Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Devotional Reading: Ezra 1:1-18, 11; 2:64-70
Background Scripture: Ezra 1; 2:64-70
Key Verse: Ezra 2:68
As we know, God can and will use any person to fulfill His purpose. Today’s lesson focus on Cyrus, King of Persia, whom God commissioned to fulfill His purpose. Isaiah and Jeremiah foretold of such events that would take place for an exiled people. Let’s begin our journey.
I. Persian Decree (Ezra 1:1-4)
During Cyrus first year as king, Jeremiah foretold of actions Cyrus would take that would benefit the exiled people. God moved within Cyrus resulting in him putting a proclamation in writing throughout all his kingdom. Cyrus recognized the role the Lord played in ordaining his leadership.
Because Cyrus had been blessed to oversee all the earthly kingdoms, he wanted to honor the many gods of the people of his empire (those in exile). Cyrus proclaimed new building plans and he would help the exiles build God’s house, God’s temple in Jerusalem.
It was interpreted that two groups of people existed in reference to the scripture, “And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Therefore, describing the people (one group) as non-Jewish individuals living in Persia and the others as Jews who decided against returning to Jerusalem.
Help was requested from everyone, including those not returning to Jerusalem.
II. Preparation for Travels (Ezra 1:5-8, 11)
In preparation for travel, the heads of the tribes, fathers of the family made the decisions, keep in mind, while in exile, tribal leadership remained intact. Judah and Benjamin tribes were made up of the southern kingdom of Judah and the ones taken into exile by the Babylonians.
The Levites, members of the Levi tribe were tasked with overseeing Israel’s worship, holy places, and holy objects. Although Cyrus issued the decree to rebuild, it was God’s plan that those whose spirit God had raised would be those who will return to build the house of God. Everyone contributed (gave generously) to support construction of the temple. Cyrus contributed by returning scared artifacts initially taken from the temple during battle by King Nebuchadnezzar.
III. People Returning (Ezra 2:64-70)
The exiles returning to Jerusalem formed a family of the people of God, they preserved family relationships during the exile, and they returned with a sufficient number of people to rebuild. These people were people who loved God, kept the Sabbath, and adhered to God’s covenant.
Their exit from exile served as a reminder of those before them (ancestors’) when they left Egypt. The temple was not re-built right away; upon the return of the exiles to Jerusalem, they surveyed the temple ruins and settled in, work would begin to restore/rebuild God’s house and their resources was plentiful.
The opportunity to rebuild is ever present in our lives and our relationship with God. Like those in exile, we too can envision a new reality, totally different than before. Being available to God’s provision and work, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
Sis. Mary Turner