SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Ezra is on a "mission from God," leading a large contingent of Israelites back to their home land, but their progress is halted when they realize they that no Levites had volunteered to come (verse 15). The Levites were the people God asked to serve as priests in the temple. Ezra is forced to do some recruiting and finally gets some Levites so the move of God can continue.
- Before they continue on their journey, Ezra has all the people fast and pray (verse 21) for protection. He could have asked the king to provide protection, but would have been "ashamed to ask" him (verse 22) because he wanted his faith to be in God, not man. God protects them, and eventually the arrive safely.
- Ezra orders the priests to be in charge of transporting the gold and silver that had been offered to God (verses 24-30)
- After they arrive safely, the people worshipped God by giving offerings to Him. Back then, they offered animals as sacrifices. We don't have to sacrifice animals anymore, because Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. But part of the reason they sacrificed animals is because it was what was valuable to them, it was what their economy was based on. Similarly, today God asks us to give offerings of finances from our income.
- The progress of what God wanted to happen was halted because of a lack of volunteers. Today, the progress of what God wants his church to do can be slowed or stopped because of a lack of volunteers. Don't force someone to recruit you to serve, volunteer!
- Fasting is going without food for a certain amount of time, so you can focus your attention and (more) time on God, and praying to Him.
- Here's an article on biblical fasting: http://www.allaboutgod.com/biblical-fasting.htm
- Here are a bunch of bible verses about fasting: http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-fasting/
- Just like the priests were asked to carefully take care of the offerings (because it was really God's money, not theirs') we are asked to carefully take care of our finances - because it's really God's money, not ours'. God has allowed us to be in possession of some of his money (that is called "stewardship") but it is still His money. And ... just like the Israelites sacrificed what they considered valuable to worship God, we've been asked to generously sacrifice some of our income by giving it back to God in the form of an offering at the church we attend.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Are you volunteering at church? If not, start. Don't wait. There will never be a perfect time. Just do it.
- Have you ever fasted for God, to pray more to Him? Maybe consider trying a one day fast to pray about something important to you.
- Are you following God's plan for His money that He is trusting you with? At Verve we are offering an awesome course called Financial Peace University starting in February, that will help you to get out of debt, create a financial plan that will work for you and help you to live in financial freedom, and figure out the whole generosity component of finances.