Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.
Ezra 1:5-6 New Living Translation
God used the reign of King Cyrus of Persia to begin the process of returning the people of Judah and Israel to their homeland and rebuilding Jerusalem. Unlike the Babylonians, Cyrus practiced a policy of honoring the religions of the nations that had been conquered by the Persians. Archeological evidence indicates that Cyrus had made similar decrees for the shrines of other gods of subjugated nations. His motives most likely were political in nature, but God used this event in history to begin the process of the restoration of Israel.
Even though Cyrus made the decree, to accomplish the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, there needed to be a remnant of Hebrews who were still moved by devotion to Yahweh. God stirred the heart of those who were still faithful to Him to make the move back to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding His Temple. In spite of 70 years of captivity, these faithful ones had remained committed to Yahweh and would be the ones to help renew the covenant in Jerusalem. In that time, they probably felt pressure to conform to the gods of their captors’ culture. Still, they trusted what God had spoken through the prophets about His plan to return the people to Israel and waited for the opportunity. Now the time had come for them to return to a land that they may have never seen or would only have a faint memory of if they had seen it. As they returned, this remnant of Israel would lay the foundation for the city and Temple that would usher in a new covenant with God, unlike anything they had heard of before. This new covenant would come through a direct relationship with God through Jesus.
Not only had God preserved a remnant of people among the captives that were faithful to Him. He also gave these people favor among their neighbors. When Cyrus had ordered people to help supply the returning team with what they needed for the journey and to begin their task, the people responded with more provision than was expected. Much like their ancestors had been given favor by the Egyptians when they left during the exodus, this remnant was given favor among their neighbors in the Babylonian and Persian Empire to supply them with more than enough provisions.
We may experience times when we feel cut off from the heritage we have known as the Children of God. We may feel isolated and wonder if it is worthwhile to hold on to our faith. It is in those times that God calls us to trust that He is working behind the scenes to prepare the way for something new that He is doing. What He is doing may not even look like what He has done in the past. Still, we can trust that He is faithfully at work with His plan. As we remain faithful to Him, He is able to include us in His new plan for a new day. We can also trust that He will provide for the journey when the time is right.
God, help us to be faithful to You even in the difficult times. We want to always be ready for however you choose to move in our day.