Ezra 1:2-3 (NIV) 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.
On verses 1-11: For decades the Jews had been living in exile in the land of Babylon, away from their homeland of Jerusalem. However, in 539 B.C. Cyrus king of Persia defeats the Babylonians. In his first year as king, Cyrus is moved in his heart by the Lord and proclaims that all the Jews may return to their homeland and build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The remainder of the chapter shows the Jews making their way back to Jerusalem.
What can we learn from this? Here are some lessons I believe the Holy Spirit showed me in Ezra 1:
God is a mover of hearts.
First God “moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia” (v1) to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the destroyed temple of the Lord. Then verse 5 talks about how “everyone whose heart God had moved” prepared to go back to Jerusalem.
What can we learn from this? God is a mover of hearts. Whenever God wants to do anything great in this world, He begins by moving in the heart of a person He has chosen to help accomplish that great thing. You could make the argument that the greatest churches, the greatest marriages, the greatest families, the greatest organizations and the greatest businesses — all of them began with someone’s heart being moved to action.
When was the last time God moved your heart to do something for His glory? Like Cyrus may you respond with faith and without delay to God moving in your life.
God is the Keeper of His Word.
When Cyrus defeated the Babylonians and proclaimed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, this fulfilled a prophecy by Jeremiah decades earlier concerning the fall of Babylon and the end of the Jews’ exile (for example, see Jeremiah 25:12 and Jeremiah 29:10). It also fulfilled a prophecy that the Holy Spirit inspired the prophet Isaiah to write 150 years earlier concerning a foreign leader called Cyrus who would cause the restoration of the Jews to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple (see Isaiah 44:26-28). Whenever God makes a promise, He keeps it. As His followers, let’s be sure to keep our word too.
God is the Provider of Resources.
In addition to letting the Jews return to Jerusalem, Cyrus encourages the people under his rule to provide the Jews with silver and gold, goods and livestock, and freewill offerings to help the Jews rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem (v4). Later verse 6 says that “all their neighbors assisted” the Jews and gave them those very things which Cyrus told them to give. In addition Cyrus also takes the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had previously carried from the temple in Jerusalem, and gives them to Sheshbazzar (who may have been an official within Cyrus’ kingdom who was made a governor or “prince” of Judah) to take back to Jerusalem (v7-11).
What can we learn from this? When God moves you in your heart to accomplish something significant for His glory, He will make sure that you have the resources you need to accomplish it. I can say that from personal experience. Since the first day we planted Thrive Church, we have never lacked a thing. God’s grace has always been sufficient for us. Wherever God guides, God provides.
God can use anyone He wants to accomplish His purposes.
Cyrus did not necessarily worship the Lord. In fact, there is archeological evidence to show that Cyrus was a devout worshiper of the Babylonian god Marduk, and that as a way to curry favour with different people groups as well as to gain the favour of as many gods as possible, Cyrus allowed various people groups within his kingdom to resettle into their old towns to worship their respective gods.
What can we learn from this? God does not limit Himself to using Christians only to accomplish His Christ-honoring purposes. Just as God used an idol-worshiping Pharaoh in the book of Exodus and an idol-worshiping Cyrus in the book of Ezra to accomplish His purposes, God can use people who are not devout followers of His to accomplish His purposes too, whether they know they are being used or not.
Heavenly Father, I praise You for being the mover of men’s hearts, the keeper of Your Word, and the provider of everything we need. Thank You that wherever You guide, You provide. You’re also the sovereign one who uses whatever and whomever He pleases to accomplish His will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!