Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Government Needs God's Word, Not Just Our Prayers (from Ezra 7-8)

"Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, and has extended mercy to me before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. So I was encouraged, as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me." Ezra 7:27-28
We live in a day when, more and more, believers are seeing the need to cry out to God that He would give us favor in the eyes of the civil government. What a blessing it would be to see real-life, government action that can only be explained by the fact that the Lord our God had put this into their hearts!

But there is a component in this section of Ezra that could otherwise have easily escaped out notice: his ministry of the Word to the civil authorities.
Ezra "prepared his heart to seek the Law of Yahweh, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7:10). 
From cover to cover, the Bible teaches a religion of the heart, even when it comes to the Law of God. Those who set "relationship" and "religion" opposite one another make a grave error, just as those who set "heart" and "Law" opposite one another.
Later, we read Artaxerxes saying, "Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done for the house of the God of heaven. For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?" (7:23). 
Where did Artaxerxes get this idea? Well, he called Ezra,
"a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven" (7:12)
and Ezra himself says in the next chapter,
"we had spoken to the king, saying, 'The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.'" (8:22)
Almost certainly, Ezra had prayed for the king's response, just as he prayed for safety on the road (8:23). And as we saw above, we know with certainty that he attributed the king's response to the miraculous work of God. But Ezra's waiting upon God for a miracle was not a passive inactivity. He had also been telling Artaxerxes the truth about the God of heaven.

Even if Artaxerxes was not genuinely converted, he did respond well enough out of fear for the protection and prospering of the church. Might not the Lord do the same or better for us today? Surely, we too should be praying that the civil authoirities would be a blessing to the church in our day.

But, in addition, let us keep aware of legislation that impacts the church, and request such wise laws as would protect and prosper true churches. And let us give to our authorities the plain Word of God without shame, for the good of the land over which they rule depends upon the very God to whom we pray!

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