1. Application

The LORD Protects and Provides for His People

Ezra 8:1–36 (ESV)

1 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king:

Ezra 8 teaches us one simple truth: the Lord protects and provides for his people on their journey to the Promised Land.

Ezra and his group of exiles have gathered together outside Babylon, getting ready to travel back to Jerusalem. And they are embarking on a journey that will be very dangerous. The roads are plagued with bandits, their carts are loaded with silver and gold, and since it is now spring time, they are also making the journey during the season when armies traditionally went on campaign. With 1,500 men and about the same number of woman and children, their caravan will be exposed and in constant danger. What’s more, they’ve got around 1,400 kilometres to travel, a very long way to go on foot. No armed guard, no horses; any day could be your last.

Despite this danger, God’s people are eager and willing to go on this journey. Perhaps they were reminded of God’s instructions given through Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 31:16–21). The exile is over; it’s time to come back to Jerusalem. Still, as they are waiting on the banks of the river, it’s clear to everyone involved that this is a very risky endeavour. This journey is one in which their trust in God would really be put to the test. Do they truly believe that God has called them to go back to Jerusalem? Are they willing to bet their lives on his promise to protect them on that journey?

The need for God’s miraculous intervention and protection are obvious, and so with a time of prayer and fasting, everyone in the gathering of exiles is made aware of the fact that a successful journey is completely dependent upon the Lord’s help. Finally, with the silver and gold in the hands of the Levites, the journey can begin. Slowly but surely, travelling between ten and fifteen kilometres a day, the Israelites arrive in Jerusalem a mere four months later. Their journey was successful. There is great joy and celebration, that God can be trusted, he keeps his promises, and his gracious hand is upon his people to protect and care for them (Ezra 8:18, Ezra 8:22, Ezra 8:31).