“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of Him the right way for us and for our little ones and for all our substance—for I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way, because we had spoken unto the king, saying, ‘The Hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek Him; but His power and His wrath is against all them that forsake Him.’  So, we fasted and besought our God for this—and He was entreated of us.”

Ezra 8:21-23

Too often we grieve the Holy Spirit by turning to substitutes instead of going to the Source.

Ezra knew his was a daunting task.  Out of some 2-3 million Jews in Babylonian captivity for 70 years, only 49,897 returned home after Cyrus told them they could (2:64-67).  And, when Ezra and 2,000 more returned some 82 years later, they discovered many of those who’d initially returned had fallen away from the Lord.

That’s why he wept and proclaimed a fast.  Our sins and others sins should always move us to “afflict (Heb. ‘anah’—‘to look down, humble or abase one’s self, to chasten, lower, deal harshly with, weaken, etc.’) ourselves before our God, to seek of Him the right way for us and for our little ones and for all our substance.”  We should never forget the road upwards is always preceded by a downward one.

We can well imagine the anguish of heart Ezra felt when he gathered together the leaders in Jerusalem and “found there none of the sons of Levi” (v.15).  Were they not the ones set aside by God to oversee the affairs of God’s work?  Where were they?

Sadly, for whatever reason, they were M.I.A. (“Missing-in-Action”).

And, sadly, the same is so often true today for many who claim the Name of Christ.

They walk an aisle, pray a prayer and make a public profession of faith.  They’re baptized and join the church.  But, soon they are nowhere to be found—making others wonder if they’re simply “professors” and not “possessors.”

Ezra also proclaimed the fast because he was “ashamed to have to turn to the king for help against the enemy.”  He knew this would convey the wrong message—i.e., like a beggar or orphan, they needed someone to come to their aid.  And, to him—as it should be to us—that was unacceptable.

That’s why they “fasted and besought God for this.”

And, we can rest assured this was more than missing a meal and a two-minute prayer prayed off-the-cuff and soon forgotten.  Instead, it was a “wrestling with God and not letting Him go until He blessed” (Gen. 32:24-26).  And, if we are to experience the same in these last days, we, too, must not rest until “the Lord is entreated of us.”

So, what do you need from Him today, dear Pilgrim?  For whom are you praying?  Do not rest until the answer comes or you become like Asa, who “sought the Lord” for 35 years, but began seeking others’ aid for the last six years of his life (II Chron. 14:2-4, 7, 11; 15:2-7, 12, 15; 16:1-14).  Seek Him first—and seek Him now.  He’s waiting, willing and able.

By Tom Smith Morning Manna Dated September 2, 2009

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