Every week that I preach (which is most weeks), I post a “Sermon in a Sentence” where I summarize what I’ve said in one sentence. There are times when that isn’t easy, but I try. Today, though, I want to post everything that I said Sunday. Don’t worry – it’s short! It wasn’t a full-length sermon.
A bit of context is helpful: Immanuel Community Church’s new vision and direction was presented by our two new elders. At the end, I gave my thoughts.
Let me say first that I love the new vision and direction! But I’ll be honest — as I’ve been set free to do – I’m both excited and scared.
As we wrap things up this morning, I’d like to take a few minutes – and by that I actually mean “a few minutes” – to give you my hope and prayer for us as a church.
In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, a number of Jewish exiles were returning from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God and, ultimately, the city itself. As they go about doing what God has called them to do, there’s a phrase that’s repeated…and it’s an important one.
Ezra 7:6 says, This Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. Chapter 7, verse 9 reads, For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. Chapter 7, verse 28, Ezra himself says, “I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.” Ezra 8:18 puts it this way – spoken by Ezra, “And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18.” In 8:22, Ezra says, “For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” We have the response next in verse 23: “So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.” In 8:31, it says, Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. And in Nehemiah 2:8, Nehemiah himself says, “and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
The good hand of God was on Ezra and Nehemiah. What that means is that the Lord helped them, provided for them, and protected them – and He did it every step of the way. The only reason those two men, and everybody who followed their lead, succeeded and were faithful to God was because God’s good hand was on them – without it, they would have failed.
My hope and prayer for this church is that the good hand of God would be upon us. May He help us. May He provide for us. And may He protect us. We need to ask God – not just ask Him, but implore Him – to put His good hand on us by His grace and for His glory. I challenge you to pray for the next 30 days – every day – that God’s good hand would be upon us – that He would bless us by giving us success and prosperity in advancing His kingdom. I’m going to do that, and I ask you to join me for God’s glory and our good.
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