Today’s Verse (our Text for the morning) is beautiful!
Any real Bible Preacher on earth could orate on its precious truths for a whole Sermon!
Ezra said, as he faced a difficult journey: “And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me.” Ezra 7:28, embedded in the chapter’s last verse, really.
Yes, a four month trek lay ahead of this man, the leader of hundreds of Jews who would be following his vanguard. Through apparently dangerous territory!
Yes he assuredly says: “the Hand of the Lord my God was upon me,” thus “I was strengthened!”
The Hebrew verb employed as “strengthened” here is spelled “chazaq,” literally meaning “hardened” for the task ahead! Not wishy-washy! Not half in-half out! Resolved! Plus this, I just noticed that “chazaq” is translated “to hold” (37 times) in the King James Version. As in … “God’s Hand was upon me … and I was ‘held’ firmly by Him!” The verb here is also “reflexive,” meaning that the action of God is intensely personal, Ezra being in God’s Grip! (Normally a reflexive suggests: the subject of the verb is also the direct object of the verb, expressed or implied!) Like: “I was strengthened, me myself, by God’s Mighty Hand!”
This is impressive, in more ways than one!
Now the phrase “the Hand of the Lord” must be considered.
I find this exact “string” of words 36 times in the Old Testament, located in 35 different places, “the Hand of the Lord.”
From Exodus 9:3, its first Bible appearance: “Behold, the HAND OF THE LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.” All the way to Acts 13:11, its last appearance: “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” Mercy! Both these times, in both these extremes, the “Hand of the Lord” was stretched out in judgment!
But a few of the times (I am estimating a third of them, I just reviewed them all) “the hand of the Lord” is used in the Word of God, it is viewed positively!
And certainly so by Ezra!
But also by Ezekiel (who uses the phrase more than any other Prophet, really more than any other Bible character) … “So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but THE HAND OF THE LORD was strong upon me.” Wow, Ezekiel 3:14, here God’s Hand and God’s Strength are again linked!
Furthermore Nehemiah, Ezra’s compatriot and co-laborer, was fond of expressing it this way: “Then I told them of THE HAND OF MY GOD which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” Nehemiah 2:18, he sure wanted that “for good” in there, didn’t he?
Even earlier in Nehemiah (2:8) we find again … “And the king granted me, according to the good HAND OF MY GOD upon me.” Wow, not God’s Hand of Judgment (its predominant implication) … but God’s Hand of Blessing … “for good, not evil!”
Now our Ezra Text again: “And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me.” Surely I’ve said enough to encourage us all!
Let us ask for God’s Hand to be “upon us” … “for good!”
(As in 1st Samuel 30:6 … “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: BUT DAVID ENCOURAGED (“chazaq, the very same verb used in today’s Text) HIMSELF IN THE LORD HIS GOD.” What a Verse! “Strengthened himself!”
Oh, Paul said it too, just in a little different way … “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13
I didn’t count them today … but once again, Wow!
— Dr. Mike Bagwell