Ezra’s Faith

Ezra 8:21—23
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our G-d, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our G-d is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our G-d for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

G-d heard the prayers of Ezra and the people who were traveling with him to Jerusalem from Persia. G-d extended His mercy toward them by covering their journey.

Some years ago an American traveler stood awaiting an Indian train that would take him north to the Nepalese border. As the sun set, he pulled out a copy of “Lonely Planet” guide book. He became alarmed at a short paragraph that described the train north upon which he was about to board. It said not to travel at night. Bandits were known to attack the train. He knew Americans were particularly vulnerable to such escapades. At that time, an American passport was worth 100,000 Rupees, he’d been told. He was concerned. He wondered if he should turn back, waiting until morning. He prayed. When finally the train arrived, he boarded it without delay.

G-d’s mercy extended to Ezra after He saw the fasting and heard the praying of Ezra and his company. G-d extended His grace to the American traveler. That traveler didn’t fast. Sure, he prayed. But only after he became concerned. G-d acted, not on the prayers themselves, but in His mercy, which He extends to whom He chooses, when He chooses, in the time He chooses. Additionally, it doesn’t seem to be based upon the righteousness of the recipient. Conversely, the lack of grace extended isn’t a product of righteousness or lack there of.

Pastor Jayasen died. Other pastors and ministerial workers throughout the world are persecuted. There are those we can agree that are truly wicked that seem to thrive. The wicked haven’t seen the wrath of G-d. Not yet, anyway! In the Psalms the cry is often put out to G-d that the righteous are persecuted and die, while G-d’s enemies seem to go free. Yet, what shall we make of Ezra’s statement to the Persian ruler? “The hand of our G-d is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” C.S. Lewis wrote about the belief in the after life, which I think has some guidance for us. “It is surly therefore, very possible that when G-d began to reveal Himself to men, to show them that He and nothing else is their true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that he has a claim upon them simply by being what He is, quite apart from anything He can bestow or deny, it may have been absolutely necessary that this revelation should not begin with any hint of future Beatitude or Perdition.” (from Reflections on the Psalms)

We are the clay, while G-d is the potter. All things work for the good. . . the Apostle Paul wrote. G-d sees beyond our day or week or month. G-d looks beyond our present time. He has a plan. Good thing, too. He is the Potter. We are the clay.

Also while we THINK the wicked thrive, they are only saved for a great wrath that will one day come to them. Perhaps G-d has completed what He wanted to do in Pastor Jayasen’s life. Perhaps the pot that our Lord was making was done. Pastor Jayasen is now with the Lord. The wicked have now another opportunity to come to know the Lord—before His wrath consumes them.

So, back to the American traveler on an Indian train in hostile territory heading north. After a couple short stops, an off-duty police officer boarded the train, sitting in the same car as the traveler. That traveler felt it a sign from G-d that G-d’s grace would be sufficient for his safe travel. And so it was, not just for that night, but for many, many days and nights afterward. G-d’s grace is still sufficient, operating in his life. Obviously, the Lord isn’t finished with him yet. The pot that he is, isn’t ready to put on the Heavenly shelf, so to speak. It’s still in production.

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