Ezra was one of the Jews who was deported from Israel and dragged into exile in Babylon. Later, in an amazing turnaround, the Babylonian king gave Ezra and his fellow exiled Jews permission to return to Israel.
Led by Ezra, the returnees looked forward to erecting a new temple on the site in Jerusalem where their old one had been destroyed. Stunningly, the king even gave construction supplies to the Jews: The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. (Ezra7:6b)
Even though the king may have had his own political motives for giving aid, it was nevertheless an amazing blessing from God. (God sometimes does use unbelieving politicians to achieve his purposes!)
Ezra’s winning streak continued:
Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:8-10)
During this time, God’s hand continually rested on Ezra and his endeavors. Yet even such a wonderful blessing as Ezra got is only temporary. There came a time when all his work for God was completed. Even the best of God’s workers eventually dies.
Indeed, I thought of two men I knew who died in 2021.
First, Alex. He was a good teacher of the Bible and was a man who lived out what he taught. And you could say “the hand of the Lord his God was on him.” Yet his body was being ravaged. He was taken by cancer around the age of seventy.
Second, Sal. Sal was a strong Christian man, a husband, father, and elder. He too knew that “the hand of the Lord his God was on him.” Yet, at the age of forty-four he died suddenly from a coronary.
We all have an expiration date! The book of Ecclesiastes has a timeless truth:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)
I am sad for Sal and Alex and their families, while yet being glad that the two men have joined Christ in eternity. They inspire me to reflect on which things are worthwhile to give my own time and energy to while I am still alive and well on this earth.