“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:21
When the Lord’s hand is on us, one of two things happens. Either we feel His hand of correction, or we feel His hand of blessing. Throughout God’s word we see instances when God’s hand brought His grace, blessings, relief, peace and more. For instance, when the followers of Christ, who were scattered after Stephen’s stoning, reached Antioch and began preaching the Good News of Jesus to the Greeks in that city, the Bible tells us many people believed and turned to the Lord.
In Isaiah the prophet writes, “I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (46:10b)
God told Joshua the reason He dried up the Jordan River and Red Sea was so His people could cross over on dry ground, and “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:24.
When Ezra led a band of exiles back to Jerusalem from Persia we read that, “he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances to Israel.” Ezra 7:8-10
With Ezra we realize something about the hand of God. If we’re going to handle the challenges we face in life we have to focus on God’s faithfulness and not our fears or doubts. The crises in our lives can create opportunities for us to trust all of God’s boundless resources and not depend on our own meager supply. The key to our future is in trusting our faithful God and validating His hand upon us when we watch Him meet our needs and restore our lives.
Ezra was an unwavering man of the law as well as a man of deep personal faith. The book of Ezra tells us that he “had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, to practice it, and to teach God’s statutes and ordinances to Israel.” Ezra 7:9-10. When we read the story of Ezra we discover something. He was prepared and he prepared his band of returning refugees, for the opposition he and his comrades faced.
We would do well to prepare for our next crisis, our next despair, our next trial the way Ezra did.
First, he “set his heart to study the law of the Lord.” That means not just reading God’s word, but making time to study it, cross reference the verses, read passages in context, meditate on what we read, taking notes on what God says to us as we read. That is what hiding God’s Word in our heart means. Not just memorizing it, but making it a part of us, owning it, claiming it as who we are.
The next thing Ezra did was to practice it. He lived out what God showed him in His law. He obeyed God’s statutes and followed His ordinances. He walked the walk. And the people he was leading witnessed his obedience in the way he lived and the way he lead. And they followed Ezra with confidence.
Then he taught God’s statutes and ordinances to the Israelites who followed him to Jerusalem. He shared His faith with the people. And the result of his obedience was that the hand of God was upon him just like the hand of God was on the followers of Jesus who came to Antioch and spread the Good News to the Greeks there. Just like the hand of God will be on us if we STUDY God’s law, practice what God teaches us in His word, then share what God teaches us with others.
PRAYER: O, Father, help us today to learn from those who shared the Good News of the gospel in Antioch where your hand was on them and a great number of people believed and turned to You. Persuade us to study Your word, to practice it, and then to share what you teach us with those around us who don’t know You, or who don’t know who they really are in Christ, or just need encouragement or hope in their times of need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.