The scribe Ezra wanted to lead a group of faithful Jews from captivity in Persia back home to Judea.
First, he sought God in prayer. Then, he managed to get King Artaxerxes’ permission to depart with the group of 1,800 men plus their families. In fact, the king was so moved by Ezra’s plea that he gave a rich donation for use in the temple for worship (Ezra 8:24-30).
Ezra gathered the group on the border of Persia, packed the caravan, and prepared to hit the road for the perilous thousand-mile, five-month journey on foot.
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request form the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him” (8:21-22).
Here, Ezra faced the most daunting hurdle of his life. The road from Persia to Jerusalem was filled with dangers from brigands and mercenaries, who would have loved to get their hands on the gold the travelers carried, not to mention the livestock and potential slaves.
Ezra was surely frightened. The group was slow and vulnerable. Ezra would have been smart to seek every kind of protection possible from King Artaxerxes. But Ezra was content to put his trust in God. He was convinced that God approved of his errand. He had made a point to assure King Artaxerxes that the Lord was God. Thus, without going to far as to put God to the test, Ezra entrusted Himself to God’s protection.
The violence we read about in the news every day is worrisome. Gunmen shoot up public places. Terrorists plot fear and death. Kids are snatched from sidewalks.
But we, who know the power of God, can relax in the knowledge that God watches over our lives. Now, I’m not suggesting that nothing bad ever happens to believers—no car accidents, no theft, no murders. I’m not suggesting that Christians cannot defend themselves from thugs (Exodus 22:2). In Acts 23:12-24, the Apostle Paul heard about a threat against his life, and notified the Roman centurion, who provided 270 soldiers to protect him on the road, even though God had already promised that he would come safely to Rome (23:11). Ultimately, it is God who saves from physical danger.
Perhaps we can worry less when we consider these statements:
Hannah confessed, “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam. 2:6).
Jonathan bravely said, “The Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).
King Asa prayed, “Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You” (2 Chron. 14:11).
Hanani the seer said, “The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chron. 16:9).
David, a man who often held a sword in his hand, said, “I love You Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).
David also said, “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
And he said, “I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me. But You have saved us from our adversaries, and You have put to shame those who hate us” (Psalm 44:6-7).
Jeremiah testified in the face of many enemies, “The Lord is with me like a dread champion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail” (Jer. 20:11).
Shadrach bravely said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not … we are not going to serve your gods” (Dan. 3:17-18).
Paul said, as he faced the Roman chopping block, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).
And Jesus assured us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matt. 10:28).
It turned out that Ezra’s trust was well-placed. “We journeyed … and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and ambushes by the way. Thus we came to Jerusalem” (Ezra 8:31-32).
Keeping your family safe has less to do with your caliber and your judo skills, and everything to do with God. Trust God, and pray for your enemies. —John Guzzetta