God is bringing His people home and he does so through the hand of Cyrus, king of Persia. His proclamation sends them home well equipped too.
We have come to the book of Ezra which tells the story of the Jews coming home. While I was reading the introduction to this book in my Bible helps they mentioned that the returning captives were met with resistance from the Jews who were not deported and the other people who moved into the land. In the end of 2 Chronicles we were told that the land lay desolate; “…until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chronicles 36:21b). So there were apparently some people still planting and reaping in the land during this 70 year period. I’m wondering if God was withholding good harvests during this time maybe to keep it from being appealing to more re-settlers.
Something else that I had mentioned in our last time together, which covered this same time period in history, was Cyrus recognizing God as the God of the universe. I wondered about his listening to Him above even the gods of Persia. I thought about the different ways he could have heard about the One True God. But in today’s reading it appears that Cyrus has limited God to being in Jerusalem where His house was. “He is the God who is in Jerusalem” (verse 3b). Cyrus might have rightly called God the God of the universe but he apparently didn’t see himself and his people as part of this same God’s universe. And at the time, his assumption may have been more right than wrong.
God had set the people of Israel apart unto Himself from the days of Abraham. God influenced and worked on the rest of the world but those were not HIS children. His hand on the rest of the world was used in direct relation to His chosen people. Some examples include:
- Pharaoh not touching Sarah when Abraham said she was his sister.
- Hardening Pharaoh’s heart during the plagues so His work would be noticed by ALL the nations around. It made other nations fear messing with His people, no matter how weak they appeared
- The hearts of the Egyptians were open to the people of Israel to send them off with a LOT of possessions; silver, gold, precious stones, clothing, etc…
- Using nations around Israel to discipline them when they were in rebellion.
- The tumors and rats inflicted on the people of the Philistines when they took possession of His Ark. This certainly struck fear in the hearts of the Philistines concerning Israel’s God.
- Today’s events of speaking directly to the heart of Cyrus to the end that he provided EVERYTHING the people needed to return home and rebuild His house and their relationship with Him.
ONLY when the time was right, and God had impressed upon His people a strong desire to renew their relationship with Him, God worked a miracle in the heart of Cyrus. That miracle extended to the people of the land too. They too, like the Egyptians, contributed to the success of the Jewish captives return journey and future work. Who would ever expect a people serving another god to give “freewill offerings” to help another people’s God in rebuilding His Temple? I know I certainly wouldn’t be contributing to someone else’s god’s building project! But the people of Persia did. They gave to God Himself, expecting nothing in return. They didn’t pray to Him. They didn’t travel with the Jews to help restore what was lost. They didn’t plan a trip to the new Temple to worship Him in it. They simply opened their purses and gave. Cyrus even opened the storehouses and returned all the pieces Nebuchadnezzar had taken in the first place. I don’t know if what was given back was EVERYTHING that was taken, but it was substantial! Thousands of items were returned to the people of God, because HE moved in their hearts. They weren’t His children but He still had an impact on them.
God’s ‘reach’ in this world was limited by His own hand. If you ever doubt this, refer back to the story of Noah and the flood. He has the ability to impact every man, woman, child, and being on this earth. He chooses to reserve His most poignant interactions to those who choose a relationship with Him. We, that have accepted the redemptive work of His Son, are those people too. He can turn the hearts of those around us towards helping us when He chooses too. Favor in getting a job or a home. Good deals when negotiating for something. Blessings out of the blue when you need them most. He can also shut doors that we want open. Not getting the job you wanted. Being turned down for a loan you needed.
Some of these might seem like He isn’t listening or doesn’t care about our issues but we KNOW He has a MUCH better view of our lives than we do. We have to continue to trust Him to know what we need and when we need it. We may not be ready for what we are asking for at the time. Just like the people in captivity were not ready to truly search for Him and commit to a relationship with Him again until that one perfect point in His time. We will get to see what His timing truly meant as we go through more of His stories. For today, I’m going to rest secure in the knowledge that He has EVERY aspect of this world in His hands and He knows EXACTLY what needs to be done and WHEN it needs doing. In the end we win! Don’t think so? Check out the book of Revelation. I’m looking forward to that conclusion.
Father God, thank You that You do know exactly what I need and when I need it. Thank You too that You don’t penalize me for asking, even when it’s not something I should have in the first place. I’ve learned to accept “No” from You. Not that I like it but I KNOW it is what is best for me.
I have family that is struggling right now that I’m asking for Your hand in their lives. A LOT of their issues they brought on themselves but still, they need Your favor. They need housing quickly, among other things. The group in Nevada isn’t the only ones this prayer is for either. You know their names and their needs. For one, her greatest need is knowing You. She certainly makes her own drama! But we love her in spite of it. Heal her body EXTRA fast and resolve her issues please. ALL I can do is lay them at Your feet.