I grew up in the church. I heard all the lingo! I knew all the clichés. But there was one phrase that always intrigued me. That was, “the hand of the Lord.” I would hear people say, “God’s hand is upon him.” I had a vague sense of what that meant. It generally indicated that the people were experiencing unusual success, perhaps even miracles, and that they demonstrated an unusual closeness to God. I also sensed that anyone God put His hand upon must have a life that was pleasing to God.
But what exactly does it look like when God puts His hand upon you? God’s hand is all-powerful. It can heal, create, provide, defend, or destroy. Since God is invisible, it is impossible to see His hand, but it is certainly possible to witness the results when God puts His hand upon someone.
Ezra was a scribe from Babylon, skilled in understanding and teaching the law. His parents had probably been exiled under the Babylonians. Growing up among a defeated, displaced, and perhaps despised people; Ezra might not have held high ambitions for his future. It’s clear from the biblical record that Ezra was a skilled scholar, teacher, and administrator. But there was more to his phenomenal success than that.
We are told that Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Ezra didn’t merely train his mind; he prepared his heart. As a result, God chose, in His sovereignty, to place His hand of power and pleasure upon His servant.
When Ezra sought the approval and blessing of the king for his return to Jerusalem, “The king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him” (Ezra 7:6). Despite facing a daunting and perhaps, fatal, undertaking, Ezra “was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me . . .” (Ezra 7:28). When Ezra needed Levites to join his expedition, God provided them, “by the good hand of our God upon us . . .” (Ezra 8:18). When the scribe needed divine protection from his enemies, God shielded him. Ezra testified: “And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road” (Ezra 8:31).
While Ezra clearly was a talented individual, there was clearly more to his leadership success than his natural talent and skill. There was God’s unmistakable presence. Some leaders strive to acquire education and training, but they neglect their walk with God. On the other hand, there are those who love to pray and read their Bible, but they neglect to grow as leaders. This leads more often to martyrdom than leadership success!
But church history heralds those great spiritual leaders who obtained both leadership skills as well as the hand of God on their life. These people changed the world.