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TURNING AGAIN THE CAPTIVITY OF ZION
‘The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.’
Of this chapter little is necessary to be said in the way of homiletic analysis. The theme may be more easily handled, possibly, in a series of observations or topics.
I. For example, we see how the kingdom of God’s providence works into the kingdom of God’s grace.—Judah had deeply sinned in those old, sad days of folly; and God had sent His fearful retributions upon the wrong-doers. But what if some did not believe—should such a wickedness make the promises of Jehovah of none effect? The time came at last when the nation would have to resume its former life; so Jerusalem must be rebuilded, and the land of the ancient covenant would be repeopled. For the tribe of Judah was that in particular in which the promised Messiah was to be born. It would not do to leave this genealogical line to become mingled and smothered among the Persians, or to be mysteriously suffered to fall out of history, as did the other ‘ten lost tribes of Israel.’ The New Testament was all in this crisis period of the Old. The gospel had some claims of its own, and so now the historic development of the race of redeemed ones was resumed.
II. We see, in the next place, how unconsciously every man’s life is formed upon the plan of God concerning him.—This classic Cyrus, with whose name all schoolboys are familiar, had been mentioned in prophecy by name. So striking is the passage that it should be read in full before we undertake to move on in the story. It appears that the life of Cyrus had been moulded according to a fixed purpose of Almighty God from the beginning. It was for Jacob His servant’s sake that He had called him; on account of Israel His elect, He first mentioned and chose him; He surnamed him before he was born. The deliverer was raised up before the captivity came.
III. Once more: we learn from this story how the entrance of God’s Word gives light even to the mind of a heathen.—It is a delightful surprise to find such a man as Cyrus confessing and declaring so much concerning the Deity Whom Judah worshipped. In the language of this one decree he acknowledges the existence of the Almighty One, and that by His own name. He makes no impertinent inquiry like Pharaoh in the old time: ‘Who is Jehovah?’ but he describes Him as supreme, ‘Lord God of heaven.’ This man Cyrus may have been a fire-worshipper, like the rest of the people about him; but that work for which the great God chose him changed him. Josephus tells us that those passages which related to himself were read to Cyrus just as they had been written more than a century before. So the instant he opened his mind to such sudden and vast revelation from heaven above, that he was to be an instrument in Jehovah’s hand, he was filled with a sense of what it meant; it subdued and educated him. He could then exclaim, ‘Jehovah, the God of Israel—He is the God!’
‘God will ever be mindful of His covenant. And there were also many remembrancers, as Daniel and other like-minded pious exiles, who gave Him no rest, and were ever asking Him, for David’s sake, to bring His people from captivity. The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus (1), and the spirits of the people (5). How clearly the minds of men are subject to His promptings! May we never be disobedient to the heavenly visions that visit us, but always on the alert to work out with fear and trembling whatsoever He may work in.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezra 1". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19