I’m reading the book of Ezra right now. This description of him reminded me of the ladies of IF:Gathering and his story I think has many applications for what is happening now with the IF movement. I hope to keep this fairly short, but I believe it’s a word some of you might need. Especially Jennie Allen, Amy Brown, and the whole Austin Staff team.
Ezra was part of the remnant of Jews still in exile in Babylon. At some point during the reign of Artaxerxes (after a group had already returned to build the temple and after the events recorded in the book of Esther), Ezra is called by God to go back to Jerusalem to serve in the temple. It appears that he asks the king for permission to go and for the resources he and the volunteers who go with him will need for the journey and for their service in the temple. (See Ezra 7: 6)
The king responds incredibly generously, providing the equivalent of millions of dollars of resources. The group going with Ezra ends up numbering almost 2,000. (See Ezra 7:12-23, 8:1-20). It occurred to me while reading this that it’s possible Ezra had no idea just how BIG this call was going to end up being. I imagine that he was grateful for the incredible generosity of the King, but also somewhat daunted by the complications of such overwhelming generosity.
I know Jennie has talked about God’s call on her life to ‘disciple a generation’ and how ridiculous and big and undoable that seems. It seems that Ezra had a similar call. In verse 25 of chapter 7, we see that Ezra’s call is to teach the law of God to “any who do not know them.” Hmm, that sounds familiar!
In chapter 7, verse 10, he is described this way: “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” All of these words are just reminding me so much of the mission and descriptions of the goals of the IF:Gathering. He was a devoted student of scripture. But here’s the main word I feel like some of you need to hear. Over and over and over again in this book, Ezra says of himself and his group that the gracious hand of God is on them. Because of his assurance that God’s hand is on him, he says he took courage, gathered his people, and went on his way walking towards the call God gave him. And in the end, those 2,000 plus people, plus the TONS of treasure made the dangerous 900-mile journey with ZERO losses. Our speaker said it this way – God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s supply. (I wanted to stand up and shout Amen! but it’s a pretty calm Bible study…)
Anyhow, I could not stop thinking about all the pieces of the IF:Gathering in Austin and all the IF: Locals. Here’s my prayer for all of you this weekend: Lord God, may your gracious hand of favor rest on each person leading this weekend. May your favor show up in incredibly overwhelming ways so that we see that it is not by our own strengths that your work is done but by your vast well of grace. May we lead with courage, armed with the knowledge of your word and that you go before us and that you are with us. May we arrive to our destinations with everything accounted for. We believe you are able to provide the resources, the leadership, the wisdom, and the courage we need. You have given us everything we need and we believe you for your protection over our families and our hearts as we step into your calling. AMEN.