Daily Reflections January 8, 2017
Chapter 8 provides an account of Ezra’s return to Jerusalem, along with a company of several others. We are given a list of families that are to embark on this trip. A lifetime ago these folks had been told:
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)
These folks have lived in Babylon for a very long time and, they have prospered and have larger families, some are probably giving up businesses, and some are leaving family behind, but now they are heading back to the land of promise. I imagine there was a mixed sense of excitement and trepidation.
It is also important to note that after Ezra accounts for all of the people travelling back he notices that there are no Levites travelling with them. This poses a big problem for him so he sends some prominent men to convince some of the Levites to accompany this group of returning exiles. Once the Levites show up, Ezra declares a fast, and they pray for a good trip. This is important because as is stated in the text Ezra is ashamed to ask for a military escort, because he has told the king that God is going to protect them on their journey. Not that having an armed escort was wrong; Nehemiah took a group of soldiers with him, on his trip, for protection. Nehemiah saw the soldiers as God’s providence, and Ezra thought that not taking soldiers was God’s providence. Both are valid viewpoints. What makes this doubly interesting is the amount of riches they are taking back. In verses 24-30 we read the amount of gold, silver, and other precious items. Just to give you a reference point 1 talent would have weighed in at around 30 kilograms….needless to say this group of people, undefended, would have been a great target for bandits and thieves. Ezra’s trust in God’s protection was justified as they entered Jerusalem with all of the treasure that they started with. At the end of this chapter we see the work of God ending in the praise of God for the glory of God.
Associate Pastor Jon Welch
In Acts 8 we are introduced to Saul, whom we know better as the Apostle Paul – the greatest missionary in the history of the church. But here we encounter a Saul that is quite unlike the mighty minister who spread the gospel across the Near East. Instead we see a man who is so passionately opposed to the gospel that he is actively seeking out and persecuting Christ’s church.
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3 ESV)
In light of the terrorism we see in the news today, take comfort in knowing that the man who brought the gospel to the Gentiles was once a terrorist himself. God hasn’t changed and He will use whomever He desires.
In the midst of persecution, Philip is faithfully carrying on in ministry. An Ethiopian eunuch was studying the scriptures in his chariot and Philip is prompted by the Holy Spirit to get involved.
And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:29-31 ESV)
When the Spirit of God stirs your heart to do something, run and do it. The conversion of this man did not spring from a highly organized evangelistic event or a strategic church plant – though both are valuable. No, this new birth was the result of the Spirit of God prompting, the Word of God being read and explained, and a servant of God being obedient. Christian, expect the Spirit to stir you to action. Believe that the Word of God is powerful to do the work of God. Pray that you will grow in obedience. Watch as God transforms the hearts of men and women around the world – even those of terrorists. God’s word is powerful and good!
Assistant Pastor Levi denBok