Faith vs Faithfulness
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).
When we teach our children about the bible we often make a crucial error–actually a couple of them. The first is to focus upon the mighty acts of men and women more than the mighty acts of Yahweh. The second is to focus upon the mighty acts of men and women as if they are the goal for each of us, when that is not realistic. Both of these points came out in my bible reading recently in Ezra 8. It is tucked in among some rather boring verses about the number of people leaving with Ezra and such.
Ezra realizes something as he is leading these Israelites back to their land—there is no protection for them. Cyrus, the king of Persia (modern day Iran) was moved by Yahweh to allow the exiled Israelites to go and build a temple to Yahweh. And so, off they go being led by Ezra. Normally a king would send a number of soldiers to protect them, but not this time.
Why? Because Ezra had eschewed it, opting rather to declare to the king that their God, Yahweh, would protect them. Good words right? But Ezra is just like us, and I found much comfort in that realization. Now they are on their way and Ezra tells them all to stop. It was time for fasting and humbling themselves before Yahweh for divine protection.
But notice how it all came about. Ezra, while safe in Persia, boldly tells Cyrus that they didn’t need any protection—God would do nicely. Now they are on the way and we get a glimpse of the frailty of Ezra. He didn’t ask for that help because of shame. He had spoken so boldly, then had second thoughts, and the only thing that kept him from asking the king anyhow was the bold statement said earlier. So now it is time to entreat the Lord because there is no going back. And here we see the mighty, gracious hand of Yahweh. “He listened to our entreaty.”
We too can talk bigger than our faith is while things are safe. But then we can find ourselves out where it is not so safe. May we then humble ourselves to our Lord and reaffirm not our faith, but God’s faithfulness to His people. Perhaps He will listen to our entreaty as well.