Monday, November 24, 2008


Now, you see, these cats have been praying for a fish to eat. Do they expect one to miraculously jump out of the water or should they pounce on the one the man with the pole will catch? When is it time to get off our knees and roll up our sleeves? What’s the difference between active faith and meddling with God’s plan? In pastoral ministry for fourteen years, my husband had lots of opportunities to wait on God to fill leadership positions and provide volunteers for various ministries. I once asked him why he didn’t just make an announcement that he needed a volunteer for a Sunday school teaching position. His answer? “Because I might get one.” Roy’s approach was similar to that of Ezra – pray ‘em in and then seek ‘em out. Pray, and let God send someone to fill the position. If no one shows up in time, use godly wisdom to seek out the best person for the position. But most of church ministry is based on volunteerism. One of the churches we served held a fish fry twice a year as a fundraiser. We needed lots of volunteers because this was a community event that drew people from adjoining towns. Well, one particular family had always been in charge of frying the fish. It just wouldn’t be a Jonah Fish Fry without the Stump family slaving over the frying vats! Two brothers, their wives and kids – all huddled in the back lawn, rain or shine, twice a year. Guess what? As sign-up sheets for the fish fry were posted one spring, not a Stump family name appeared in the frying section! The earth shifted on its axis! Ice crystals formed on the Lake of Fire! Pastor Roy, the designated volunteer hit-man, was immediately dispatched for a home visit. Why? Because years of godly fish-frying was on the line! I’m kidding, but I’m not. My husband did talk to the Stump family to ask why they had suddenly bowed out of this ministry. He encouraged them to use the skill and wisdom they’d gained in their years of service to train their replacements, and he pushed them to serve even though ministry fatigue had set it. Yep, pushy Pastor Roy. So they fried fish. With glad hearts. They did it for God, not for Roy.

Ezra 7:13 – “Now I [King Artaxerxes] decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who wish to go to Jerusalem with [Ezra], may go.”
Ezra 8:1-14 – “These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with [Ezra] from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes: of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom; of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel; of the descendants of David, Hattush of the descendants of Shecaniah; of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men; of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men; of the descendants of Zattu, Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men; of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men; of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men; of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men; of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men; of the descendants of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men; of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men; of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men; of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men; of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.”
  • King Artaxerxes asked for volunteers, and these are the ones who showed up. Approximately 1,500 men registered to make the trip from Babylon to Jerusalem with Ezra. Now, v. 21 mentions children, and with children come mothers to corral them on this 900 mile adventure. So you can see, Ezra has his hands full of far more than 1,500 calm, determined, capable, qualified men. He had a wild, excited horde of humanity with various passions, strengths, weaknesses and motives for their journey. Sound familiar to any of you pastors and leaders out there?

Ezra 8:15-17 – “I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, and I sent them to Iddo, the leader in Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his kinsmen, the temple servants in Casiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God.”

  • Ezra registered the volunteers and affirmed their service; however, he recognized a gap in the practical ministry need. Should he have simply accepted those who presented themselves as God’s provision and moved on? He didn’t think so. Ezra affirmed the passion of those whose hearts God had stirred to volunteer, but he also pursued those who would provide vital leadership in Jerusalem. Passion and proficiency are both necessary components of successful ministry.

Ezra 8:18-20 – “Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah's sons and brothers, 18 men; and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 men. They also brought 220 of the temple servants--a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.”

  • What if the Levites had not agreed to come? What then? Does that mean God is no longer gracious? Or could that mean Ezra had rolled up his sleeves when he should have stayed on his knees?

Lord, I believe You call me to walk on my knees, continually taking one step past my ability. When the answer comes, as it did for Ezra, You receive the glory. When the answer doesn’t come, I simply remain on my knees and know that You have said, “No, my child,” or “Not now.”

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