My devotions took me to Ezra 3 this morning. First to back up:
In Ezra 1: 1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
5 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. 6 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.
A contingent of Jews headed back to Jerusalem to live.
In Ezra 3, the priests, “builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. 3 And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.
The Jewish people knew they had enemies all around, people who didn’t want them there, who scorned their God, and who wanted power over them. But the Jews remembered Who they served. They had the Book of the Law. They knew.
They knew the blessings God had promised if they would adhere to His Law (Deuteronomy 28.1). They knew the curses God had promised if His people would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God, to observe to do all His commandments and his statues which He commanded them that day. (Deuteronomy 28.15).
Deuteronomy 28. 1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God…. 7 The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. 8 The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
SO many blessings, in verses 1-14!
But then the curses, if they would not hearken unto God:
Deuteronomy 28. 21 The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. 22 The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish…. 25 The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth…. 33 The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed always.
Pestilence, consumption, inflammation, fleeing from enemies: sound like anywhere you know today?
The people of Ezra’s time knew that, in order to receive the protection and blessing of God, they would have to bow down and obey Him. They knew that their people had refused to listen to God for centuries, and God had, indeed, taken them away captive from their homeland. They knew that, without God’s protection, they would open themselves up to disaster, disease, tribulation, and suffering. Why would they want to go through that again?
They built an altar and worshiped God, as He commanded. They offered burnt sacrifices to atone for their sins. They humbled themselves before their Almighty God.
And they continued in their obedience: Ezra 3.5 And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.
Are you seeking safety, protection, and peace? Humble yourself before the Lord God. Worship Him. Read His Word to find out how to obey Him. Call out to Him for guidance. Walk in obedience to Him. God always blesses obedience. He will bless you.
Ask for God’s eyes and heart to discern what His protection looks like. King David was a man after God’s own heart. He was often in the midst of danger, and he was spurred into action to go to war for God. Maybe that doesn’t look like safety and protection to many of us. But it did to David. Read his Psalms. David knew he was completely under the protective Hand of the God of Israel Who loved him. David had the peace of God that passes all understanding.
So did the apostle Paul. Paul endured beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, and thirst. But his heart was hard after God, and he knew implicitly that God had His Hand of Protection over him.
Peace with God comes with obedience. The peace includes giving our times, our circumstances, and our wills over to God, and accepting from His Hand all that happens, including death. If we are indeed obedient, we put all our trust in Him. In exchange for our obedience, God blesses us with His joy and peace.