Today we’re reading Ezra 1:1-4:5, an exciting new beginning in the history of Israel. The 70 years of captivity are ending, and God begins to carry out His plan to bring the people back into the land. Cyrus, King of Persia, is moved by God to decree that a temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and he invites any and all who are willing of God’s people to be a part of it. Sheshbazzar is appointed as a governor to lead. God then moves in the hearts of some of the people (almost 50,000 total) to take up the challenge to rebuild. Offerings are taken, the gold and silver temple articles are returned, and they make their way back. (Read the chapters for all the details).
I see six clear lessons for those who are rebuilding/building their spiritual life after a time of captivity. Maybe you’ve experienced that? Have you been held captive by a lingering sin, or maybe you’ve just been suffering because we live in a fallen world? Now it seems that the dark days are getting a bit lighter, and you sense that God is moving in a way to bring you out of this season. What are some things we can learn as we let Him renew and restore us?
- Trust God to make a way when it seems impossible. He moved the heart of a Persian king to release the captives. That’s unheard of.
- Obey when God moves your heart to make a change. The people had to be brave enough to leave their “comfortable captivity” to be part of the new work.
- Realize that not everyone wants a new life and be willing to leave them behind. Not all of the people went back to Jerusalem; they were happy remaining captives.
- Celebrate your progress by joining in praise and worship with God’s people, even when it feels like you’ve only made small steps. The people took time out for the Feast of Tabernacles before the foundation was even laid.
- Don’t miss the joy of what God is doing by looking back at what “might have been” or “was.” Some people couldn’t bring themselves to rejoice because they felt this new life would never measure up.
- Realize that while some people may appear to be helpful, they may not always have your best interests at heart. This especially applies to those who were part of what got in you into trouble in the first place! God gave the leaders discernment to see through the false offer of help from their enemies, protecting them from those who would undermine the restoration and transformation while acting as if they were supportive.
Is God beginning to restore you? Rejoice, and let Him do the work as you obey step by step.