I was reading through the first few chapters of Ezra the other day because it had occurred to me that it had been a long time since I looked at that book. I love the way that book starts. Here’s how the HSCB renders the first few verses:
[Ezr 1:1-4 HCSB] ‘1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The LORD put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing: 2 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Whoever is among His people, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 Let every survivor, wherever he lives, be assisted by the men of that region with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, along with a freewill offering for the house of God in Jerusalem.”‘
There are so many things to like about this passage. First off, it points to the faithfulness of God in that it directly addresses the fact that when the Lord promises to restore His people, it’s as good as done. Only the timing is left to sort out. In the case of the Jewish exiles, they had been given information about that timing, but after 70 years in captivity it still must have felt like they had been abandoned by God. Secondly, this passage reminds us that Bible prophecy matters. God doesn’t always reveal His actions ahead of time, but when He does, He prefers that we pay attention to the revelation He provides in scripture. The third thing that I love about this passage is that it points out who’s really in charge of what goes on in the world. Spoiler alert: God is.
Look at it again. It says that God put the notion into the king’s mind to make this decree in writing. That means that it wasn’t there before God did something about it. God bent the will of an earthly king who thought he was in charge of all the civilized world and considered himself to be a deity. Turns out though, God is the one who calls the shots.
Notice also that the king, again under the ultimate direction of the Lord, decrees that the Jews returning to Jerusalem are to be assisted by their neighbors with financial gifts. If you read on in this chapter, the book records that this did in fact happen and the Jewish exiles returned with plenty of provisions to rebuild the temple. So then, not only was the Lord in charge of directing the king, He was also at work in inspiring the generosity of the Jews’ neighbors in the Persian Empire.
So what’s the point of all this then in the 21st century? The church isn’t the nation of Israel, and the Persian kings are long gone anyway. The point, my friends, is that when God purposes to do something with you or through you, He will see it done regardless of the difficulties. That’s what He did for Israel centuries ago, and He hasn’t changed.
Think about it. The exiles had been slaves under Babylon and Persia for 70 years. They probably weren’t the richest people. So when the end of their captivity came and news went out that they could go back to Jerusalem, how do you think they thought they were they going to pay for rebuilding a city? It must have seemed like an impossible obstacle, but God does funny things in impossible situations.
God still does funny things in impossible situations today. Whatever task God may have assigned for you, no matter how impossible, is ultimately up to the Lord to accomplish, and He’s more than able to deal with any circumstances. Is the money tight? God can handle it. Are there roadblocks in the way? God can go over them. Is there a ruler that has to sign off on it? God is actually the one in charge of his department.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? Leave a comment and tell us about it.