“ . . the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia . . .”; “. . . everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord . . .” (Ezra 1:1c; 1:5b)
Next Sunday we begin a new sermon series entitled “Return and Remember: Ezra-Nehemiah.” We will journey through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah together, considering them as one whole unit. While we will consider many truths about God, his people, history, and applications to life, one theme that will glow throughout the series is God’s unstoppable, covenant-keeping nature.
The Book of Ezra records the return of the Jewish people to Judah after about fifty years of Babylonian captivity. They were granted permission to return and rebuild their temple and their culture after King Cyrus and the Persians took over the Babylonian Empire. This grant came in the form a a decree given by Cyrus, but scripture also reveals that this was truly a decree from God, based on his promises: “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)
The unstoppable nature of God is evident in this first verse. Cyrus was anointed by God according to the prophet Isaiah and was given his authority and rule by God alone, at a time appointed by God alone. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God’s people would return to the land (Jer 29:10) after their Babylonian captivity. In our text, God’s chosen ruler (Cyrus) frees God’s chosen people (the Jews) based on promises made by God’s chosen prophets (Isaiah and Jeremiah) for the precise moment in history of which we read. God is in control of rulers, history, and prophecy. He is truly unstoppable!
Yes, we confess on paper that “God is in control.” But do we believe this? We are so often bogged down with our society downgrade, our political climate, our tense work atmosphere, our familial issues, or other personal problems. But the same God who used a pagan king to accomplish his purposes decreed from eternity past is the God we serve here and now! As the scripture says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Prov 21:1). Believer, take heart – nothing can stop the purposes of God! May the God who stirred up Cyrus stir our hearts to burn more deeply about God’s generous sovereignty.