Chapter 29 of the first book of Chronicles constitutes a prayer of David, a testimony of David, when he was thinking about Solomon’s having the privilege of building the temple to honor God—the temple that David himself had wanted to build, but God had withheld from him the privilege because he had been a bloody man. Notice I Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 10:
I Chronicles 29
|10||Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.|
|11||Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.|
|12||Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.|
|13||Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.|
We are going to stop our reading right there, and we are primarily interested in the truth that is contained in the last part of verse 12. David said, “…and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.” Notice those words again, “…in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.”
I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to the book of Ezra, because we are going to be looking at that in just a moment. You will remember that some time ago I told you that God had given me the verse for the year upon which I was to rest. I told you that verse was found in the first book of Chronicles, chapter 4, verse 10, and I encouraged as many of you as felt led of the Lord to do so, to claim that verse for your own life and to stand with us and claim it for the ministry of the Word of God here at the Bible Center. We tried to keep that verse before you. I Chronicles 4:10:
I Chronicles 4
|10||And Jabez called on the God of Israel, and said, Oh that thou wouldest… enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me…|
That was the end of the prayer of Jabez, and a postscript is added in the verse:
I Chronicles 4
|10||…and God granted him that which he requested.|
I told you that when I asked God for that year verse, I also asked Him to teach it to me, as I do every verse that I ask Him for. When I say that I asked God to teach it to me, I don’t mean that I asked God to help me to memorize it. I don’t memorize very well or very easily, and I usually muddle things that I try to quote. I’m not talking about memorizing the Word of God; I’m talking about asking God to teach me that verse that I may know its meaning in its entirety, that I may get all the juice out of it, so to speak.
I have been waiting on the Lord, seeking the meaning of this verse, keeping it constantly before me and asking God to show me new things about it. When He does, I like to pass some of those things on to you. I don’t think we could consider this message today a sermon in the strictest sense of the word. I don’t think we could consider it an exposition of the Word, but just something that I want to give to you out of my heart.
We talked about this basic prayer of Jabez, “Oh God, that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast.” As I have been meditating upon this verse of Scripture, God has been impressing me with the fact that if He is to enlarge our coast, whether it be personally in my own life or in yours, or whether it is in relation to the ministry of the Word here at the Bible Center, if God is to enlarge our coast, then it is absolutely necessary that His hand be with us. It is absolutely necessary that the hand of the Lord be with us. When that fact was impressed very indelibly upon my mind, I began to wonder, “Well, what can it mean? What can it mean for the hand of the Lord to be with us?” What is involved in the hand of the Lord being with us? When Jabez called, “Oh, God, that thine hand might be with me,” exactly what did he have in mind?
Well, of course, we talk about the different books of the Bible, and we say Ezra wrote this and Jeremiah wrote that and Isaiah wrote that. Humanly speaking that is true, but we recognize that the Holy Spirit is the author of the book; and so the answer to the question that Jabez had can very easily be found in the life of Ezra, not because Ezra knew Jabez’s needs, but because the Holy Spirit knows the need of Jabez, and He knows the need of Ezra, and He is able to bring the two together.
God’s Hand Upon Ezra
I’ve asked you to turn to the book of Ezra because I think that the hand of God was upon Ezra as it was on no other person in the Word of God. The amazing thing about it is that Ezra was absolutely conscious of that fact. When you have the time, read the entire book of Ezra. It is not a very long book, just ten chapters in all. Part of it is genealogy, a list of a considerable number of names, so that will cut down somewhat the reading of it for you.
In the last four chapters of the book of Ezra, we find Ezra owning that he is the author of the book, and we find that Ezra lets us know beyond all doubt that the man about whom he is speaking is actually himself, for he mentions himself by name and he quits talking in generalities.
A brief sketch of the book will reveal that Ezra was the leader of the children of Israel when they returned from the Babylonian captivity to the land of Palestine, the city of Jerusalem, for the purposes of rebuilding the temple.
If you take the time to read the book, you will find that this return under the leadership of Ezra was not an easy thing at all. It was a very difficult thing; it wasn’t anything that an ordinary person in his own strength could do. But Ezra, because he felt the burden on his own heart, decided to accept the call. He says over and over again in these last four chapters, “The only reason that I could do what was done was that the hand of my God was with me; the hand of my God was upon me,” and he mentions specific instances.
I believe an examination of those specific instances today will be profitable to us. All we are going to have time to do is to mention them and then leave the application of the truth up to your own hearts, save for a few remarks that we very definitely want to make.
Ezra’s Request of the King
If you have your Bibles open to the book of Ezra, we read in chapter 7, verse 6:
|6||This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.|
You have to know something about the background of the book to appreciate that verse of Scripture. Get the picture: Here was Ezra and his people, the captives of Artaxerxes, the king of Persia; and Ezra went right up to the king and said, “King, I’d like to take my people back home.” Now, mind you, they were captives. What an unheard of thing, for a slave in a kingdom to walk boldly up to a king and say, “King, I would like to take my people back home. And when we get back home, I would like to rebuild the walls of the city and I would like to rebuild the temple that has been dedicated to my God.”
Now, mind you, all of this in the face of great opposition; because word got out that Ezra was planning something like this, and a delegation went to the king. They said, “King, you had better not let them do this. If you do, there will be an open rebellion throughout the Persian empire.” They said, “You look up the record, and when you look up the record, you will find that the city of Jerusalem is made up of kings that have deliberately rebelled against all authority from the very time that the Babylonians first made them captive.”
The king did look up the record, and he said, “Well, we can’t let that happen. We can’t let them go back and do that. Tell them to stop. Don’t even begin to do it.”
Granting of the Report
But Ezra, in the face of all that opposition, walked right up and said, “King, I want to take my people back, and I want to do this thing that I have laid out before you.” And wonder of wonders, we read in chapter 7 that the king said, “All right, do it.” He granted him that which he requested.
The thrilling thing to me is not that he just granted Ezra permission to do it, but he did something that even by the farthest stretch of the imagination you could not think, humanly speaking, he would do.
Turn over just a page in chapter 7 and you will find a letter that the king wrote. In this letter, he stated everything that I have suggested to you about their wanting to go up, and he instructed in this letter that they should be allowed to take all the gold and the silver vessels that were in the temple when they were first taken captive to Babylon. They were to be permitted to take all of them back.
This was a tremendous thing, but it is just like our God to give us measure, pressed down and running over and running over again. And so in verse 20, we read:
|20||And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure house.|
Think about that. Not only did he say, “Go back; take with you that which I brought away or that which my forebears brought away,” but he added, “If you need anything, just go over to my treasure house and tell the treasurer that I said that you could have whatever you need. I’ll gladly pay the bill for this expedition.” Think about it. This heathen king had no interest in the God of Israel, but because one little man stood in his presence and made this request, he was willing to do it.
The thing that amazes me is what is in verse 21, because it is even more wonderful still:
|21||And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily.|
“I don’t want any delay,” he said. “I don’t want any red tape. I don’t want you to keep this man cooling his heels in the outer office before three or four secretaries before the job is done. I want it done, and I want it done just like that.”
King’s Heart In God’s Hand
Someone says, “Ezra, how in the world did the king ever decide to do a thing like that?” And Ezra said, “Well, all I can say is God’s hand was with me. He did it according to the good hand of God upon me.”
Now you may say today, “What has God’s hand being on an individual got to do with a king’s doing a thing like that?” Well, there is something that we are prone to forget. Keep a marker here in the book of Ezra, and turn hurriedly with me to the book of Proverbs, chapter 21, verse 1:
|1||The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.|
Isn’t that a tremendous verse? Do you get the picture? Take any king in the world. God says, “I’ve got his heart right here in the palm of my hand, and I can turn it to the right or I can turn it to the left. I can turn it forward; I can turn it backward. The heart of the king is in my hand, and I can turn it which way I want to turn it.”
Do you see what Ezra did? Oh, it is not here in the text. You can’t read this life of Ezra without being sure that he would act the way a godly man should act. I’m quite sure that even before Ezra went in to see the king, he got alone with God and he said, “Now, God, I’ve got to go up to see the king because he has control of these things, but I want You to go ahead of me, and I want You to turn his heart in the right direction, God. And when I talk with him, I want You to have the whole thing cut and dried so that all I’ll have to do is take the key to the treasury.” And that is exactly what happened, because the king did exactly what Ezra asked, everything that he requested, and even more “according to the good hand of God upon him.”
Journey In God’s Power
Look down at verse 8 of chapter 7 of the book of Ezra with me now:
|8||And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.|
|9||For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.|
|10||For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.|
Did you notice what we read there in verse 9? He made a journey according to the good hand of God upon him, and what does all that mean? Well, when you are able to read the background of this story, you will find that Ezra made a ten months’ journey in five months time, all because the hand of God was on him. Now, if he had tried to make that journey all by himself, if he had tried to make that journey all in his own strength, he couldn’t have done any more than ordinary men do. But because the hand of God was on him, he was able to cut the time in half.
My, that is an amazing thing—to be able to conserve through the power of God! It is an amazing thing to be able to make things go twice as far just because God’s hand is with you. You have heard the saying over and over again, and I repeat it because it cannot be better said, “Little is much if God is in it.” All in the world you need to do is to be sure that God’s hand is on you.
Heart Prepared to Seek the Lord
Don’t bypass this verse that we have read. We don’t have time to emphasize it in detail. You know why God’s hand was on Ezra, don’t you? Well, look at verse 10:
|10||For Ezra had prepared his heart, to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.|
You see, he wasn’t going around looking for a heavenly handout and living his own way. It wasn’t that. He had prepared his heart to seek the Lord, and because his own heart was prepared to put God first no matter what the cost might be, the hand of God was on him, and he was able to stand before a king and the king was putty in his hands. He was able to make a journey in half the time it would have taken anyone else to make it.
As we hurry on, look over at chapter 7, verse 27:
|27||Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:|
|28||And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.|
Notice in verse 28, he said, “I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me” or “as the hand of the LORD God was with me.”
One of the reasons we know the Bible is the inspired Word of God is that it tells the truth about people. No writer of fiction would ever let his hero be presented in a bad light, but God’s Word always tells the truth about people. Much time elapses between these verses that we are thinking about; we are just running through them.
I told you a minute ago that a little fellow stood up before a king and said, “King, I want to take my people back.” And the king said, “All right, take them.” Now, if a fellow could do that, he could do anything! He would never be scared; he would never be weak; nothing would ever happen to him; everything he would do would be just right. But in between that time and this time, Ezra got cold feet. He got scared. He thought maybe he ought not to be doing that thing. He thought maybe he ought to back up. He thought maybe he ought not to go ahead with the thing because there was a lot of opposition. You read this plus the book of Nehemiah and you will find that there was a lot of opposition to what he was doing.
So he wavered a little bit. And just about the time that he wavered, God strengthened him. God strengthened him by putting his hand on him.
I would like to remind you of what we read in Psalm 37, verses 23 and 24:
|23||The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.|
|24||Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.|
Isn’t it wonderful to be able to sense the hand of the Lord at your elbow to hold you up when you are about to stumble and when you are about to fall? The hand of God was with Ezra.
Strength and Courage From God
Look at chapter 8 of the book of Ezra and notice verse 21. Ezra says:
|21||Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.|
|22||For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.|
|23||So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.|
Do you know what he was talking about? Well, when he was ready to go back and he had all his gold and silver, all the money from the king’s treasury that he needed, someone came along and said, “Ezra, do you mean that you are going to make that long journey with just some men, women, and children? No soldiers? No armor of any kind? Do you mean that you are going to make a long journey like that? Why, some of those highway robbers will come and they will take all the money that you have gathered together. You had better make adequate protection. God doesn’t expect you to be foolish now.It is all right for you to say that God answered your prayers, but don’t do anything foolish. The king said that you could have anything you wanted, so go tell him that you want part of his army to go with you.”
It bothered Ezra. He said, “I’m afraid the king wouldn’t understand a thing like that, because I said that if God’s hand is with a person God takes care of him. And if God’s hand isn’t with a person, that person is in bad shape. I’ve already told the king that God’s hand is with me. Now, I don’t want to have to go back and say, ‘King, I’m not for sure that I want to trust the hand of God’.”
My, that is human, isn’t it? Isn’t that the way most of us do? We tell folk that God answers prayer and the first emergency that we get into, we run to someone for help. We say that we believe that God can do anything, and at the first real crisis that comes into our lives, we get panic-stricken. We are put to shame, and we bring God to shame. Our testimony isn’t as clear as it ought to be.
So Ezra said, “I don’t want to have to tell the king that I’m afraid. I’ll tell you what let’s do. Let’s have a prayer meeting. Let’s ask God to give us the courage to trust in His hand and His hand alone.”
So they knelt down there on a river bank and they fasted, too, and that is a lost art. They fasted and they asked God to give them the strength and the courage to make this journey without depending on the king. And God did. He got them there safely, so you see you never even need to be ashamed if the hand of God is with you. If the hand of God is resting on you, you do things that no one else can do, and you don’t need to have to apologize for doing them.
Assurance of God’s Deliverance
Look with me now at the last verse that I want to leave with you, verse 31 of chapter 8:
|31||Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.|
What I referred to a moment ago, if you take the time to read the intervening verses, you will find was accomplished by a handful of priests. A handful of priests took all of this money that they were so concerned about and made an advance journey, but here was Ezra to follow on with the women and the children and the men who were unarmed. They knew that there would be enemies lying in wait; they knew that there would be enemies ready to pounce on them by the way, and they said, “God, you’ll just have to take care of us.”
So they made that journey right through enemy territory with people ready to pounce on them and not a hair of their heads was touched. Why? Because they had an army? Because they had lots of strength? No! Because the hand of God was on them!
I want to remind you today that if the hand of God is on you, you can be absolutely assured that God can deliver you from any kind of evil, that God can deliver you from any kind of enemy that you have. Since all of us come face to face with the arch-enemy of our souls, the Devil, we can rest assured that God is able to deliver us from him.
I ask you, “Is the hand of God on you? Is it?” You say, “Well, I don’t know whether the hand of God could do all of that for me.” Well, listen: Chapter 40 of the book of Isaiah, verse 12, says that God is able to hold in the hollow of His hand all the waters of the world; all the waters of the world God is able to hold in the hollow of His hand. If God is able to do that, what makes you think He would have any trouble putting His hand on you and accomplishing His purpose in the same way?
In closing, turn with me to the first epistle of Peter, chapter 5, as I remind you that God is a spirit. God doesn’t even have any hands; He doesn’t have any feet, but God is infinite, and we are finite. So God has been pleased, in order to bring the revelation of Himself to us, to talk about Himself in words and phrases that we are able to comprehend. Don’t be confused by the hand today. Don’t be confused so much by the picture that you forget the truth.
All I’ve been trying to say to you today is that if it is the desire of your heart for God’s hand to be with you, there is absolutely nothing that you can’t do. Peter said in the first epistle which he wrote, chapter 5, verse 5:
I Peter 5
|5||Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.|
|6||Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.|
Do you see what Peter is saying to you? He is saying that whatever your need is, whatever your problem is, whatever the desire of your heart may be, if you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, He will exalt you in His own time.