Perspective . . . it makes all the difference. The filter through which we see life, and live life, really is what defines the “quality of life.” And, what’s got me thinking about this is a phrase that is repeated three times in my reading in Ezra 8 this morning . . . a phrase that I also encountered three times in Ezra 7. If repetition in the Scriptures is the Holy Spirit’s way of emphasizing something,and it is . . . then I better listen up, ’cause He’s shoutin’!
Even though it bears his name, we don’t actually meet Ezra in the book of Ezra until the seventh chapter. There we read of this “scribe skilled in the Law of Moses” returning to Jerusalem from Babylon . . . the king granting his request to return “for the hand of the LORD his God on him” (7:6).
There it is . . . the phrase . . . “the hand of God was on him” . . . first of 6 times it’s used in these two chapters.
Ezra found favor of the king to return to Jerusalem, why? . . . the hand of God was on him. Again, in verse 9 it says that Ezra “came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him.” Ezra’s request . . . the king’s assent . . . God’s good hand. Then, after recounting the king of Persia’s edict permitting Ezra to return, Ezra says, “I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me” (7:28).
In chapter 8, as Ezra gathers together the troupe that would journey back to Jerusalem with him, Ezra notices that there are no sons of Levi . . . no priests . . . and so he goes to find some. And when he’s successful what does he say? “And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion” (8:18). Ezra’s idea . . . Ezra’s search . . . Ezra finds his Levite . . . but he sees it all as further evidence of God’s good hand.
Not only did Ezra recognize the hand of God in his circumstance, he counted on it. Before leaving for Jerusalem he gathers together his entourage to fast and pray and seek God for direction and protection. For, although the king had offered Ezra an armed escort to guard him and all the treasures he was taking back to the promise land, Ezra refused it . . .
” . . . since we had told the king, ‘The hand or our God is for good on all who seek Him . . . ‘” (Ezra 8:22 ESV)
Ezra saw it as kind of inconsistent if he professed to rely on the good hand of God but took an armed escort of pagan soldiers as an insurance policy. “So,” he says, “we fasted and implored our God for this, and He listened to our entreaty” (8:23). Despite what was often a trek where enemies and bandits would lie in wait for traveling caravans, they arrive safely . . . and what does Ezra credit that to? . . . you got it . . . “the hand of our God was on us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way” (8:31).
Whether it was conceiving the idea to return . . . or the king granting the request . . . or them finding Levites willing to return . . . or having a safe journey . . . Ezra saw it all through eyes that recognized the good hand of God upon him. He was encouraged by it . . . he counted on it.
Oh, that I would navigate my day-to-day with such a filter . . . the recognition of the good hand of God upon me. How much do I take credit for, when really it is God’s hand? How smart do I think I am sometimes when, in fact, it’s the good hand of God? I still have to make decisions . . . I still need to engage the task . . . I still need to embark on the journey . . . but at the end of day . . . when the decision turns out to be the right one . . . when the task is successfully accomplished . . . when the journey is safely completed . . . isn’t that all the good hand of God on me? I’m thinkin’ . . .
It is the grace of God to place His hand upon a life . . . and it is the power of God to work all things together according to His purpose. And if I believe these things to be true . . . and I do . . . then God forbid that I should take any credit or have any boast in anything other than God’s good hand. Amen?