Ready, Fire, Aim!
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Devotional for Day 16
“Then I 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.” — Ezra 8:21–23 (ESV)
Have you ever—as I have—been in one of those situations where your mouth gets ahead of your brain? Where you make plans using the “ready, fire…aim” method; one of those times where you take actions that get you to a point, and then you realize maybe you haven’t fully thought things through? You find yourself in the midst of it all, and there is no turning back. What do we do when we find ourselves in these situations? How do we proceed?
During the time following the exile, when the Israelites were allowed to return to their land and restore temple worship to Yahweh, Ezra was given the task to return the spiritual leaders. And Ezra was so excited to get on the road to lead his people back. With letter in hand from king Artaxerxes, and the people packed up to go, Ezra found quickly that he had let his excitement get a bit ahead of him. They had set off with no protection, and the road was long and difficult. How were the people to travel safely and protect their children and their goods? Ezra felt that he was unable to now ask the king for soldiers as an escort, not after all of the confident talk of following after a God who could deliver his people; but Ezra had a practical and understandable need - his people required protection. What was Ezra to do?
At the Ahava river, Ezra was having second thoughts about the lack of request for military escort in view of what was ahead. Travel would be dangerous, but he had already shared absolute confidence with the king that, ‘the hand of our God is for good on all who seek him.’ Ezra could not backtrack now by requesting a military escort. He was zealous for God’s honor. This was a man with conviction and trust in a God who could deliver. How he showed this was by ceasing all other endeavors and calling the people to fast and seek after Yahweh for deliverance; Yahweh showed up and answered their call. Ezra realized that he and the people were ready to set out, but they hadn’t sought their Shepherd to make the path straight. Ready, fire, aim indeed!
Ezra should challenge us with his embodied humility and worship. Before he commenced any venture related to God’s work, he sought His guidance and worshiped. The prayers and fasting by the people prepared them spiritually, showed their reliance on God for protection, their faith that He was in control, and their assertion that they were not capable of making the trip without Him. When we take time to put God first in any endeavor, you and I are preparing well for whatever lies ahead.
May you be zealous for God’s glory. May you remember to stop and prepare yourself for what God has ahead of you through fasting and supplication. May you trust that the hand of our God is good on all who seek Him. May you see God do big things, for He is a God who can do ‘far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’. May you remember as Matthew Henry has said, “Those who seek God, are safe under the shadow of his wings, even in their greatest dangers; but those who forsake him, are always exposed.”
Heavenly Father, may we be a people who are zealous for Your glory. Help us to remember that we move and take each step because of Your grace. May we seek Your face through prayer and fasting before we make a move in our decisions in life. May our prayers to You prepare us for the tasks You have ahead. And may we boldly step out in faith knowing that Your hand is there to guide us, to protect us, and to bring us to Your desired destination.
Ministry Director, Christian Union at Princeton