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March 18, 2017

Unlike the story of Moses who was sent to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt and the thirteen individuals in the book of Judges that delivered Israel out of the hand of various oppressors, this time God does things differently. The seventy years of captivity that was prophesied to Judah has ended, and now it is time for Israel to return home.

Chapter one opens introducing Cyrus Cylinder the pagan king of Medio-Persia who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and the person whom Isaiah prophesied about in Isaiah 44:28-45:13. During his first year of reign in Babylon, King Cyrus was stirred by God, and he made a proclamation that was heralded throughout the land. In this proclamation Cyrus acknowledged that the Lord God of heaven enabled him to conquer the kingdoms of the earth, that he was charged with rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem by repatriating the captive Jews, and he informed those Jews and other residents that choose to stay in Babylon that they were to support this venture with tangible donations and freewill offerings.

Further in the chapter, the spirit of God moved on the chief fathers of Judah and Benjamin, priest, and Levites to respond to the proclamation. These individuals along with Sheshbazzar (Zerubbabel) who Cyrus appointed to take the people back to Jerusalem and to be the governor of Jerusalem received the donations and freewill offerings from the people. Plus, King Cyrus gave them the temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem to Babylon.

I believe chapter one displays that God uses who he chooses to accomplish His Word. God used a pagan king to bless His people who confirm the words of Solomon in Proverbs 21:1 that says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Historians believed Cyrus’s motive for restoring the religious practices and autonomy to the nations that he conquered was political for he hoped to secure the respect and loyalty of these subjects by his actions. Whatever may have been his reason, God was in control. Also, He used the king to instruct others to support the building project. So, the Jews were not only freed from their captivity, but they returned home laden with provisions to meet their needs and rebuild the temple.

Often we look for help from the household of faith when God has outsiders in the wings waiting to assist us. Therefore, the lesson to be learned from this chapter is not to limit your resources but rather expect help from unexpected sources.


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