In this chapter Ezra takes a group of approximately 1,500 Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. Keep in mind that many, if not most, of the people traveling with Ezra have never been to Jerusalem before, as they have spent most if not all of their years in Babylon and Persia. It is not an exaggeration to say that Ezra and these 1,500 exiles were on a mission trip, sent by King Artaxerxes to restore the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem.
Likewise, we are called to live out loud and lead others to Jesus, both in our own city and abroad. That’s why I encourage everyone at Thrive to go on a mission trip at least once, and preferably multiple times, while you still can. In this chapter, we learn some valuable lessons on how to set out on a mission trip.
On verses 1-14: Ezra records the people who went with him from Babylon to Jerusalem, trying to account for all of them. What can we learn from this? Before setting out on a mission trip, take stock of what you have and who you have with you.
On verses 15-20: Before proceeding on their long journey to Jerusalem, Ezra stops at a canal for three days and takes stock of the people who have come with him. Ezra notices that he does not have Levites who can assist with all the work of the temple (v15). So he sends some of his leaders to go and secure the help of 38 Levites from two different families as well as 220 temple servants. Wise move, Ezra. If Ezra had gone back to Jerusalem without a team of people who could minister at the temple, his entire journey would have been a waste.
What can we learn from this? Before setting out on a mission trip,make sure you have everything you need. If you are lacking in a certain area, look to your brothers and sisters in Christ, your God-fearing neighbours to see if they can lend some support.
On verses 21-23: Ezra proclaims a fast and leads the people to humble themselves and petition the Lord for a safe journey. Likewise,before setting out on a mission trip, humble yourself before God and ask for His help. Realize that you can’t just rely on your own smarts, strength and experience. You need the Lord’s help, wisdom and protection, so ask for it earnestly through prayer and fasting. Fasting is not twisting God’s arm (as if we could) to do what we want to do. It’s humbling ourselves in His presence so that we can be more usable in His hands.
On verses 24-30: In the presence of the leading priests, Ezra measures out how much silver, gold and precious articles they have with them and tells the leading priests to guard them carefully.
What can we learn from this? If you have been entrusted with money to take with you on the journey, be sure to handle it and guard it with great integrity and care.Leaders in God’s kingdom need to be above reproach in the way they handle other people’s money. Ezra was wise to appoint a team of leading priests to handle this aspect of their journey.
On verses 31-38: Upon safely arriving in Jerusalem, Ezra and his group of exiles rest three days (v32) and then they get right down to business:
–they measure the money they have once again to make sure that nothing was stolen and that everything is accounted for.
–they sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord in Jerusalem, just as King Artaxerxes had sent them to do.
–they deliver to the governors of that region the endorsement letter that King Artaxerxes had written for them (Ezra 7:11-26).
What can we learn from this? When you go on a mission trip and reach your destination, get the rest you need when you arrive but don’t waste time. Quickly get to the tasks for which you have been sent.
Finally, notice how twice in this chapter Ezra says “the hand of the Lord was upon us”– once when God provided Ezra with Levites and temple servants (v18) and again when Ezra and his crew arrived safely in Jerusalem without being harmed by enemies and bandits (v31). What can we learn from this? When anything good happens during your mission trip, be sure to give praise and credit to God, for every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). We can’t do anything good without Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for every person reading this GAME sharing today. I pray that they would know today that You call them Your missionaries, Your representatives, and Your messengers. May we not be afraid to travel outside of our comfort zone to bring God’s love to people and places in need. May we wisely use the time, talents and opportunities You have given us to reach people for Jesus. Thank You and let Your kingdom come. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!