Fulfilling prophecy found in Isaiah 44-45 in which the Lord called Cyrus by name over 150 years before his time, King Cyrus now reigned over the entirety of former Babylon. He incorporated his latest conquest into an expanding Medo-Persian empire, the chest and arms of silver of the multi-metallic human figure of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2. The great statue in the dream represents the successive human empires and their derivatives which will reign on earth before God’s kingdom ultimately replaces them when Christ returns.
Cyrus’ conquest was part of God’s plan to end Judah’s seventy-year exile in Babylon, as prophesied by Jeremiah. It would be Cyrus’ job to begin the process of permitting exiles to return home to Jerusalem to lay the foundation for a new temple.
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying:
2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to rebuild for Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And every survivor, at whatever place he may live, the people of that place are to support him with silver and gold, with equipment and cattle, together with a voluntary offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’” Ezra 1:1-4 (NASB)
The exiles were permitted to return home after seventy years in Babylon, but it was on a volunteer basis. Some people returned to begin the labor of rebuilding the temple, but many others decided to remain in Babylon, sending along money and support, instead.
Cyrus also directed that God’s holy articles from the temple, which had been shamefully dishonored by Belshazzar before his fall (Daniel 5), be respectfully returned to their place of origin.
7 Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put in the house of his gods; 8 and Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and he counted them out to Sheshbazzar, the leader of Judah. 11 All the articles of gold and silver totaled 5,400. Sheshbazzar brought them all up with the exiles who went up from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra 1:7-8,11 (NASB)
The seventy-year exile was difficult for the people of Judah, but it was necessary to extract them from the clutches of idolatry and faithlessness that had held them in their grip. Now they were “in the grip” of God, which is a much safer and better place to be.
The journey home would not be an easy one. The travelers would face many difficulties and encounter much opposition on the road to temple reconstruction, but they obediently followed God. One might assume that the Lord would make life easy for them after such a long and difficult exile, but just as with good and faithful people today, God sometimes permits the rigors, heartaches, and attacks of the enemy to come. And like many believers today who experience such setbacks and grief, their goodness and faith are miraculously increased rather than diminished by the fires of life when placed in the hands of God.
What trials or troubles are you in the midst of today? God is there for your comfort and support.
Lord, You know our challenges, hurts, and heartaches. We put these in Your loving hands, and ask for strength, guidance, and Your healing touch. Hold our burdens and help us to continue walking forward on the path of righteousness. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.