“We had to travel with a private security force, from the time we arrived at the airport until we left. Everywhere we went, we made sure they were with us.”
I was listening to a physician colleague detail the steps he needed to take when he and his family returned to his native country. Although he spoke the language and followed the same religion as the majority of its citizens, because he was visiting from America, he was considered a target. It was a stunning turn of events for a country that relied so heavily upon tourism for most of its gross revenue.
“Will there ever be a time when you will be able to travel without an armed escort?”
He sighed and said, “I am very saddened by what has happened. Unless something drastically happens, no.”
My colleague used to return to his home country at least once a year. Now, he is afraid to travel there and certainly not alone. Even familiarity with a people and its country may not be enough protection.
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.
Ezra 8:21-23 (NKJV)
Ezra, the prophet and scribe, led a group of Jews from Babylon to return to their homeland and the city of Jerusalem after being exiled for seventy years in Babylonia. Although he and the people he led were familiar with the land, it had degenerated into a very dangerous journey. Ezra demonstrated remarkable trust in God stating that he was ashamed to ask the Babylonian king for an escort of soldiers to protect them on their journey after he told the king that God would protect them.
Was Ezra foolish? If I was in his same position, I would have eagerly asked for assistance from the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us. The route that Ezra took was known to be a frequent site of raids by marauding gangs. He was extremely vulnerable, especially because he was escorting women and children and transporting priceless treasures that were once in the original Temple of Jerusalem.
Ezra was not foolish. Before he embarked, he proclaimed a fast for three days for the entire group and earnestly sought God’s will through prayer. God gave him his answer and protected Ezra and his group through the perilous journey.
Critics sometimes state that religious faith is blind. It motivates well-intentioned people to take unnecessary and hazardous risks under the banner of faith in God. There is nothing blind about what Ezra did. He entered the situation with eyes wide open, cognizant that he would be a hypocrite to state that he was relying upon God and then asking the king for assistance. Yet, he sought confirmation from God through prayer and fasting. This is the difference between solid faith and blind faith. God definitively answered him and protected all of them through their journey.
Someday I would like to visit my physician colleague’s country, but if I do, should I travel without an armed escort? Only if I spend time in devout prayer to God and earnestly ask Him for an answer would I even consider such a journey. Whichever path I take, I must seek God’s approval first before I rely upon my own instincts.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.