Welcome to Persia!
We are in the period following 539 B.C., a time in biblical history called the post-exilic period. The last instalment of the people of Judah was carted off to Babylon in 587/6 B.C. But on October 29, 539 B.C., Cyrus came into the city of Babylon in peace, and Persia was the head-knocker of the world.
One could do much worse than to live in a Persia-dominated world. Persia was very eager to show her subject peoples that “the government is for you.” The Persians were ecumenical in their religious policy – they encouraged subject peoples to worship their own gods/goddesses, and, generally, they did not deport and relocate captive peoples. As captors went, Persians were temperate.
However, in the days of Ezra-Nehemiah, Israel was a loser. Who cares about a postage-stamp size kingdom in the political backwater of the Ancient Near East? Who cares about the people who used to live there? Answer: The Covenant God does! God cares because he has made promises to these losers, and for this reason He moves history on their behalf. God moves history to give His people a future and a hope.
At the decree of Cyrus, the leaders of the people rise up and set of to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. But why did they do so? Ezra tells us that God “stirred up” their spirit. God not only “stirs” kings like Cyrus, but He stirs His own people into action.
Seeking God in public worship was the heart of the Jews’ existence, and yet they had to be stirred up by God to do it.
This is the same thing that Paul taught in Philippians 2:12-13. Why do Christians obey? Because, “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases him” (Phil. 2:13 NLT). We obey, we work out our salvation, because God enables us to do so.
This should humble us. It should also stir us to pray. God moves history because He loves His people. He stirs His people to action in order to fulfil His promises.
What does all of this teach? That God’s work is a work done in history. More than that, God’s work is history. Therefore, no event is without meaning. Secondly, just as the people needed Cyrus as Shepherd (Isa 44:28) to stir their hearts, so we look to the word and promises of a Greater Shepherd to stir us to will and to do all according to His good pleasure .
Lessons For little Saints…
- Why were the Jews sent to Babylon?
- Who is Cyrus?
- What makes the people want to return to Israel?
- Why are the pots and pans so important?