Day 10

Preparing to Return to Jerusalem

from the reading plan

Ezra 8:1-36, Jeremiah 31:1-11, Jeremiah 31:16-17, 2 Peter 3:9

I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I graduated from college with a degree in journalism. Once I had that diploma, I decided to get a master’s degree. My initial goal was to become a famous sportswriter, and I was sure that a master’s degree would move that dream closer to reality.

As it turned out, the newspaper world wasn’t bowled over by my academic credentials. They were more interested in my ability to string coherent sentences together than in any schooling under my belt. I often wondered why I had invested so much time, money, and energy into a degree that hadn’t helped me much.

Until it did.

A few years later, I got a job offer from a Christian publishing house. I had done freelance work for them, and they thought I’d be a good full-time fit. And guess what: the job required a master’s degree. While a seminary degree was preferred, journalism was also an acceptable option. 

Suddenly, the degree I’d wondered so much about became a ticket to a job I loved.   

I learned an important lesson—God is always working behind the scenes, preparing us for the next chapter in our lives. And, in the process, He might connect some dots in ways we don’t expect. That’s why we must stay alert to what He’s doing in us and around us.

I think about that as I read Ezra 8. After an initial group of Israelites had returned home to Jerusalem, Ezra returned to Babylon to lead a second wave to the land of promise. But before they got too far along, he challenged them to stop by the Ahava River and prepare themselves for God’s work (Ezra 8:21).

Ezra knew the road would be long, and he understood that good intentions would never be enough. This group needed to connect with God sooner rather than later. They needed to prepare themselves spiritually to embrace God’s work before taking another step forward.

We sometimes like to pretend that we have it all together. We enjoy the delusion that it’s all under control and that we’ve planned for every detail. Then God reveals Himself in a new way, and we’re forced to admit that we’re not as smart or strong as we think.

Like my master’s degree, we sometimes only recognize the significance of something in hindsight because we’re not listening for God’s voice or looking for His direction. We’d be a lot better off following the example of Ezra: taking a break from whatever journey we’ve started and humbling ourselves before the Lord.

Ezra also shared that God answered their prayers. He gave His people the strength and encouragement they needed to reach Jerusalem (vv.31–32). The same God who guided them will guide us—if we’ll trust Him and follow Him well.

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