“Then I [Ezra] proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, 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 God 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 God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
“Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests… I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God... [I said], ‘Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests… in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the Lord…’ Then we departed… The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way.” Ezra 8:21-25,29,31
Ezra the Scribe was known for his wisdom, his faith, his God. So when it came to a risky journey on God’s errand to Jerusalem, to teach the returned exiles who’d rebuilt the temple His law, he chose to venture wholly on His protection and provision. Since the king had dispatched him with permission, and knowing the route could be peppered with bandits, he led his entourage to stop and fast. He boldly refused a royal chaperone, prepared practically, and trusted God would bring them safely to their destination. His greatest concern was that He be recognized and magnified as he’d described. (Psalm 91:11; 139:5)
For Nehemiah the Governor, leading the third wave of exiles back 13 years later, his prayer regarding his journey led him to ask for specific help from the king. His was just as much a prayer of faith, and gave witness to how God remarkably undertook for them by way of an amenable heathen king. The hand of God was upon both Ezra and Nehemiah, though He led them and manifested His care in different ways. (Nehemiah 1:4-2:8)
How about for us, and our brothers and sisters? When we go before Almighty God, does He lead us all the same way? Our paths are distinct, and it’s vital we pray personally for the Spirit’s clear direction, then obey. I cannot know how He leads another, nor should I judge their decision. I can pray they seek God’s discernment and courageously follow, then trust God to answer. I am responsible to align my own plans with His, not others’.
Are there situations where I feel smug, a touch superior because of how God led me, but look down on someone else’s path? Is one way of going about ministry always better, or best? Some make needs known to people, some only to the Lord. He is glorified in His provision either way, and in a variety of ways, but calls us follow His Spirit. (1 John 3:20-24; James 4:17)
Father, keep me coming to You for direction, answers, and provision, then following faithfully. May I rejoice in the many ways You lead and undergird Your people.