From Unfolding Grace:
“During Israel’s decades-long exile the prophet Jeremiah tells them to pray and seek the peace of their foreign city. They are to confess their sin, lament its consequences, and hope in God’s promises. The God who woads is the God who heals, so they must put their hope in him.
After several decades God raises up a Persian king named Cyrus to defeat the Babylonians and send God’s people back home.”
Wednesday, June 16th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Ezra 1-3
Focused Passage for Reflection - Ezra 1
Reflecting on the Text:
In college, I took a history class called the History of Technology and Civilization. It traced the course of human history through the advancement of technology, showing the progress of civilization through human innovation. What is the lens through which you view history? Have you been taught to mark the progress of time through wars, empires, or human leaders, or technical innovation?
Ezra 1 picks up where 2 Chronicles 36 left off. With Cyrus. Or rather, with Cyrus’ decree. But is this about a new empire and a new king, or is there something more fundamental going on in this outworking of history? These two chapters (2 Chronicles 36 and Ezra 1) are not the only places where we see reference to Cyrus. But rather than emphasizing the importance of Cyrus, this repeat mention draws our attention beyond him, to the God of heaven and earth.
At least 150 years before his decree, the prophet Isaiah spoke the Word of the Lord to the people of Judah, prophesying that Cyrus, whom he mentions by name, will be God’s instrument to send the exiles home and rebuild the temple. (Isaiah 44-45) And he did so according to the timeline prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25. The Lord God Almighty is the One directing this movement. Cyrus, the king of Persia, was merely His chosen instrument.
How big is your God? And what are His purposes? Do you treat Him as the equivalent of your personal spiritual butler? Or could He be bigger? In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians where he described this big God. In Acts 17:26 he said, “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” Paul was saying that God is in the big things. But he also said that God is in the small. The purpose behind the rise and fall of those empires was that we might “find Him. Yet His is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:27-28)
In other words, the purpose behind God’s authorship of history (not history books but history itself) was and is the building up of the Church. Our great God, for His own purposes and glory, moves empires in order to gather together a bride for His Son…a bride that has been redeemed and beautified by the Son. The lens through which we should examine history is the lens of missions.
Again, how big is your God? And what are His purposes? Ezra 1 points us to a BIG God and calls us to worship Him with reverence and awe. He is in the big and the small, authoring it all as our Sovereign. Let us see Him and know Him for who He is.
Questions for personal reflection:
How does this big view of our BIG God impact your understanding of worship?
How does this big view of our BIG God impact your understanding of prayer?
How does this big view of our BIG God impact your love for Jesus and experience of union in Him?