Ezra 8-10, Psalm 47
We can't expect God to do extraordinary things in our lives if we approach Him in an ordinary way. Those of us who are in the Word of God daily must ask ourselves whether we approach our time of reading dutifully with the hope of maybe learning a little something new or do we approach it hoping and expecting God to blow us away with His truth. Those of us who approach God daily in prayer must ask ourselves whether we approach Him in a ritualistic, routine and safe manner handing God our laundry list of petitions not expecting anything too extraordinary to occur, or do we pour out our hearts to Him, knowing that He is a God who is big enough to do anything.
In Ezra, we see a man who puts no limits in his relationship with God. We notice that before Ezra embarked on his journey he properly prepared himself, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." (Ezra 7:10). Though he was carrying approximately 5 million dollars worth of gold and silver in his caravan of 1500 men along with woman and children across 900 miles of dangerous desert, he requested no military protection from the Persian king. We read in Ezra 8:22-23, "For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king saying, "The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him." So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer." When confronted with the sin of the people, we read in Ezra 9:3, "So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished." We then see how both Ezra and the people approached the Word of God in Ezra 9:4, "Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice." Lastly, notice how Ezra starts his prayer in Ezra 9:6, "And I said: "O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens."
It's very easy to fall into religion and out of a relationship with God. When I go on vacation or go out for nice dinner with my wife of almost 36 years, I don't approach it in a dutiful or routine way. I am always excited to spend the time with her expecting to have an extraordinary time with her. If we claim to be in a relationship with God, how can we approach Him dutifully and routinely and expect the fruits of a true relationship. When Jesus approached the father of a demon possessed child in Mark 9:23-24, after the father asked for Jesus' help, we read, "Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" If we approached God daily with same passion and expectation of Ezra with the same plea as the father above to help us with our unbelief there would be no way to stop the revival which would take place. When we read God's Word, may we approach it with fear and trembling. When we pray, may we realize that the only limits to what God can do are the limits of our own unbelief. When we are confronted by a world entrenched and consumed with sin, may we realize that all hope is not lost, that God is still in control and change can occur if we would simply trust, depend and believe on Him.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: