The Unfolding Plan of God.
Ezra 1-2, Hebrews 1
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. – Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV
God spoke through the prophets. He used these men to communicate His word to His people and to warn them of things to come if they continued to disobey His Law. But He also told them of things He was going to do in the not-to-distant future that would be the result of His grace and mercy. Isaiah the prophet, under the influence of the Spirit of God, had written concerning God, “…who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44:28 ESV). God had given Jeremiah the wonderful news, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10 ESV). And then we read the opening lines of the book of Ezra: “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing” (Ezra 1:1-2 ESV). God was fulfilling His promise.
What does this passage reveal about God?
The book of Ezra, like the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles, was written to the post-exhilic community who had returned to the land. The audience is made up of Jews who had been living in exile in Babylon, but who now found themselves living back in the land of promise. But they had returned to a land that was nothing like what it had been before. They found Jerusalem, the great city of David, in shambles. The walls that had been demolished by the Babylonians seven decades earlier, were still nothing more than a pile of stones. The great Temple built by Solomon was little more than rubble. And yet, God was at work. This entire book is a look back at how God miraculously and graciously provided for His people, not because of them, but in spite of them. These words were intended for the Jews who were living in the land long after the events recorded by Ezra had happened. They were to serve as a reminder of the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. Even after the walls had been rebuilt, the Temple restored, the sacrificial system reinstated, and the city of Jerusalem repopulated, the people of God would still find themselves living in a land surrounded by their enemies, without a king or a standing army, and with little hope for the future. But these words were to be a reminder that God was still in charge. He was in control and at work, no matter what their circumstances might say to the contrary.
What does this passage reveal about man?
The entire Bible has been given to us to reveal the nature and character of God. It tells us the kind of God we worship. It gives us a glimpse into His divine nature and allows us to see just how holy, righteous, powerful, sovereign, loving, gracious, faithful, reliable and resourceful He can be. Just like the remnant of Jews living in the promised land long after the days of Ezra, we can sometimes find ourselves doubting God’s power and presence. We can begin to wonder why He is not as active as He was in the “good old days.” Based on our circumstances, we can easily begin to doubt God or feel like He has somehow abandoned us. But the Scriptures give us proof of God’s reliability and trustworthiness. He is always in control. He is completely sovereign over all things, including kings. He has a divine plan that is time-sensitive and He is working that plan to perfection. Our problem is that we can only see our present circumstances and we forget that God’s plan is far greater than our personal comfort and convenience. We too often fail to recognize and remember that God has something far greater in mind than our temporary happiness or our deliverance from some particular problem or difficulty. He has greater things in store for us. The challenge for us is to look for the bigger picture of God’s plan. We need to open our eyes and see what He is doing on a grand scale. But it is so easy to become myopic and focus on our own personal problems and limit the work of God to our own personal circumstances.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Like Ezra, the writer of Hebrews was addressing an audience of Jews who were living in difficult times. They were surrounded by enemies and suffering persecution for their faith. His readers were made up of Jews who had come to accept Jesus as their Messiah. They had placed their faith, hope and trust in Him as their personal Savior. And as a result, many were suffering rejection from their families and the Jewish community. They were considered outcasts by their own people. By placing their faith in Jesus as their Messiah, they had ostracized themselves from their fellows Jews. But the writer reminds them that their faith in Jesus is worth it, because “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:3-4 ESV). He goes on to quote an assortment of Old Testament passages, using them as proof of Jesus’ deity and divinity. He is God’s Son. He is the King and Lord. He is eternal and all-powerful. And He sits at the right hand of God the Father. In other words, He is in charge and in control, no matter what their circumstances may say. Oh, how easy it is to doubt God or lose hope in Jesus as my Savior, just because things don’t quite go the way I expected them to go. How quick I can lose sight of God’s sovereignty and Christ’s majesty. I can see Him as the Savior who paid for my sins, but fail to recognize Him as the King of Heaven who is coming some day to put an end to sin and death once and for all. I need to keep a big-picture view that includes eternity, not just my little slice of history. Yes, God is involved in the here and now, but His plan is all about the hereafter. My hope is not to be in this world, but the one to come.
Father, thank You for the countless reminders in Your Word of just how faithful, powerful, and reliable You are. Forgive me for doubting You so often. Help me to take my eyes off of the world and my own circumstances and place them on You and Your plan for eternity. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men