Scripture Ezra 1:1
1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom, and also in a written edict declared:
2 “Thus says King Cyrus 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 in Judah. 3 Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem; 4 and let all survivors, in whatever place they reside, be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”
- The Lord used Cyrus to fulfill what had been promised
- Cyrus is not a Jew and yet he acts to rebuild the temple (why is there no “Temple of Cyrus” as there is of Herod?)
- This scene is set quite particularly – in the reign of Cyrus and with reference to the prophecies of Jeremiah
- Echoes of Exodus? the Lord stirs Cyrus’ spirit, the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart… the slaves in Egypt are liberated, the captives in the Persian Empire are… the Jews head for the Promised Land, the Jews head back to the place to fulfill God’s promises
This release and restoration under Cyrus begins with God stirring Cyrus’ heart to do so. So much depends on Cyrus being responsive, on Cyrus yielding to God’s direction. But it happens and the drama of the return of the exiles and the attempt to rebuild the temple begins.
As I am reflecting I am reminded of John Wesley who felt his “heart strangely warmed” and others in the history of faith who were stirred by God and did incredible things.
I need this today! I am in a bit of funk (ok more than a bit) where I feel overwhelmed by challenges and limited by what seem to be far too few resources to do what I need to do. But here Ezra’s history reminds me that it was the stirring of Cyrus’ heart that led to this shift in the fortunes of the exiles.
I am not Cyrus – but I can feel some exilic angst however. God is stirring the hearts of people to move, to shift, to guide. God stirred Cyrus that the words he had stirred in Jeremiah might come to be. I am no Jeremiah either – but today is a good day to trust that where God stirs my heart there are other hearts stirred and the means and resources to do what God calls to do will follow.
God of Jeremiah who stirred the prophet to promise deliverance… stir my heart to speak boldly and act as boldly in response to your stirring. God of Cyrus who stirred a great king to free your people and prove your faithfulness… stir others even where I cannot see or am not aware that your calling, your urging, your imperatives to me might come to be! Amen.