Their homeland was deserted, their Capitol was in ruins, and what few people were left of their nation were scattered far and wide. A marauding army had swept through their country slaughtering men, women and children, razing cities and towns, and taking anyone they didn’t slaughter captive. Their temple had been reduced to rubble, but not before the marauders looted everything of value. The situation looked hopeless. Then there came a decree…
This scene could be part of our 21st century world, but these events took place about twenty-six hundred years ago. The people were the children of Israel, their capitol was Jerusalem, and their captors were from the Babylonian empire. God had used the Babylonians to punish the children of Israel for their idolatry, just as He had promised, but it was time for their exile to end. Then there came a decree…
The children of Israel still didn’t “get-it“. Even after being taken captive several times, the children of Israel kept going back to their idol-worship. Each time they repented, God delivered them. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat… God was faithful to them, but they weren’t faithful to Him.
The Proclamation of Cyrus
1 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:
2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1)
While it might be easy to get the impression that Cyrus was a “godly” man, he was quite the opposite. He was as big a heathen as those who had gone before him. If we pay close attention to what he said, he never acknowledged that “The Lord, the God of Heaven…” was HIS god. He was, like the Pharaoh in Egypt, simply following orders.
God had given favor to the children of Israel allowing them to raid the Egyptians of gold, silver and other precious things when they left Egypt. God likewise gave the children of Israel favor to raid the Persian kingdom of everything they would need to rebuild the temple. The children of Israel made quite a haul, and if we look back at just what was needed for the tabernacle, it was quite a haul also.
As we look at events in our world, both locally and globaly, it would be easy to lose heart. Evil is rampant, including in the halls of government. Many politicians wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped them in the face, and lying has become a way of life. What is good for the people, particularly Christians, no longer matters. What matters is keeping them and the global string-pullers happy. It seems to be too late to ask if things will actually get better…but…
Sometimes we lament that God isn’t taking care of the “big” things while we forget how many “small” things God does frequently. “Divine Appointments” is about three “small“, but no less important things that God has “handled” for me recently.
Pharaoh and Cyrus were no less evil and no less corrupt than our current leaders, and yet, when God spoke, they listened, and did what He told them to do. God is still in control, whether we see it or not. As we saw in “Bible Study – The Birth Of Christ“, God caused Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, to “arrange” for Mary and Joseph to be in Bethlehem at the appointed time. There is not one king, one president, or any other leader who is beyond God’s control. By the way, NOBODY is beyond God’s control. Do we not believe that God could do the same in our day?
I believe He can. How about you?