Ezra 8:21-9:15; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; Psalm 31:1-8; Proverbs 21:1-2
"Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia. He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem" (Ez. 9:9).
Ezra is well-aware of the circumstances regarding the exiled people of Israel. They have no power; they have no homeland. Their children have been taken from them; they are entirely dependent on the goodwill of an occupying enemy. Their unique position of favor with God, symbolized by the temple, is in question. Ezra sees truly. He knows the seriousness of the situation. But he also sees the hand of God truly. He recognizes the faithfulness of God in the midst of these griefs. The slavery to Persia isn't lessened or eliminated, but God is still active. God is still good, and Ezra proclaims this. Even in the face of one more great failure (the holy people taking foreign wives [Ez. 9:1-2]), he acknowledges God's mercy (see vs. 13).
He is, in different words, praying portions of Psalm 31. "Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me....For the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me....You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place" (Ps. 31:2, 3, 4, 7, 8).
We, too, can turn to God with words of truth. Truth about our situations - our pain, our fears, our heartache, our discouragement - but also truth about who God is, in his steadfast loving-kindness and mercy. All too often, our pain blocks our view of the Lord's continuing presence. Can we pray like Ezra and the psalmist?
"Though my children do not walk with the Lord, my God has not deserted me in this sorrow."
"God has shown me kindness, even in the sight of the oncology nurses."
"I have been granted new life to rebuild relationships with estranged friends and family, to repair those ruins."
"God has given me a wall of protection, and I trust in him above my pension, my government, my husband."
"Though I miscarried once again, and my cousin is pregnant once more, my God has not deserted me in this sorrow."
"God has shown me kindness, even in the sight of the divorce lawyer."
"I have been granted new life to rebuild from addiction, to repair the ruin of trust and health and sobriety."
"God has given me a wall of protection, and I rest behind it from the attacks of my enemy upon my mind and emotions."
"You see the affliction and anguish of my soul, but I am not handed over to destruction."
Teach me to pray with such dependence and faith, Lord. Amen.
- Sarah Marsh
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