Ezra: Rebuilding through Prayer and Fasting
This morning we took a step back from last week's passage to look at Ezra 8:21-23. The people were preparing to go on a four-month 900 mile journey to Jerusalem. Along the way, they knew they would encounter thieves that would try to plunder their possessions.
In verse 21, the passage begins, "Then I proclaimed a fast there..." Ezra called the people to a fast. Now, before the exile, fasting was for a specific day (like the Day of Atonement), but after the exile, fasting became more prominent. This fasting was from nourishment, and it calls the people to be reminded on their own frailty and dependence on God.
When fasting, DON'T:
1. Just go hungry - Instead, use the time of preparing, eating, and cleaning up from a meal to pray and seek God.
2. Use fasting as a way to gain favor with God - Remember, we can't "do" anything to gain God's favor. He is the standard of righteousness. Going to church, giving money, helping those in need do not give you favor. They are a response to what God did in you.
When fasting, DO:
1. Humble yourself - To humble yourself is to realize that we can take no credit because God began the work in our heart. He initiated the work. He gets the glory. (1 Peter 5:6-7; Isaiah 66:2)
2. Seek God - The people had been telling the king how God would protect them and provide for their needs. How could they ask the king to provide an army for protection for their journey (v22)?
Seeking God is putting one's focus/gaze on Him out of a pure desire for Him to do the work. (Matthew 6:33) God placed the desire on their hearts to trust Him to protect them. We see in v31 that God did do it!
To Discuss Today:
1. What does humility look like in your marriage, with your parenting, with friendships, with your parents? Remember, humility includes trembling at the Word, being submissive in spirit, and it is a work of God.
2. Pastor Brad shared a quote from HB Charles that said, "The world at its worst needs the church at its best." What do you see in culture today that points to "the worst"? How can the church be at its "best" in light of this?
3. The Sacred Assembly is next week, and we hope to put ourselves in position to hear from God. How might God ask you to prepare for next week? Ask him to "till the soil of your heart", pray daily, and consider fasting for a meal or more and focus on preparing your heart to hear from Him.