03/17/W – The Hand of Protection

Ezra 8:21-36; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; Psalms 31:3-8; Proverbs 11:15

OT: “I proclaimed a fast by the Ahava River, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us, our dependents, and all our possessions. I did this because I was ashamed to ask the king for infantry and cavalry to protect us from enemies during the journey, since we had told him, “The hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his fierce anger is against all who abandon him.” So we fasted and pleaded with our God about this, and he was receptive to our prayer… We set out from the Ahava River on the twelfth day of the first month to go to Jerusalem. We were strengthened by our God, and he kept us from the grasp of the enemy and from ambush along the way. So we arrived at Jerusalem and rested there for three days.” (‭‭Ezra‬ ‭8:21-23, 31-32‬ ‭CSB)

The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem was long and treacherous. It was understandable and completely acceptable to ask for an armed escort to protect them from marauders along the way. For Ezra, the journey to Jerusalem was more than leading a convoy of exiles back to their homeland. It was a spiritual journey to glorify the name of the Lord God of Israel. Ezra had testified to King Artaxerxes that the God of Israel could and would cover them with His hand of protection, so in order to honor the Lord God before the king, he didn’t ask for an escort. If God was going to protect them, they didn’t need to be protected by the feeble hand of man. What great faith! Right before they left for the long journey to Jerusalem, Ezra gathered the caravan together at the Ahava River and proclaimed a fast to ask the Lord for a safe voyage. Then the convoy of inexperienced travelers, led by a scholar and loaded down with a fortune of gold and silver, set forth in faith, believing the hand of God was on them. It was said earlier in the book of Ezra, that the hand of the Lord was on Ezra because he had proven himself faithful. Because of Ezra’s faith-filled leadership, the Lord’s hand of protection was on the convoy of exiles as well. After four months of traveling, they all arrived safely in Jerusalem. Not a life was lost, and not an ounce of gold or silver was missing. God had proven Himself faithful to those who sought Him and trusted in Him.

Psalms: “For you are my rock and my fortress; you lead and guide me for your name’s sake. You will free me from the net that is secretly set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I entrust my spirit; you have redeemed me, Lord, God of truth. I hate those who are devoted to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your faithful love because you have seen my affliction. You know the troubles of my soul and have not handed me over to the enemy. You have set my feet in a spacious place.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:3-8‬ ‭CSB)

Because Ezra was a diligent scholar of God’s word, I wonder if his faith in God was encouraged and strengthened by King David’s faith. This psalm of David is all about trusting in the Lord, no matter how dire or dangerous situations become. Oftentimes, when David had to escape his enemies, he would retreat to the mountains where he would have the high-ground advantage, or take refuge in an outcropping or cave formed in the side of a cliff. Using that imagery, David proclaimed that ultimately God was his rock and fortress. He trusted God’s hand to protect him and give him the advantage over his enemies. Not only that, he trusted that God’s hand would also lead him and guide him through all of his enemies traps and snares. David’s statement of complete faith in the Lord God – “Into Your hand I entrust my spirit.” – was echoed by Christ as He surrendered His life to death. David knew that as he submitted his life under the mighty hand of God, though circumstances were dangerous and dire, he would be able to rejoice and be glad on the other side because of God’s faithful love. What was true for David, is true for us. In fact, Christ, through His death and resurrection, has already won the victory over our enemies. When we place our faith in Him, we are reborn in Him. Christ becomes our rock and refuge, and the Holy Spirit becomes our guide. As we come under the mighty hand of God, His hand of protection is on us, and He will safely lead us through the dangers of this to spacious places full of peace, joy, and abundant life.

Prayer: Lord, Your word teaches me to humble myself under the mighty hand of God so that You may exalt me, protect me and deliver me. I thank You, that I have refuge in You through faith, and by grace, Your Holy Spirit will lead me out of danger and into blessing. Instead of trusting in the systems of the world or in my own strength, I humble myself and place myself in Your hands. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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