STUDENT POST: Hopeless Situations & God’s Power

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series featuring outstanding excerpts from student papers at the BibleMesh Institute, which offers affordable online training for local churches, schools, and ministries. The author’s name has been withheld for privacy and security purposes. He is a missionary in Northeast Asia.

Sometimes in life the Lord calls us to tasks that seem impossible or to situations that seem extremely inhospitable. Ezra, perhaps, learned this as well as any other figure from Scripture. At a time when most Jews were scattered about the Persian empire (due to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem) and living comfortable lives, Ezra led the push to restore the Jews to Jerusalem. It’s a lesson that gives hope to many in the world that feel the oppression of antagonist governments, the loneliness of being a small minority surrounded by an unwelcoming populace, or the hopelessness of sharing the gospel with a people who seem disinterested. Ezra and many Jews from this era lived through all of these situations, yet in the end, God was true to His calling and rewarded Ezra’s efforts.

Ezra, a Levite priest and a direct descendant of the high priest Aaron, went to King Artaxerxes and asked for permission to restore a community of committed Jewish believers to Jerusalem. Artaxerxes granted this request to Ezra. Ezra gathered together many Jewish believers from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi. He had refused military protection from the king after boasting in the power of the Lord, and so before their journey Ezra led the people in a period of prayer and fasting for safety.  The group then safely made the months-long journey to Jerusalem where, by edict of the king, Ezra would serve as satrap, ruling the land west of the Euphrates River. Ezra found Judah in a state of moral and spiritual laxity. The Jewish men there had heavily intermarried with foreign women (probably as a means of maintaining peace with hostile neighbors[1]), and people were not reading or following the Torah.  After a period of prayer and confession, Ezra led the people in making a new covenant with God and they vowed to divorce the foreign wives. Through this the Lord preserved the Jewish line, which would be important later in establishing the lineage of Jesus Christ. Later, after Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra gathered the Jewish people and read the Torah to them publicly. This led to great confession, repentance, and the restoration of Jewish law. Because of this some refer to Ezra as “the father of the Jewish religion.”[2]

Ezra felt an unwavering conviction that the Jewish community and law of the Torah should be restored in Jerusalem. He took many risks and showed extreme obedience to God in carrying out the necessary steps to bring his (God’s!) vision to fruition. It was this unwavering obedience, humility, and focus on God, along with the power of God, that allowed him to accomplish his mission in the face of numerous obstacles, including lack of military protection, lack of fortification in Jerusalem, and hostility from non-Jewish settlers in Judah. This is an energizing lesson from Scripture and history for today’s believers. One might sense a calling to a difficult situation that seems hopeless by our own power. However, much like with Ezra and Nehemiah, if God calls you to complete a task, then He can carry out the task to fulfillment. In humble obedience to God, we often see stunning developments from Him. Ezra also demonstrated absolute trust in the Lord. By refusing military protection for their several-month journey to Jerusalem, Ezra was placing the protection of His people solely in the mighty hands of God. This is also a step that is often necessary for Christians who seek to take the gospel to difficult places. One must completely give up the feelings of rights and personal safety and trust in the Lord to protect and provide.

[1] Clint Benz, “Ezra and Nehemiah Within Their Historical Context,” Calvary Baptist Theological Journal 9, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 52–64.

[2] “Ezra | Hebrew Religious Leader | Britannica,” accessed July 17, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ezra-Hebrew-religious-leader.