Ezra 8:21-23 – “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”
- If we’re going to toot our horns for God, we’d better be ready to play the whole song. Don’t put an “I love Jesus” bumper sticker on your car and drive like a maniac. We must be willing to step back and interpret our actions as an unbeliever would view them in order to live in a way that can win them to Christ. And while we’re thinking about that – we may just discover how we should have been living in the first place!
Ezra 8:24-30 – “Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold. I said to them, ‘You as well as these articles are consecrated to the LORD. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the LORD in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.’ Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem” (emphasis added).
- It is the instrument itself God values, not just the music it plays. Think of the different shapes and sizes of musical instruments, the different sounds they make, the creative minds that invented them. Now, think of the thousands (perhaps even millions) of faces you’ve seen in your lifetime, the different lives they’ve lived, the infinite Creator the formed them. Then, imagine the sheer joy He finds in the music of our voices raised in praise, in prayer, in teaching, or in honest searching, repentance or even anger. He loves the instrument, and when the music plays, He is doubly blessed.
Ezra 8:31-36 – “On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days. On the fourth day, in the house of our God, we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles into the hands of Meremoth son of Uriah, the priest. Eleazar son of Phinehas was with him, and so were the Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time. Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. They also delivered the king's orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God” (emphasis added).
- For most instruments, you must take in a breath in order to breathe out the music – and even the drummer must lift his hand to beat the drum. After a 900 mile journey, these people needed rest before they could complete the ministry they’d been called to do. They could have pushed themselves, gone to the Temple immediately, delivered the goods, offered a half-hearted sacrifice and fought with the local magistrates. And their music would have been discordant and out of tune. Instead, they rested first and then offered God the sweet sounds of whole-hearted, faithful, sacrificial worship, and they didn’t quit the band.
Lord, give me wisdom to balance my rest and service. It’s so hard to know when to breathe and blow, to lift my hand and beat the drum. Perhaps that’s the problem. I’m the instrument trying to tell the Great Musician how to play me. How utterly ridiculous! I rest in Your hands, waiting to feel Your gentle touch, feel the Breath of Your Spirit flow through me and know that any music I play is by Your hand alone. Thank You, Lord, for choosing me as part of Your band.