Ezra 8:21 “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.”
Given a choice, all of us would choose grace over affliction. But, if you had to endure hardship to acquire grace, it might seem less palatable.
Here in Ezra, we read of a band of Jews coming out of captivity to rebuild their Jerusalem city. Led by Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah, they begin rebuilding the wall around their city.
It wasn’t the physical rebuilding that should capture our attention, but their hearts.
Ezra desired to serve and honor God with all his heart. He clung to the Word of God, lived it, preached, and taught it.
Ezra is attributed as the author of Psalm 119 – the book’s longest psalm. Every verse contains a reference to the Word of God.
Ezra’s faith desired to put God to the test in the rebuilding.
Ezra 8:22 “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.”
Because he relied on God, he wanted those who sponsored him to see him as well. The desire was significant enough to want to fast or afflict their souls to hear from God.
Fasting is seldom practiced and even less preached in churches today. Fasting is more spoken of in terms of weight loss than spiritual rigor. Yet, if we were too serious about hearing answers from God, even Jesus tells us:
Mark 9:28-29 “And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
The problems we see today are in much need of fasting. What may be a medical condition or ‘disease’ is nothing more than spiritual warfare on behalf of our enemy.
Yet, we shy away from declaring a fast because we either believe it isn’t that bad or we feel we can handle it and do not want to involve God on our behalf.
How bad does it need to get?
What will it take for God’s children to seek His face with all their hearts through prayer and fasting?
We see a full-on, no holds barred attack worldwide from the spiritual wickedness in high places to pastors and preachers falling into sin. Biblical prophecy points to these as the last days. Satan knows his time is short.
While we still have breath on this earth, we ought to seek God in a way like no other. Ezra saw it in his day as God giving them a ‘space of grace.’
Ezra 9:8 “And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.”
We need reviving in our bondage. The church is in bondage, to pride, immorality, and apathy.
Do we fear that God will not hear our prayers, or do we shy away from the affliction and sacrifice it takes for revival?
What would it take, or what price would we be willing to pay for our church to have revival? I’m not talking about some emotional meeting where we are moved or stirred. I am talking about getting right to the point of public confession of sin, offerings of life, and possessions to further the gospel’s spreading.
Where are the tears over our sin?
Where are the children of God giving up their secret sin to wholly dedicate their hearts and lives to God?
Where are the all-night prayer meetings?
Where are the dedicated fasts for lost loved ones?
Past revivals came when God’s children prayed and fasted for a supernatural movement of God. Revival must first come to the church house. It must be evidenced in His children’s lives before a lost and dying world can be affected.
When we desire personal revival more than our daily food, it can start in our hearts. Replacing mealtime with a prayer for our revival is a start.
Grace is a gift God gives. It is not earned or merited. It can be requested, prayed for, and even begged with tears. But, it will only come when God gives it.
We are in such bondage, yet, we do not even realize it. We are much like the Laodicean church in the Book of Revelation.
Revelation 3:14-18 “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”
We are in such need yet; we do not see it.
Let us not go through the motions of this life. May we ask to be deeply affected by truth and transformed into what God gifted and created us to be.
Fasting is a way to create the space of grace needed for God to work.
May it be in every heart to desire revival terrible enough to do whatever it takes.