And the journey continues….Ezra. Ezra is a history book about the Jewish people’s amazing return to Jerusalem from Babylon. Due to their evil idolatrous ways and forsaking of the worship of the one true God, they were carted away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem was destroyed along with the temple. The precious gold bowls and articles of worship were carried away too. Their exile, which was warned about by a multitude of prophets, was accomplished by the Persian army and many of the Jewish citizens were deported to Babylon. All the prophets had foretold their exile and also their return. No date was given in earlier prophesy’s to their return but God promised to bring them back. As the time for exile approached, God sent a message to the people through Jeremiah that they would be exiled for 70 years and then be brought home to Jerusalem. The events in Ezra tell us how God used a pagan king to accomplish this feat and see to His people’s return 70 years after their deportation.
Daniel, one of the exiled Jews, spoke of how God uses all in His world to accomplish His will in his prayer. Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning. Daniel knew that God controlled who was in power and determined the future of His people.
The book of Ezra opens 70 years later. Ezra is a Jewish official, a scribe and a priest in the service of King Cyrus of Persia. The regime has changed and Cyrus had a revelation from God and his heart was moved towards the Jewish people living in his realm. Ezra 1:1-4 “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:
2 “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. 3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! 4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
There are several amazing things about this occurrence. Their return was foretold by Jeremiah before their exile in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10. Here is 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” God was very specific on the number of years they would be in exile (70) and that when they returned they would have provisions. Cyrus ordered fellow Jews remaining in Babylon to support them and their efforts to rebuild the temple. He, a pagan king, was used by God in a mighty and miraculous way aid in the return of God’s people. They did return and began rebuilding the city, walls and temple. Ezra stayed, led in the instruction of the people in God’s ways so that they did not sin continue to sin against God. He had to return to Cyrus’ court and Nehemiah was led to go and continue this restoration.
What lessons can we take from this story? Foremost, God keeps His promises. God said they would go, they did. God said they would return, they did. The events were orchestrated by God and not by the Jews who were in exile. God knew the correct time for their return and who was going to be in power. God knew Cyrus would listen to His message and act upon it. One would never have thought that the golden bowls, etc. that were taken as plunder and placed in the Babylonian temple by King Nebuchadnezzar were there for safekeeping. Only God could take away, preserve and then return them to where He wanted them to be. That same God is the God we know today. Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is our unchanging all powerful God who watches over all of us. This account gives me hope and assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, always and forever. It also assures me that God is Sovereign over nations, those in power and events happening in our world. When things look bleak, I need to always remember that God is indeed in control and walk trusting Him for my safekeeping. I know God keeps His promises!
Be encouraged by God today.