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The Hand of God

Ezra is surely becoming one of my favorite books. Prior to this current preaching series, I had never given a sermon from this Old Testament book. A few people have asked, "How did you decide to preach from Ezra?" "God guided me here," has been my standard response. This is fitting since Ezra emphasizes God's hand guiding His people back to Jerusalem. 

In the first six chapters, Ezra describes how God moved in the hearts of foreign kings, priests, and Levites to bring his people out of Egypt and back to His Promised Land. Ezra weaves his account of the return around three significant events: The first group of remnants who returned. The sacrifices, feasts, and celebrations that were resumed. The reconstruction of the temple. Each of these events is calling us to trust in the good hand of God to bring complete restoration to His people.

Chapters 1-2 describe how God brought the first group of His people back home. Having been exiles for 70 years in Babylon, I'm sure that some of God's people thought that God had abandoned them, but God was not finished with them yet. In an incredible act, God changed the heart and attitude of King Cyrus, and the king issued a decree that permitted the people to gather all that was needed for rebuilding and head back home (Ez. 1:1). Also, God filled the hearts of His people with courage to leave their settlements in Babylon to make a fresh start in Jerusalm. One lesson that we can take from this is that new beginnings in the soul always begin with God working in our lives. 

After the people had time to get settled, they came together to resume regular sacrifices and feasts. For 70 years there were no celebrations, no sacrifices, and no feast in Jerusalem, but now the people have consecrated themselves once again to God, and they demonstrated their adoration of His faithfulness by resuming the regular worship practices. We are called to be a people set apart to God, and when we come together for worship we are declaring, "God is faithful to His people!"

The final event Ezra describes is the recontruction of the temple. The people laid the foundation and then adversaries hindered the work and the people stopped building. However, God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people's hearts through preaching (Ez. 5:1). God also changed the heart of King Darius so that he issued a new decree of support that allowed the people to rebuild the temple (Ez. 6:1-5; 22). Even through the opposition, God worked in the lives of His people. 

Beloved, we will face opposition. Remember what Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (Jn. 15:20). Our great adversary will send his hired hands to try and hinder our work for Christ. He will send some as wolves in sheep clothing who say, "Let us build with you!" (Ez. 4:2). He will send others who will express open hostility toward us (Ez. 4:4). He will also send those adversaries who try do their best to ruin us through misrepresentation (Ez. 4:5). We will face opposition, but we can be confident that "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). 

Are you trusting in God? Have you placed your faith in Christ to redeem you from your sin and restore you to a right relationship with God. Do you daily rest in His good hand through genuine obedience to His Word? Dear friends, if you are struggling to see God at work in your life, read through Ezra and by God's grace you will be strengthened to trust in the good hand of God at work in your life.

1. Confess to God any trouble that you have in trusting Him, and ask Him to help you have eyes to see His good hand at work through the life of Ezra and His people.

2. Pray for those around you who are struggling and hurting, by asking God to help them trust Him. 

3. Talk to you children about how God is living and active in our lives: He really cares. He really loves. He really is good. He will never leave or forsake any who trust him.

4. Be patient with anyone who is struggling to see God at work. Love and encourage them the best you can with God's Word.