Daily Devotion for February 15, 2017

'May "the gracious hand of...God" be upon you, Beloved!'

Ezra 7:1-10 NLT
Many years later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, there was a man named Ezra. He was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah...son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the high priest. This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. Some of the people of Israel...traveled up to Jerusalem with him in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes’ reign.

Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August of that year. He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.

I started reading the latter half of the Old Testament book of Ezra last night. As I read, I couldn't help but notice how Scripture kept stating “the gracious hand of his God was on” Ezra (7:6, 7:9, 7:28, 8:18). Why would Scripture repeatedly say that? My Study Bible helped me see why...

First of all, Ezra had made a personal commitment to live for God. Specifically, he dedicated his whole life to serving: serving God and God's people...so ”the gracious hand of his God was on him.”

Second, Ezra not only knew God's Word, he believed and obeyed it. He “had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord” carefully, and he personally applied and obeyed the commands he discovered in God's Word...so "the gracious hand of his God was on him.”

Third, “Ezra had determined ...to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” He didn't keep his Scripture knowledge to himself, but he LOOKED FOR opportunities to teach others and share what he knew—so they too could live to glorify God...so "the gracious hand of his God was on him.”

Fourth, Ezra depended upon God. That is, he realized he was not in control, he knew was not smart enough or strong enough to proceed without God's wisdom and protection, and he put God first by praying over any endeavor (Ezra 8:21-23)...so "the gracious hand of his God was on him.”

Finally, Ezra was deeply touched by disobedience. That is, when he discovered God's “set-apart” people sinning (they had intermarried with pagan neighbors), he was deeply grieved by it, he confessed it, he repented of it—and his right response to sin helped lead the remnant back to God...so "the gracious hand of his God was on him.”

What a wonderful example we have in Ezra, folks! Taking a closer look at his character makes me want to follow his example. My prayer today is that both you AND I increasingly have “the gracious hand of...God” upon us, because 1) we've made a personal commitment to live for God, 2) we are “determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord,” 3) we're “determined ...to teach” and share what we know, 4) we depend upon God, and 5) we rightly respond to sin.

May “the gracious hand of...God” be upon you, Beloved!

AMEN!!!

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