Reading 1 - Ezr 8:22
"I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies 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' " (Ezra 8:22).
"A convoy on many accounts would have been desirable for the pilgrim band, but a holy shamefacedness would not allow Ezra to seek one. He feared lest the heathen king should think his professions of faith in God to be mere hypocrisy, or imagine that the God of Israel was not able to preserve His own worshippers. He could not bring his mind to lean on an arm of flesh in a matter so evidently of the Lord, and therefore the caravan set out with no visible protection, guarded by Him who is the sword and shield of His people. It is to be feared that few believers feel this holy jealousy for God; even those who in a measure walk by faith, occasionally mar the lustre of their life by craving aid from man. It is a most blessed thing to have no props and no buttresses, but to stand upright on the Rock of Ages, upheld by the Lord alone" (CH Spurgeon).
"Ezra was not overconfident or boastful. He did not presume upon the providence of God. But he did not feel he could consistently ask the help of man when he had spoken of the limitless power of his God. Others may have regarded the matter differently, but to him, the situation raised again the same issue of allegiance and dependence -- God or man -- and whenever that issue arises in whatever form, the answer of faith must be the same.
"He well realized the responsibility he had assumed in leading his unprotected company through wild and hostile country. It is clear that this weighed heavily upon him. There were many other lives besides his own involved -- many who trusted him and depended upon him, and who were prepared to make the journey with him relying upon his judgment and wisdom.
"It would have been far easier to have asked for an armed guard, but he felt that the honour of his God was at stake, and so in prayerful hope, and with no armour but faith, they ventured forth. And no harm befell them" (GV Growcott).
Reading 2 - Hos 9:11,16
"Ephraim's glory will fly away like a bird -- no birth, no pregnancy, no conception" (Hos 9:11).
The glory of the Ephraimites, their numerous children, would fly away like a bird, quickly and irretrievably. There would be few births, or even pregnancies, or even conceptions. There is a play on the name "Ephraim" here, which sounds somewhat like the Heb word meaning "twice fruitful". The Ephraimites had looked to Baal for the blessing of human fertility, but Yahweh would withhold it in judgment. Ephraim, the doubly fruitful, would become Ephraim, the completely fruitless.
"Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring" (v 16).
Because the people were not ROOTED in the truth (Eph 3:17; Col 2:7), their natural roots would wither. Likewise, the fig tree which did not yield the promised fruit was cursed by Jesus, and was dried up from the ROOT (Mar 11:20).
Reading 3 - Acts 28:30,31
"For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ" (Act 28:30,31).
During these two years, Paul was constantly under Roman guard (Eph 1:20; Phi 1:7), enduring much privation and suffering (Col 1:24; Eph 3:13) -- being prematurely aged by extreme persecutions (Phm 1:8,9).
Apparently, some of the Praetorian Guard, assigned to guard Paul, were converted by his preaching (Phi 1:13).