Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Too Far

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “ ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ ” (Ezra 1: 2-4)

The passage above is astounding for a number of reasons.

When Cyrus was king of Persia (576-530 BC), his kingdom was the most powerful nation on earth. His empire, centered in what is now Iran, stretched from India to Egypt and from what is now Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean Sea.

Among other things, he was known as the King of the Four Corners of the World.

Among his victories was the defeat of Babylon in 539 BC. You may remember that the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, had defeated Israel and Judah and taken some Jews into exile. Hence, when Cyrus overthrew Babylon, the Jewish exiles in Babylon came under his rule, as did their homeland.

Isaiah prophesied that Cyrus would set the exiles free 150 years before he did so, and even called him by name in Isaiah 45:1:

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed: (ESV)

And, the amazing thing was, Cyrus did not know the LORD.

That was prophesied in Isaiah 45:4--

For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me. (ESV)

Cyrus actively assisted the Jews in restoring the temple, even returning items Nebuchadnezzar had removed from the temple and providing funds out of the treasury. His proclamation even mandates that others are to help the Jews.

So, what would cause this incredibly powerful and rich king of the Four Corners of the World to care about the Jews? What would cause him to actively seek to accomplish the will of God when he did not even know Him?

Ezra 1:1 says it was to fulfill prophesy, and that “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia.”

That should give us incredible hope.

If God can stir up the spirit of a rich and powerful king who is ruling what was pretty much the entire world at the time, don’t we have hope that He can stir up the spirits of your friends and neighbors who do not know Him or do His will?

While your friends or neighbors or your senator, congressman, or president may not be mentioned by name in a particular biblical prophecy, there is this:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)

With this we know that God wants, wishes, and desires that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We are urged to pray for all people from the highest stations in life to the lowest in all ways possible, knowing that the LORD our God can indeed stir up their spirits and bring them to salvation and to good and godly lives.

That gives me hope that no one has ever slipped too far and it is never too late for any person or for any nation.

Today’s Praise

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV

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