Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 15 February 2023:
Ezra 8:18 — And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion.
Are you equipped with the godly character and competence required for you to be usable by God for important jobs within His Kingdom?
Ezra 8:21 – 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.
Ezra called a fast to show dedication to and dependence on God as they traveled, acknowledging that safety and protection would come from God alone and not through human capabilities. On what do you base your security?
Ezra 8:22 – 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.”
Ezra trusted God to protect him and to punish his enemies. Ezra considered it a great embarrassment for God’s people to trust in the government.
Ezra 8:23 – So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
God heard Ezra’s prayer.
Ezra 8:24, 25 – Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered.
Ezra appointed leaders but also held them accountable and set controls to ensure they carried out responsibility. (Ezra 8:25-34)
Ezra 8:31 – Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way.
God did what Ezra had trusted Him to do.
Ezra 8:35, 36 – At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel….
Ezra began his work in prayer, executed his work in faith, and completed his work in worship. This is a good model for us.
Acts 5:5 – When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
“When God brings judgment upon someone, our natural inclination is often sympathy toward the one being disciplined. Yet when God acts in judgment, our sympathies ought always to lie with Him. Only God knows all that is at stake, and only He knows the full circumstances that provoked His wrath upon the one He is judging.
Ananias and Sapphira’s experience is one of the most perplexing stories in the New Testament. In a time when God’s grace had provided salvation for all mankind, His response to this couple seems unusually harsh. Yet there was much at stake in their deception. The church was in its formative stages. Ananias and Sapphira had witnessed the miraculous power of God and had seen thousands of people being added to the church. Nevertheless, they showed little regard for the Spirit of God when they blatantly lied to God and the church. Such irreverence would have been devastating to a church whose very life depended upon the presence and guidance of God’s Spirit. God left a sobering reminder that He would not tolerate sin.
Many times the sin of one Christian has a devastating effect on others. At times, God chooses to judge someone’s sin severely, as a deterrent for others. Don’t try to protect someone from the judgment of God. It is a terrifying thing to fall under His judgment (Heb. 10:31). Yet His judgment on one may ultimately save that person and many others. When God is judging others, take heed and examine your own life. God knows what is at stake; He loves His children enough to provide a stark warning of sin’s dangers.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Acts 5:38, 39 – If this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!
Gamaliel was a highly respected Pharisee and teacher of the law who understood the futility of operating outside of God’s will and the danger of resisting God’s will.
“If this plan… is of man, it will fail.” Are your plans of man? Too many Christians are wearing themselves out trying to accomplish things God never intended for them to do. Too often, we ask God to bless what we want to do, or we tell God what we are going to do for Him, rather than waiting, praying, and obeying. Planning is an act of faith, stewardship, and obedience when God has given the assignment, but it is an act of pride and futility when He hasn’t. Do you feel like there is just not enough time in the day to get done all you need to get done? As the old pastor would say, “You have just enough time in the day to do what God wants you to do.”
- Ecclesiastes 7:29 — See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
- Psalm 127:1, 2 — “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
- Proverbs 23:4 — Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.
- Proverbs 16:1-3, 9 — The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established…. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
- Proverbs 19:21 — Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
“If it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” Are your plans of God? If you are a part of what God is doing, accomplishment is assured, not that it won’t still require great effort on your part. Key is obediently following God and trusting Him with the outcome – this requires faith. Doubt, fear, and pride cause us to deviate from God’s guidance and direction. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) A good way to test whether you are on your plan or God’s plan is to give yourself the love/joy/peace/relationships test:
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
- James 1:2 — Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.
- 2 Peter 3:14 — “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
- 2 John 1:3 — Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
- Proverbs 10:22 — “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”
- Matthew 11:28-30 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
- 3 John 1:15 — Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.
If what you are doing is robbing you of love, joy, peace, and relationships, you are not doing what God wants you to do. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s course correction.
“You might even be found opposing God!” Gamaliel makes a final important point, when we are not doing what God has called us to do, or if we find ourselves conflicting with those who are doing what God intends, we are actually opposing God Himself. This is a great sin. Many people, in the name of religion, are actually working against God, and this causes great division and conflict even within the church. The mark of a faithful church is unity with God and with each other, which always produces fruit. Where there is disunity, there is distance from God somewhere.
- Acts 26:14 — And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
- Matthew 12:30 — Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
- Matthew 25:44-46 – “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
- Proverbs 16:7 — When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
- Isaiah 14:24 — The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand….”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 February 2023: Give yourself the love/joy/peace/relationships test today. Pray that God will show you where you are deviating from His will and plan for your life and make a course correction today!