Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
Have you ever faced a task that is so difficult and overwhelming that you start to wonder: Should you do it in the first place? In such circumstances, what is the key factor that would keep us going?
In the book of Ezra, the Jews face a task that seems to have insurmountable odds. Rebuild a temple in a city that has laid in waste for more than 50 years? Impossible! God knows the difficulty of the task, however, and He provides the key factor that will keep them going-He moves their hearts. God moves the heart of Cyrus, the hearts of the leaders of the Jewish exiles in Babylon, and the hearts of the Jews themselves.
The heart must be moved first before the feet follow suit. God's work in our hearts is vital if we are to start and complete what He wills for us to do. The ESV Bible uses the phrase, ″whose spirit God had stirred″ (Ezra 1:5), showing that the moving of one's heart is a deep work of God himself. He is the One ″who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose″ (Philippians 2:13). Without this movement of the Holy Spirit within us, our actions will lack spiritual life and power. Only when the call of God is clear, are we able to do God's will no matter how difficult the circumstances and no matter the setbacks and disappointments.
Not all the Jews make the move, only those whose spirits are stirred by God. Every person whose heart is moved by God joins those who return to Jerusalem on their holy mission. The gifts and freewill offerings given to the returning exiles are signs that God is with them (Ezra 1:6).
The same thing happened when God led His people out of slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. As the Israelites were leaving, God made the Egyptians favourably disposed when they were asked for gold, silver, and clothing for the journey (Exodus 12:35-36). The unusual response of the Egyptians must have been an encouragement to the departing Israelites as they stepped into an unknown future.
God has His way of working in us and encouraging us on the way. Perhaps you sense God stirring something in your heart now. You feel a divine nudge to go somewhere, to do something, or to embark on a new journey. Prayerfully trust God and do His bidding. He will encourage you by providing what is needed, which is a way of saying that He is with you. ″The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it″ (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Read Acts 8:21. Why has an untouched heart no part in serving God? How can we ensure that our hearts are not far from God? Consider how God may be moving your heart in a certain direction.
What is the difference between a heart that is moved by God and superficial enthusiasm created by human means? Which is preferred in our individual lives and in our local churches? Pray accordingly.