I was ashamed to request from the king … So we fasted and sought our God … and He listened to our entreaty. Ezra viii, 22-23.
We serve a God who answers our prayers–especially the prayers of those who are careful to honor God. This is such a comforting thought during our times of distress when we cannot turn to anyone else for help. When we face a need as a result of our witness to the Lord, we can always look to God for help!
Ezra was a Jewish leader who led some of his people back to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. In those days, it wasn’t wise to travel long distances on foot, carrying huge quantities of silver and gold. Ezra could have requested the Persian king Artaxerxes for an armed escort. Yet, he did not do that because he “was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect” them from enemies on the way (8:22).
Why was Ezra ashamed to seek the king’s help and protection? Ezra had testified to the king about the greatness and goodness of his God: “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” (8:22b) Seeking the king’s protection would undermine his testimony about God’s active involvement in their life. Ezra wanted to ‘walk the talk.’
Ezra gathered his people to seek God’s protection. They fasted and prayed. Their fasting was more about guarding God’s reputation than about their security or other needs. They were sure that God had “listened” to their petition. During their long and arduous journey, Ezra later testified that “the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way.” (8:31)
Do we testify about the greatness of our God? Are we sensitive to what others might think about our God? When we testify about God’s saving power, He is willing to demonstrate that power in our lives. Similarly, when we testify about God’s wisdom, provision, healing and faithfulness, we must live in accordance with our confession. And then, when we humble ourselves to seek God’s intervention in our lives, He will answer our prayers and glorify His name through us.