Ezra 1:1-11: GOD MOVES PEOPLE’S HEARTS – Daily Devotional 9-30-19

Ezra 1:1-11: GOD MOVES PEOPLE’S HEARTS – Daily Devotional 9-30-19

Ezra 1:1-11                                                Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 1:1,5                                        9-30-19

“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:” (ESV)

“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.” (ESV)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father. Thank you for your eternal stability. You are a rock that cannot move. When this world is going crazy and loosing hope, you are that Rock. Thank you. I thank you for the opportunity to meditate on Ezra. What a great book. Help me to learn about your word and be inspired by it and apply it personally. I thank you for this time. I pray in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Part 1: God Keeps His Word (1-4)

Verses 1-4, “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. 3 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. 4 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.”

In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem. He leveled the walls and burned the temple. He had already taken the king and many nobles and promising young men like Daniel, into captivity. This time, he took almost everything of value, including most of the remaining people, into Babylonian captivity. This was God’s sovereign plan and his will. They had broken the covenant. They sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them up out of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them. He was broken-hearted.

God wanted his people to repent and turn to him. They did not listen to the prophets. So he disciplined them in love. Babylon was the rod of God’s discipline. The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 597 BC. They took away the treasurers of the temple and those of the royal palace.

Let’s look at some of the Biblical references that are presented here.

Isa 44:28; “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”

Jer 29:10;For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”

The Lord had promised that after 70 years the Jews exiled in Babylon could return to Jerusalem. The Prophet Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem. He knew that it was God’s will that Jerusalem be destroyed and that God’s people go into exile in Babylon. He was accused of being a Babylonian sympathizer and a traitor to his people. He was punished and almost killed. During these last days of Judah and Jerusalem, there was, however, one note of hope. It was in Jeremiah’s message. Jeremiah not only spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the exile to Babylon; he also promised that God would bring his people back after 70 years in exile.

    God had not abandoned his people. After 70 years, a remnant of God’s people who were in exile in Babylon would return to Jerusalem and reoccupy the Promised Land. (2Ch 36:21-22; Jer 25:12;29:10-11)

Our God is a God who makes and keeps promises. In God’s right time (539 BC), Cyrus conquered the Babylonian empire. This happened 47 years after Jerusalem fell and the temple destroyed.

God kept his word by allowing Cyrus king of Persia to conquer Babylon. Then he moved the king’s heart to allow the exiles to return and rebuild the temple of the Lord. (See Isa 44:28; Jer 29:10.)

Cyrus, king of Persia, was a believer in the God of heaven. He did not know the God very well, but God knew him. Some 200 years before the events in the book of Ezra, God gave a remarkable prophesy through Isaiah. Jeremiah had echoed this prophecy. Cyrus acknowledged the God of heaven; he recognized that his power came from God, and he believed that God had appointed him to build the temple in Jerusalem (2).

God moved the heart of Cyrus, king of the Persian Empire and believer in the God of heaven. In his first year, Cyrus ordered anyone who was willing, to go Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of the God of heaven. (2Ch 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4) He offered to support them materially.

What a great victory God produced for his people! God controls history. Sometimes he uses kings and worldly people to accomplish his purposes. But we can trust that God loves his people and works out the best for his people.

I learn here that I need to trust in God, always. He was making promises about Cyrus, 200 years before the event! That is like a prophecy being made in 1819 that a particular person will arise who will accomplish a herculean task for the glory of God and even naming that person. What are the chances of that happening? I can trust God for all things. I can trust him with the church. I can trust him with the future of my family. I can trust him with how he is leading this world and this nation.

Yes, this world is going crazy and pollution is rampant and the climate is changing. We need to do what we need in order to take care of God’s planet. But we must never despair because we know that God is ultimately in control. He has a great and wonderful plan, that will eventually lead to all of his people being with him in paradise forever.

I also learn that God disciplines those he loves. His discipline for his people lasted 70 years plus. But they had gone astray. They were inflicting suffering upon themselves. They needed to return to the Lord. God helped them. It was not pleasant, but it happened and now it was time to be over. There is an end to the discipline. If the discipline lasts a lifetime and seems unbearable, there is an end. The end may be when he takes us home to be with him in heaven. The end may come when we find peace in the midst of suffering. Maybe there will be release from suffering, temporarily in this world.

I thank Jesus for the good times and the bad times. I thank him of the aches and pains and for all the struggles of life. I know he is drawing me closer to himself.

Part 2: God Moved The People’s Hearts (5-11)

Verses 5-11, “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. 6 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. 7 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. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 10 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; 11 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.”

At first, life in exile had been hard. After many years, however, they became Babylonians. The Jews bought into Babylon, and it was hard to leave and return to the devastated land of Judah. God moved the hearts of a few leaders to accept this mission and return to rebuild the temple.

There actually was a small percentage of the people who returned to the land. Most of the people stayed in Babylon. I used to think that those who stayed behind were somehow compromising and that they would disappear into the melting pot of Babylon and cease to exist as a people of God. But I don’t think that way anymore.

The people who stayed behind continued to live for the glory of God. There was Daniel and Esther to name a couple of the people. There were also the very young, the old and infirmed people who could not make the journey through the arid wilderness back to Jerusalem. They had to stay in Babylon and live by faith.

It is like today. There are some who go as missionaries and some who stay behind. They can all serve Jesus and glorify God wherever they are. I need to see the hand of God in all peoples’ lives and ministries. I need to encourage them where they are at.

I need to be content where I am at. I love relating to the missionaries and encouraging missionaries. But I am not a missionary in some far-off place. That is OK. I am still glorifying Jesus and one day I hope to actually be a missionary, crossing borders and cultural and language barriers.

But is Jesus does call me to some specific mission, I pray for strength to answer his call. I pray that Julie and I may launch out in faith and trust in the God who keeps his promises…faith in the sovereign Lord who control history to be with his people. I pray for strengthen and endurance to continue encouraging the missionaries who are going to First Nation communities in the North.

Prayer:Lord, help me to see what you want to do with my time and accept your mission wherever it may be, or how hard it may be. Thank you for keeping your promises and being our Sovereign Lord whom we can trust along life’s journey.”

One Word: Trust God for all things and serve him where his wants you to be.

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