“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.’” – Ezra 1:2 NLT
The year is 538 BC. The people of Israel have been in exile in Babylon for 70 long years. But God is about to lift His hand of judgment and restore the people to the land and back into His favor. The amazing thing is how God chooses to bring this all about. When He punished the people 70 years earlier, He had used Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, to accomplish His will. This Babylonian king was like a puppet in the hand of Almighty God – accomplishing His will and fulfilling His plans for the people of Judah. Now, 70 years later, Cyrus, the king of the Medo-Persian Empire which had defeated Babylon, becomes the next pawn in the hands of God. This powerful leader has his heart stirred by the Spirit of God and issues a decree allowing the Jews to return to the land of Israel. Not only that, recognizes that God has appointed him with the responsibility of rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem.
God used Babylon to defeat Judah, demolish Jerusalem and destroy the Temple. Now He was going to use Persia to return the people to the land, restore Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. What an amazing God. This powerful pagan king becomes an instrument in the hands of God to accomplish His will and fulfill His promises to the people of God. What a wonderful reminder that God is in control.
So Cyrus issues his decree, commanding those who chose not to return to financially support the remnant who would be making the trip back to Jerusalem. Cyrus also returns to the people of God all the items that had been plundered from the Temple during the days of Nebuchnezzar. Thousands of bowls, basins, incense burners, and other articles are placed into the hands of God’s people, so that they might be restored to their original purpose, the worship of God. All of these items had at one time been set apart – made holy – and dedicated to the worship of God through the sacrificial system. Now they were going to be restored to their original intent. They had been set aside for a time due to the sins of the people, but now they were being restored. The same thing could be said of the people of God. They had one time been set apart for the glory of God, but sin led to their being set aside. They were God’s chosen people, His instruments, dedicated to His use and designed to bring Him glory among the other nations of the world. But they had been set aside for 70 long years. Now they were being restored. They were being given a second chance by God. What incredible grace. What amazing love. What an unforgettable reminder of how much God loves us and desires to restore us to fellowship with Him when we stray. God had told the people that if they failed to serve Him faithfully, He would be forced to punish them, and He did. But He had also promised to restore them, and now He was. Just as He said He would.
In the future, when you experience all these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and when you are living among the nations to which the Lord your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions. If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you. Even though you are banished to the ends of the earth, the Lord your God will gather you from there and bring you back again. The Lord your God will return you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will possess that land again. Then he will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors! – Deuteronomy 30:1-5 NLT
Father, what a wonderful reminder of Your unfailing love. You are the covenant-keeping God who never fails to keep His word or fulfill He promises. Thank You for choosing me and for never giving up on me. Thank You for constantly calling me back to You when I stray, for restoring me when I fall. May I never take Your grace for granted. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men