Zion Baptist Church
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Baptist Missionary Association of America
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By Mrs. Connie Reifsteck - November 2009
The Pause That Refreshes
Ezra 8:21-23, 31, 32
“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. (22) 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.' (23) So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and he answered our prayer. (31) Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road. (32) So we came to Jerusalem, and stayed there three days.” NKJV
You could divide the book of Ezra into two main parts: chapters 1-6 and chapters 7-10. The first part deals with the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from Babylon under a decree by Persian King Cyrus so they could rebuild the temple. King Cyrus allowed them to take the temple treasures back. After they got to Jerusalem, they faced some adversity and were delayed in their project. A campaign of lies, rumors, and false accusations halted the work on the temple for about 18 years. A succeeding king, King Darius, had his officials locate the original decree from King Cyrus which settled the issue. The Jews were officially sanctioned to complete their project, and King Darius even diverted some of the opponent’s taxes to pay for some of the work.
About 58 years elapse when Ezra receives permission from King Artaxerxes to go to Jerusalem. Ezra is charged with appointing magistrates and administer both Persian and God’s law. The particular instructions about the law from King Artaxerxes may be read in verses 14, 25 and 26 of chapter 8. After Ezra received this commission, he gave thanks to God, then “gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me.” They made it to the river Ahava, where Ezra once again sent for the leading men, men of understanding.
Ezra realized a solemn commitment had been made. They were facing a dangerous journey. He recognized God had the ability to see them through. He proclaimed a fast that the people might humble themselves before their God. He wanted to seek from God the right way for them and their children and their possessions. He turned their lives over to God.
Ezra acknowledged the people had an earnest quest, for which they sought a “right way”. They needed this right way for themselves, for the little ones (or the children), and for their possessions. When Ezra received the commission from King Artaxerxes, he was ashamed to ask for an armed escort (soldiers and horsemen - vs. 22) for the journey. Apparently travel between Persia and Jerusalem was dangerous and Ezra had told the king they would rely on God to protect them. In fact Ezra 8:22 states “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.” It would seem Ezra is taking this time at the river to claim the protection and promise of God.
They paused on their journey to Jerusalem. Ezra proclaimed a fast for three days while they humbled themselves before God. Ezra took time for the people to refresh themselves by communing with God, entreating God for His protection. As verse 23 concludes, God answered their prayer.
The two main truths Ezra realized, and we also know today, is found in verse 22 - “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him. . .” God blesses those who seek Him. God draws us to Him. He provided the way for our sins to be cleansed. He provides our needs. He protects us.
On the other hand, verse 22 continues “...but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” God will trouble the life of those who don’t follow His will. Proverbs 13:15 says “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.” The unfaithful are isolated in death. The unfaithful are punished in eternity - Revelation 20:15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
We have a gracious God. Ezra 8:23 lets us know God answers prayer. Verse 31 shows that God protects from harm “...And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road.” Verse 32 shows God insured success “So we came to Jerusalem...” Ezra and those he had gathered for this undertaking safely arrived at their destination.
This incident reveals the great faith of a man of God. Ezra would not consider the undertaking of this journey without the approval and presence of God. This is the lesson we need today. Take time to commune with God. Refresh yourself in the knowledge He will bless those who seek Him, He provides our needs, and He protects us. God also troubles those who ignore Him, and they face a terrible punishment in eternity. Our faith is proven by God’s graciousness. He does answer prayer. He does deliver from harm. He does insure success.