What! No infantry or cavalry requested? Ezra’s fast proclamation and prayer is amazing because of what we might miss without a careful study of the chapter. Let’s look at some of the important background information. First, we are looking at a group of about 1500 men comprised of priests, royal lineage and laity (vss 2-14) and this does not include all the women and children. Second, the journey was about 900 miles because it would have been too hot to cross the shorter desert route. Third, the Hebrew word translated “children” is taph, not the normal term but one which meant people unable to walk such as the infirm, young children and elderly (vs 21). Fourth, they were transporting over 63,000 pounds of gold and silver articles which required careful guarding and which were considered holy to God for their temple origin (vss 25-29). Fifth, they were traveling a route full of enemies and the danger of being ambushed (vs 31). So why did Ezra decide not to ask the king for military protection?
In Ezra’s mind the reason was simple. He told King Artaxerxes, (the same king who earlier had put a stop to the temple construction in Jerusalem), that God’s gracious hand was on those who sought Him. God’s reputation was on the line and Ezra, the priest, was not about to make a pagan king think the God of the Jews was weak! So they passed on requesting infantry and cavalry. They fasted and prayed and God answered their prayer—they safely made the arduous trek.
There are so many great applications to this story but let’s start by asking a question. What does God’s gracious hand mean to you? How you answer that question speaks volumes about your faith and your relationship with your heavenly Father. When you are camped by the Ahava River facing an epic journey can you trust Him? Who is your source for help? As a former infantry officer, I have to say, Ezra did not lack for courage. It is a lot easier to opt for available might than trust in heaven’s unseen angels. But it is always better to fast for God’s favor than to eat and rely on human strength.
The truth is God’s hand is mentioned about 455 times in the Bible (~384 O.T. & ~71 N.T.) His hand represents power, judgment, punishment, kindness, grace, love and authority. By His hand is our best choice. In His hand is security. Beside His hand is glory. From His hand is blessing. Through His hand is salvation. Under His hand is shelter. With His hand is eternal fellowship. Before His hand is worship. Something to think about . . . in reveration!
Many Christians worldwide wonder what moves the hand of God—what gets Him to act. Prayer, fasting, true repentance, thanksgiving and true worship are some of the things that move that hand of God.—Robert Kayanja in Holy Spirit
©2021 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the "Click here to receive weekly devotionals" box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)
 HCSB Study Bible, (2010), Holman Bible Publishers.