Ezra admitted, “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." (Ezra 8:22)
Ezra faithfully witnessed to the king, telling him about the greatness of God, and how He is mighty to save. Ezra had proclaimed before the king his utmost confidence in God. Yet when King Artaxerxes ordered Ezra to take a large group of people from Babylon to Jerusalem, along with a lot of silver and gold, Ezra surprised the king by refusing a military escort. Despite the fact that Ezra would have nearly 5,000 people with him—some being women and children and the trip would be practically 1,200 miles, taking about four months to complete at a rate of 10 ½ miles per day, Ezra was determined to trust solely in the Lord.
Ezra's faith would be stretched along the way. I'm sure he heard complaints from his fellow travelers questioning why he refused a military escort, just as Moses often heard complaints from the Israelites journeying with him in the wilderness to the Promised Land. The journey for Ezra and his people would force them to come face to face with bandits along the way. Bandits, who made their living plundering travelers, and would use any means necessary to rob Ezra’s group of their silver and gold. Being such a large group, with so many valuables made them an easy target, and a bandit's delight. Especially since traveling with the women and children would ruled out any chance of a quick get away. Because these bandits were such a problem, a military escort was not only customary, it was necessary, to ensure the travelers safety
Warren Wiersby, in his commentary of the Old Testament, sums up the amazing faith of Ezra in traveling without a military escort,
"Here were several thousand Jews, inexperienced in travel and warfare, carrying a fortune in gold and silver, led by a scholar, not a soldier, and planning to travel through dangerous territory that was infested with brigands, and yet their leader did not want an army to protect them! “If anyone deserves the “Great Faith Award,” it’s Ezra!"
Ezra asking for an escort, or gratefully accepting the king's offer of an escort, would have communicated loud and clear “God isn’t sufficient to protect us on His own. He needs a military escort to fill in where He falls short.” Ezra knew God was totally sufficient to protect him and all he traveled with far greater than any human escort, no matter which enemies they encountered along the way. Ezra had talked the talk, now it was time to walk the walk. The outcome of this trip is found in Ezra chapter 7. However Ezra chapter 8 reads like a flashback.
Ezra 7:8-9 reports, Ezra’s safe arrival to Jerusalem.
“Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him”What an amazing praise report Ezra had to share with the king. No doubt the news would have spread through the kingdom like wildfire, and people would be amazed at the power and ability of Ezra’s God. Ezra could have taken an escort, and no one would have blamed him. But instead, Ezra prayed and fasted and held to his faith in God to deliver him from whatever troubles he would face. Because he did not let any anything move him from placing complete confidence in God, Ezra was able to witness God’s mighty power to guard that which was entrusted to Him (2 Tim. 1:12) As a result, people heard the miraculous safe arrival of Ezra and his people and couldn’t deny just how great God is.
What challenge are you facing today? While there is nothing wrong with accepting help from other people when you need it, may we be like Ezra, appreciative of human help, but not dependent on it--placing our full confidence in the Lord alone to help us and provide whatever we may need for the journey ahead. People’s help is limited, but God’s help is limitless.
Question for you: When has God's gracious hand kept you safe? To read my answer to this question, how God miraculously protected me, click here.
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