?! What's going to happen in this circumstance? Can I really trust God?
I like what this scripture in Proverbs goes on to tell us:
Prov. 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
Prov. 3:8 It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.
The older I get, the more I think we try to be wise in our own eyes. Could that be the point at which we have trouble going out on a limb in terms of faith? We are now trying to figure it all out, using our own wisdom and understanding to discern what is best. Maybe we have to go back to that child-like trust, putting ourselves out there, like Ezra, and trusting that God will take care of us and protect us along the way. Yes, that's a very uncomfortable place in which to find ourselves, but it's also the best place to find ourselves.
In a crazy way I was drawn to this scripture because they stopped at Ahava! Does the name ring a bell for you? It's the name of the company that sells all the healing creams and lotions that come from the dead sea in Israel. Today the name is famous for being a place of incredible healing. Maybe there was a special touch from God that came upon the returning exiles that night in a place called Ahava. Even in fear they fasted and they prayed until they had the assurance that God would keep them safe. God will protect you and keep you today as you go out on a limb -- the limb of faith. It is in that place that you will experience his healing balm and the power of his Spirit working within you.
Lord, help me to have faith and trust in you every single day. Amen.