Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Enemy Benefactors

Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your associates the governors who are in the province Beyond the River, keep away. Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River. And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.
Ezra 6:6-10

The Kingdom of Judah (that is, the Southern Kingdom of Israel after it split under Solomon's son Rehoboam) had wickedly worshiped idols and refused to obey God's commands for many years. So finally, after many opportunities for repentance and mercy, God kept His promise to punish His people through exile. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem, demolished the glorious temple Solomon had built for the Lord, and carried Judah into captivity for 70 years. Then God did something amazing.

Just as his prophets had foretold (Isaiah 44:24-45:7) God raised up a pagan king to send His people back to their land and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). During Judah's seventy year exile, Babylon was conquered by Persia and Cyrus the Persian king decreed that the Jews should return to Jerusalem and rebuild God's temple. God moved a pagan king to do His will to reestablish His people and temple!

But wait, it still gets better. Ezra was one of the Israelites who returned to Jerusalem to help rebuild the temple. In the book that bears his name we read that some of the people who had come to live in the general area of Jerusalem, since the Jews left, did not take too kindly to them returning and rebuilding the city. These people lived in the Persian Province called Beyond the River because it was beyond the Euphrates. So, after a few years, some of them wrote a letter to King Darius of Persia (Cyrus' successor). Above is Darius' response. Not only does he uphold Cyrus' decree but he provides for the building of the temple by way of the taxes of the very people who were opposing God's people! How sweet is that!? God not only provided for His children but He caused those who opposed His will to become the benefactors of it. 

Remember today that you serve a God who is able to make a way for His will in your life even when there appears to be no way. He can turn His enemies into His willing (see Paul) or unwilling supporters in your life. So if you find yourself standing in the way of God's will in your life or in the life of someone else, quickly and efficiently get out of His way, and ask Him to help you willingly change sides. 

For further reading...
  • Isaiah 44:24-45:7- This prophecy about Cyrus was written over a hundred years before he lived yet calls him by name!
  • I Kings 12:1-20- Rehoboam's folly can teach you a valuable lesson.

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