In my readings through the Old Testament, I have reached the book of Ezra. It is a time where the King of Cyrus has been moved by God to look favorably upon the Jews. He has made a decree that they may return to Jerusalem, and has given them orders to rebuild the temple.
Truly this is the hand of God working in a land where the children of God had been in captivity for 70 years just as the prophet Zechariah had prophesied. Now their time has come. They may return to their own land, freed from the ones who had held them captive.
According to the numbers that actually returned to Jerusalem, the footnote in my bible says that "when the invitation to rebuild was made, most of the people failed to respond...."
Why??? Here they were living as captives, slaves in a land that was not their own. They were being given freedom over bondage. What would hold people back from a return to their God-given land, a life out from under the rule of one who was not a leader blessed by God?
Why indeed... Why is it that you and I today, when offered the freedom in our Lord Jesus Christ from our old ways and habits, our exile to sin, hesitate to fully commit to the journey? What holds us back from grasping the strength of the Holy Spirit to continually confront and conquer in our new walk? What trips us up as we are choosing whether to move out...or stay put?
Are we possibly like those living in Persia, fearful to step out of what has become familiar and comfortable? Would we choose to remain in a comfort zone that leaves us in a depressing lifestyle of bondage when we have the opportunity to walk away into freedom? Are we afraid of the journey itself or is it that we are afraid of failure to accomplish what lies on the path ahead?
Sometimes it is so much easier to choose what is easier over what we know is best for ourselves and those around us. Sometimes when we look at the road to recovery, it appears too long, too demanding, and too hard to travel.
It is in these moments of doubt and fear that we need to draw in and draw near to the God who is there for us. He will help us climb the mountains we feel we cannot climb. He will calm the raging storms when they would attempt to defeat us . He will heal the hurts when we have failed and cry to have victory in our walk.
God always has, is, and will be there when we cry out to Him. We are His children. We are His beloved. He calls us out of our land of bondage, our chains of slavery to things we no longer desire in our lives.
Lord, reach down, tenderly lift our chins up. Turn our eyes back toward you, our Maker. Do not allow us to be downtrodden by our own emotions. Do not let us be overcome by circling thoughts of self-serving excuses to justify our self-imposed bondage and weaknesses. Give us others to surround us as we step out, who are likeminded with us in our fight, to encourage us to hold fast, to stay the course.
Cause our downcast spirits to once again take flight and rise above the clouds of sadness that accompany life's bumps and bruises as we travel rough terrain.
Lord, give us courage! Let us never be afraid to take the hard roads to get to the high places where you stand beckoning us. Let us choose what may be hard and difficult over what is easy and comfortable. Help us to run for the higher calling of a disciplined journey over what is a self-serving life of exile away from your treasures yet to be revealed. Thank you for not abandoning us!