June 19, 2015

God’s blessings are not limited by enemies or troubles

Ezra 7:1–8:36, 1 John 4:1–6, Psalm 107:1–22

In ancient times, kings seldom honored foreigners with a decree and rarer still would a king offer his own wealth to help a foreigner. Yet King Artaxerxes of Persia sent Ezra and those Israelites willing to go with him to his own land with much of the king’s silver and gold. Ezra was going to rebuild the temple, but another prime task was to teach the Word of God to the people.

“Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him . . . . For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:7, 9–10)

God motivated Ezra to study and teach the Word of God to His people, then sent him from Babylon to do it. The king gave him plenty of supplies and told him, “Whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.” (Ezra 7:20)

If God wants His people to do something, God will provide direction, give the authority to proceed, and provide the means and support for the task. Our church leaders have an incredible vision for the future. If this is from God, we can move forward with confidence. Whatever we need will be provided!

Ezra also had the task of appointing others to share the load. “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach.” (Ezra 7:25)

God’s man needed to be careful to select the right leaders and ensure they were trained for the job. As our church moves forward, we will need to train people that are part of the team. We also need to be careful in our selection for there are many who attend church yet do not know the Lord. For that, the NT reading gives instruction . . .

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God . . . . We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:2, 6)

Sharing the vision could mean first sharing faith in Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Giving responsibility to people without the Spirit and without faith would be disastrous. They would lead us astray. It has happened in the past in other churches and could happen in ours if we are careless.

The psalmist speaks of the grace of God and how He listens to those who became careless in their spiritual lives and wound up in trouble because of it. “Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” (Psalm 107:17–22)

God uses trouble to get the attention of wayward believers as well as people without faith. Yet He is also gracious to hear those who cry out to Him. This is part of the ministry of the church — to tell this good news to those who suffer because of foolish choices. They need to hear that God will answer their call. Unlike Ezra, Christians do not need to be specifically called by God to do that task. He calls each of His people to glorify Him and to bring His grace and steadfast love to others who will then tell others, in songs of joy, about His wondrous works.

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