God will *STIR* up PEOPLE to BUILD His CHURCH: Now 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, saying, "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who 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 build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem." (Ezra 1:1-3)
The purpose of the book of Ezra is to describe the restoration of the people of God after the Exile. This begins with the people’s return and the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1–6) and continues with Ezra’s reinstitution of the Law (Ezra 7–10). The book of Ezra opens with the closing words of 2 Chronicles, for God’s plan was not finished. Judah had rejected Jeremiah’s warning, but the prophet’s words came true. God is at work in human history. His purposes will be accomplished, regardless of the nations’ activities.
God used Cyrus, king of Persia, to issue a proclamation permitting the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and to reestablish His people. Many years before his birth, Cyrus had been named by God and set apart for this high destiny (see Isaiah 44:28–45:13), and this illustrates the truth of Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”The point of these Scriptures is to assert that God was at work through this powerful ruler of the ancient world. He spoke to Cyrus through His Word (v. 2) and moved Cyrus in his inner spirit (v. 1). Through Cyrus, God was accomplishing His own will—that is, to graciously deliver His people from captivity. The God we serve is not only the God of Israel or Judah, but of the whole world!
There are four important lessons that we can learn from this passage:
- First, rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem was God’s objective in the history of redemption at that point in time and God accomplished it as promised (see Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10).
- Second, God can use virtually any means to accomplish His purposes just as He used even a pagan king to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Jews would return to the land after 70 years of exile (v. 1a).
- Third, the written word is a powerful tool used by God to accomplish His objective as Cyrus put his decree in writing and proclaimed throughout his kingdom (v. 1b).
- Fourth, the people of God as a whole are vital for accomplishing God’s purpose in this world as the Jews traveled back to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s temple (v. 5).