1. Application

God’s ordinary provision

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:

When it comes to God’s help and provision, we should look for God to do so through human agency and hard work. As the Israelites are gathered next to the river, Ezra notices that the Levites are missing (Ezra 8:15). These were the men who had to help with temple worship; they were responsible for carrying the temple articles and furniture. In order to solve this problem, Ezra doesn’t simply pray and then sit back waiting for God to intervene. He sends men to go and speak to the Levites (Ezra 8:16–17). Presumably they needed a bit of convincing to join the journey to Jerusalem, as no one is eager to risk his life if he doesn’t have to. But with God’s hand influencing events, the mission is successful and the Levites join them at the camp (Ezra 8:19).

Similarly, when it comes to looking after the gold and silver, Ezra doesn’t ask for miraculous strength so that he can carry everything by himself. Instead, he divides the metals between the priests and the Levites (Ezra 8:24–30). They are entrusted with looking after it and by God’s grace, when they arrive in Jerusalem, everything is accounted for (Ezra 8:34).

Ezra had two needs, the Levites and the transport of the gold, and they were both provided in ordinary ways. This is the normal way in which God cares for us as we journey through this life. When we make decisions about marriage and jobs, God gives us counsel through the words of friends and family. When we look for food, God provides through work. When we travel in the car, we put on our seatbelts. When we come to our homes, we lock our doors. There’s nothing particularly exciting, impressive, or distinctively Christian about these things, but they are nevertheless God’s way of caring for us, of providing our daily bread.

This is a truth that we must remember in our day and age where there is a tendency, especially among some Christians, to think that God only works in miracles and special events. The job that you work week by week to provide for your family is good, but you can only be certain that God is looking after you when your bank account is filled with a large sum after a time of prayer. Visiting the doctor is good, but if you really trust God he will work a miracle and heal you in the comfort of your home. There’s no need to put on a seatbelt if God has sent a guardian angel to watch over your life. Certainly there are times where God bypasses ordinary means and he is free to do so. But that should not be our expectation. Instead, we must recognize and acknowledge God’s gracious hand of provision in our normal everyday experiences. God ordinarily provides through human agency, prayer and hard work.