Streams in The Desert

[Ezra 4:1–4]

They were people who were living to themselves. Their hopes, promises and dreams still controlled them, but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for a repentant heart and had surrendered themselves with a willingness to pay any price for it, and he sent them sorrow. They had asked for purity, and he sent them sudden anguish. They had asked for meekness, and he had broken their hearts. They had asked to be dead to the world, and he killed all their living hopes. They had asked to be made like him, so he placed them in the fire “as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Malachi 3:3), until they could reflect his image. They had asked to help carry his cross, yet when he held it out to them, it cut and tore their hands. They had not fully understood what they asked, but he had taken them at their word and granted them all their requests.

… An awe and a fear [were] upon them, as Jacob at Bethel when he dreamed of “a stairway … reaching to heaven” (Genesis 28:12) … or as the disciples when “they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost” (Luke 24:37), not realizing it was Jesus …

They found it easier to obey than to suffer, to work than to give up and to carry the cross than to hang upon it. But now they could not turn back, for they had come too close to the unseen cross of the spiritual life, and its virtues had pierced them too deeply. And the Lord was fulfilling this promise of his to them: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

… They knew it was good to suffer in this life so they would reign in the one to come; to bear the cross below, to wear a crown above; and to know that not their will but his was done in them and through them.

~ Anonymous ~

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