Ezra 8:21 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.
As the next verse makes clear, Ezra was very literally “putting his money where his mouth was.” Verse 26 lists the staggering amount of treasure the group would have with them. Travel in those days was a risky proposition, with lots of bandits and such along the way. (This is why the Pax Romanum, the Roman Peace, was so important to the spread of the Gospel in the 1st Century: for the first time it made long trips reasonably safe.) This was deadly serious business, and Ezra wanted to be sure everyone was focused on the only One who could ensure their safety. In America and Japan at any rate, we tend to take travel much more casually, but we forget that none of us has a guarantee of tomorrow. Last week a close friend who had put off and put off and put off making a commitment to Christ dropped dead, and she has no more opportunity. That is indeed tragic. She had failed to humble herself before the only One who could save her. Physical salvation is important mostly in terms of our having opportunity for spiritual salvation, because everything material is temporal, temporary, but spiritual salvation is eternal. This is not to say that everyone who acknowledges Jesus as Lord has to fast like Ezra did, but salvation does require humbling ourselves before God. The first requirement for salvation is to acknowledge you need to be saved. That requires humility. It is a choke point for many, and some never get past it. Honesty before God will always lead to humility, because He is perfectly holy, as well as omnipotent and everything else, and we certainly are not. It is only in humility that we can receive all the aspects of the magnificent salvation that He has prepared for us in Christ.
My life has been an odd mix of pride and humility. I grew up knowing that God was perfect and I wasn’t, but I still got stuck in pride of various sorts, and the result was never good. It is interesting that genuine humility and submission before God will generate an assurance that will look like confidence, even brashness, to outsiders. I know from experience that God can do anything, and He can even use me to do things that are totally beyond me personally. However, I will experience those things only as I am genuinely humble and submitted before Him. I continue to have the feeling that God has remarkable things planned for this year, but I’ve got to stay on my face before Him if I am to be available and flow with His Spirit.
Father, thank You for directing me to get back to regular fasting. It’s been quite some time since I’ve done that, even though times of fasting in the past have been greatly blessed. Thank You for arranging it that this passage came today, though I had no thoughts of personal fasting when I was making up the Scripture list. I have various things that need to be done today. Help me stay focused on You in prayer even as I do other things, so that Your purposes for this time may be fulfilled both in me and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!