In church we’re using Zoom to have Bible discussions, currently on the book of Ezra. Ezra was a man who helped in the restoration of temple worship, some 130 years after the temple had been destroyed by the Babylonian army of the great king Nebuchadnezzar. If you don’t know of Nebuchadnezzar, Saddam Hussein liked to think of himself as the second Nebuchadnezzar. One interesting fact about Ezra is the repeated phrase, “The hand of the LORD my God was on me.” (1)
It’s made me think back over my life, even before I was a Christian, and I can clearly trace the hand of God on me, eventually leading me to the cross where Jesus died, and where I became a Christian. It was never anything major, just a combination of little things that add up to God’s protecting and guiding hand. For instance, I grew up in a council house on the edge of a large council estate during the 1960’s housing boom. Rolling fields where I used to play were replaced by house after house and some interesting characters moved in and around me, boys who became my out of school friends and who I used to hang around with. There was Pete who I can’t remember not being friends with. He ended up involved in gang fights and went to court charged with carrying an offensive weapon. Flapper (real name Kevin but he had big ears, boys can be cruel) was a big softie but in his teenage years he started to beat up his parents and developed a fearsome reputation. No one called him Flapper after that. Graham and Tommo were two other childhood friends who ended up in court, and Tommo went to prison for a horrific crime that is too upsetting to put in print.
Not all my friends were bad but I could so easily have followed the bad examples, but I was protected. My mum was quite fearsome herself and I was not going to cross her, but she was also an ex member of the Salvation Army giving me a fascination with all things churchy and a respect for the Bible, so much so that when I had opportunity I stole one from my aunt. I must have read the Bible because I can remember an RE lesson where the teacher wanted to know what the connection is between Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts. I gave him the answer, much to his amazement, and mine too as I look back. I have no idea how I knew that, except God was at work leading me gently to the cross. I won’t tell you the answer to the teacher’s question, you can check it out yourself.
I messed up school, average O levels and failed A levels. I was in a dead end job going nowhere but God took me out of it and made me a teacher. I was 20 when I went to college. I was allowed in on the basis of my O level results. If I’d waited one more year I wouldn’t have been accepted for teacher training. That was God’s planning. I failed A levels miserably but I could do the same stuff in college, and more besides, often coming top in exams. That was God’s doing, replacing my inadequacies with his adequacies, preparing me for future years serving him.
There is so much more I could add but I’ve said enough to indicate how God, from an early age, had his hand upon me and was leading me to salvation. My story is nothing special, many people could say the same and would have far more dramatic incidents to recount. What about you? As you look back are you aware of times when something has happened where you’ve felt led or protected? You wonder how your life didn’t go downhill when your friends lives did, or you feel as if a voice is calling you or someone is leading you forward. Can you piece together a series of incidents that may indicate a guiding hand? It may well be the case that you are being guided. If so, God is only taking you to one place. It’s a hill called Calvary, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. It’s where Jesus was crucified, dying for your sins. God wants you to see this because it’s the evidence of his love for you. Sin has separated you from God which means you are heading for a lost eternity, but God loves you and it could be that he is gently leading you to the place where you can see his love in action. Jesus didn’t have to die, but he chose to in order to deal with our sins. Believing in this wonderful truth and placing your life in the hand of the God who took you to the cross is the right thing to do. Please, for your eternal well-being, accept Jesus as your Saviour and live for him.
- Ezra 7:28