The hand of the Lord

hand-174031_640Ezra 7:6: this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.

The hand of the Lord made the difference in the life of Ezra. He has uncommon favour with the pagan king of Babylon, so that he was assisted to bring to pass what was in his heart, which was helping to restore the right order of life, according to the word of God, to Israel; after decades in which they were in exile and now returning to their land (Ezra 7:10-12, Nehemiah 8:4-8, 13-18).

To the level that God has called you to bring changes on the earth, the hand of the Lord will be upon you to get it done, regardless of the opposition. Ezra had the love of the law of the Lord at heart and over years he had studied and lived by it and developed a passion to communicate the truth and instituting in Israel the ways of the Lord. He was on assignment for God and he had his total backing.

That was what he has been doing over years in Babylon and gained a reputation for being an excellent handler of the law, and a communicator of the heart of God to the people.

So after years of being faithful, he was rewarded with the hand of the Lord upon him to be part of the rebuilding of Israel when they returned to the land.

Ezra was not known for building the temple, that was the Job of Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6), neither was he known for building the wall of Jerusalem, which was the call of God on Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:8) which he fulfilled. Both of them (Zerubbabel and Nehemiah) had the testimony that the hand of God was with them, that the grace of God marked their effort to carry out the divine mandate of the restoration of the nation.

They were both part of the restoration move of God at that time and so was Ezra. But his was more of the building the culture of the word of God in the life of the people. He was the leading teaching priest in his time. His was not a flamboyant ministry, he did not have political office, neither did he have an army, but he had the word of God and the willingness and the ability to teach people leading them to please God, among others so that the whole of the people will word as one. He was zealous about helping the people not to be disloyal to God of their ancestors, because of which they were judged by God and their cities left to rot.

Paul, intending to leave a legacy of the word of God, the word of truth in his generation, told Timothy: the words you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit it to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2Timothy 2:2). While Jesus was leaving the earth he gave the commission of teaching to his disciples. He said that they need to make disciples of all nations through teaching them his word (Matthew 28:19-20).

The apostles showed that they took those words of Jesus to heart, when later as the numbers of the disciples swelled, and there arose problems concerning the serving of food, they recommitted themselves to the Ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Ezra was likewise committed to the ministry of the word.

Ezra ascribes the favour he has to the hand of God. He did not say:  I am so good, I am irresistible, I am the bomb, and I am the man. He knew it was not about him, he was just a tool in the hand of God, and God was making things happen for him so that he can use him in a special way in Jerusalem, to help get the people back to the ways of God through the teaching of the scriptures. The hand of God upon him was to ensure that he fulfil the plans of God through him for the nation of Israel. Years earlier, the hand of God was likewise upon Joseph to achieve his purpose for the children of Israel (Genesis 37, 39-50).

Joseph’s story has a bitter beginning but a sweet ending. He found himself in hard times at the age of seventeen when he was sold as slave to Egypt by his brothers. But when he became a slave he decided to be the best slave Potiphar, an Egyptian official, has ever had. He had the culture of doing his best in every assignment he is given in whatever situation.

Though he still does not know if the will of God is being served by his being slave yet he was fully faithful to God, refusing to commit fornication with his master’s wife and because of that, she lied against him and he found himself in prison and it seems the worst has happened.

But when he became the Prime Minster in Israel, the famine all over the world drove his family to Egypt and through his influence, they were preserved the nation of Israel (still a clan then) where they stayed for hundreds of year (and became a nation), in fulfilment of the plan of God which he revealed years earlier to Abraham, their ancient father.

It is easy to see the hand of God in the good things, e.g. Joseph coming from prison to be leader of all Egypt, but until we can see the hand of God in the seemingly bad things (e.g. Joseph’s imprisonment and sale as slave), we do not have a full understanding of the love of God and how all things work together for us who love God (Romans 8:28), and her called according to his purpose. God’s hand was upon Joseph because of his great purpose for his life, working in the good and the not-so-good event to bring him to an expected (blissful) end (Jeremiah 29:11). Joseph died in a full old age as a satisfied man, in the turbulence of his youth, he understand that it was the hand of God working, and thank God that he was imprisoned, thanked God that he was sold as slave, without which he would not be prime minister in Egypt. He lost some things. He lost years in the relationship with his sibling; which were remained the same, but it was well worth it in the context of the overall plan of God.

Later he summarised his life story in the following words: the Lord caused me to come ahead of you (children of Israel) to preserve you. The good, the good, the bad and the ugly was ultimately worked for good. Joseph recognised the operation of the mighty hand of God in his life’s journey.

So what the children for Israel thought they did to their brother motivated by hate, selling him as slave, was to sell him as slave was termed by Joseph with the benefit of hindsight as the operation of the hand of God. He said to them later on, what you meant for evil, God turned it out for good.

In both the pleasant and the not so pleasant things, he recognised that the hand of God guided him in a grand scale plan in his own mind, far beyond what Joseph could have planned for himself. The hand of God can move the pieces of our lives with such dexterity that at the end we can say: checkmate. In the end we win.

 

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