“I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” Ezra 8:22-23
In the movie Chariots of Fire, based on a true story, Olympic contender Eric Liddell chooses to honour God, an integrity that could cost him a chance at a medal. He refuses to run in the qualifying heats that take place on the Sabbath, but God opens a way through the generosity of Harold Abrahams, his competitor. And Eric, who feels that his running is an act of worship, who feels God’s pleasure as he runs, is free to compete.
I listened often to the record of the movie’s soundtrack when going through a difficult time, a time when I sorely needed to feel God’s protection. Van Gelis’ stirring rendition of Jerusalem, the lyrics that had been written by William Blake, could lift my spirits to look beyond the difficulties of current circumstances. Like Ezra, focused on the goal of reaching Jerusalem with thousands of exiles through dangerous territory, like a runner focused on the finish line, the difficulties were bearable when I learned to trust God to keep me safe. I could lift my eyes to the finish line, the coming home.
In times of peril, God has clearly shown that his people need not fear. There are angelic armies and spiritual chariots of fire all around to defend them. Praying for God’s guidance gives the groundwork for practical steps. Ezra, under a great responsibility for people and temple treasures, divides the valuables among people of character, entrusting them to guard them until they can be accounted for on arrival. We are responsible for acting on the instructions and guidance we receive.
It’s the last day of 2019, and we have no idea what will happen in the year to come. But we pray the blessing and wisdom and guidance and protection that God has always promised those who trust Him, and then we turn our face toward God’s kingdom, taking joy in the journey.