Saturday - September 25th
Scripture to Read Today: Ezra 8:21-31
So we fasted and petitioned our God about this,
and he answered our prayer.
God used Ezra to take priests, financial resources, and many people of Israel from captivity in a foreign land back to Jerusalem. The Babylonian captivity had begun seventy years earlier as part of God's judgment against His unfaithful people. Just as He had foretold through His prophets, God began to restore the people of Israel to their land, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple. Much work had to be done. In the 5th and 6th centuries, B.C., God would use leaders like Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah to lead His people home and rebuild all that had laid waste for seven decades.
Each leader would find favor with the secular leaders within the land of their captivity. Foreign leaders would provide materials, financing, security, and permission for the return of God's people. Just as God had used foreign powers to judge His people, He used foreign powers to bless and provide for the restoration of His people to the land of their forefathers.
As he sat on the brink of leading a wave of Israelites back to the land, Ezra knew much uncertainty remained on the horizon. He knew that even with some of the resources provided to him by a foreign king, humanly, the journey ahead held much risk. So he called on the people to fast and pray before they began the trek home.
After the time of prayer and fasting, they began the journey. God protected them. After their safe arrival, Ezra said, "We fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer" (Ezra 8:23). As you read the accounts of the various groups led from Babylon back to Jerusalem, you discover a common thread. They prayed, fasted, trusted God, and set out on their journey. Even if what they planned did not turn out the way they prayed, they recognized God was weaving something much better for them and their children.
As we do in other passages related to fasting, we notice that humility, focus, trust, sacrifice, dependence, and even kindness emerge as key outcomes of their fasting. Prayer and fasting may not always provide us the exact circumstances we sought, but God does respond with what is best for us. As we fast, we get more intentional about God and what He is doing. We see things more clearly from His perspective. We benefit from His response to our fasting even when the exact answers we sought to our prayers do not come to fruition.
As you fast and pray for great times of change, decision, or trials in your life, look for what God is doing - even if it isn't what you requested. Allow your fasting to give you clearer humility, greater focus, deeper trust, more sacrifice, stronger dependence, and increased kindness toward others.
Fasting may not always produce what we seek, but fasting always produces God's best for us.