“Cometh the hour…” (Ezra 7-8) (John MacDiarmid)

Reference: Ezra 7 and 8

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That’s a saying most people can finish. “Cometh the hour…cometh the man”. Or, in today’s world it would have to be “cometh the person”.

The phrase is used to describe that moment when something critical, important and necessary has to be done, and takes the fatalistic view that when such a crisis moment arises, the right person will appear to do it.

It has been used of politicians (often Churchill), sports people (David Beckham’s free kick against Greece in 2001) and Military heroes. I want to suggest today that it can apply to every one of us. Every person has a job to do that is for them alone. As the old hymn says:

“There’s a work for Jesus, ready at your hand,
’Tis a task the Master just for you has planned.”

And Churchill said:

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

On his appointment as Prime Minister in 1940 he said:

“I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial… I thought I knew a good deal about it all, I was sure I should not fail.”

So the question is: what is it that God has called you to do, and to be? It is probably not to score the winning goal in a world-cup qualifier, nor to lead a nation under threat of invasion. It is probably something that seems to you quite mundane…to raise a child or two, to be someone’s wife or husband…to be a great employee, or a great boss…to lead a Stream, or greet someone on the door at church…the list goes on.

How can we approach our own call? What does God have to say about the way in which we can be sure that we do what God has for us to the best of our ability and in his strength? Today we look at a man who God called to do a job that needed doing. As we look at it, remember that he sets an example for you. Your call may not seem as grand as the man we will look at…but it is. There are no small jobs in God’s kingdom.

At last, in this book of Ezra, we meet the man himself. Enter Ezra, stage left:

“After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest— this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.
Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

Sixty years have passed since the temple was completed. The job that the Jews came back to Jerusalem to do has been finished. You might have thought that the story had come to an end. And Ezra could have finished at the end of chapter 6. But everything we achieve is only a stage on the journey. After the temple has been finished, the people of God settle into a routine of life. We don’t know now, but we later discover that all is not well. But God know’s and He has a man waiting in the wings. Whatever the needs are around you, God has you ligned up for His purpose. Are you ready?

1. The Preparation of God

After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest— this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given.

We don’t know too much about Ezra, but it seems that he had an impeccable heritage, descended all the way back to Aaron, the first High Priest. Your heritage may or may not have been exemplary, but everything that has happened in your life up to now has been to prepare you for the job that you now have.

We know that Ezra had been in Babylon and has established himself as a well-known teacher there. He probably thought that this was his destiny in life. But God has other plans. But all the time God had been preparing Ezra. How does God prepare anyone to serve Him?

a. Devoted to God’s word – Ezra was a devoted student of God’s word. Every ministry that God gives requires us to understand God’s word and His ways. Are we in the word of God daily?
b. Devoted to Obeying God’s word – Ezra was a man who was committed to obeying what He found in the word. Everyone who serves God in any capacity at all needs to be a person dedicated to obeying Him
c. Devoted to teaching God’s word – every believer needs to be a person able to teach the word of God. The great commission, given to all believers, is to “teach them to obey…”

2. The Provision of God

We have it within us to prepare ourselves to be the people God wants us to be to be useful in His Service.

“The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”

Extraordinary! First Cyrus, then Darius and now Artaxerxes, all pagan tyrants, gave everything that was necessary for God’s people to do his work. You can read more detail about it in the rest of Chapter 7 – but the overall picture is that God provides supernaturally for Ezra to do the job that he has been called to do.
This should encourage us in two ways:

a. God provides for His church. In the case of Ezra, God provides a teacher. But to build His church, Jesus uses gifted men and women, and he puts them into place as He sees fit. So in Ephesians 4 we read:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

b. Secondly, God will provide everything you need in order to do the job that God has called you to do. Matthew 6v33 says that if we seek first His kingdom everything else we need will be ours as well.

3. The Protection of God

Ezra has to embark on a long and hazardous journey. It took him four months to get from Babylon to Jerusalem. Who will protect him and look after him on suc a difficult journey? The answer: God will! If God has called you to do a job, he will protect you along the way!

Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.

There is more detail about this in the 8th chapter. We read that faced with such dangerous journey Ezra and his companions fasted and prayed, and God answered them.
As a church in enemy occupied earth we face a dangerous journey. In your call to serve Him, in whatever context, you have dangerous and exhilarating journey ahead of you. You will only succeed with God’s help, as you draw on His help in prayer.

4. The People of God

Every call of God to serve Him takes place in the context of being one of the people of God. So Ezra does not make the journey alone.

Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.

Again, this only serves as a summary. There is a full list of those who made the journey with Ezra, showing that every person and every role was important to God. The lesson for us, is that we do not serve alone. We are required to work with others, and in fact nothing we do can work unless we do so. Your part is only a part of the whole.

So…. God has a purpose for you to carry out. He prepares you, he provides you, He protects you and He gives you others to work alongside.

Let’s be like Isaiah, and hear the call of God to rise up and build.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

John MacDiarmid
June 2018