Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled…
We may safely conclude from the events stated in this and the following chapters —
I. THAT THE LONG EXILE OF THE JEWS HAD DONE ITS APPOINTED WORK. God sent them into captivity partly to punish and partly to purify them. They had now been sufficiently chastened and they had been cleansed from their iniquity.
1. We may argue from the fact of the Jews commending themselves so much as they did to Cyrus that their lives were estimable and honourable.
2. We know that after the captivity in Babylon they left idolatry behind them for ever. Trouble will sometimes teach us what nothing else will. The Church and the school may have failed to lead us into the kingdom of Christ, but the sadness of orphanage or the loneliness of the first absence from home may lead us to find a refuge in "the God of all comfort," in the unfailing Friend of the human heart.
II. THAT GOD ACTS WITH GENTLE POWER ON THE MINDS OF MEN.
1. On those of His own people. He "raised the spirit" of many of the Jews (ver. 6). He caused them to feel deeply how excellent a thing it would be to repeople the city of Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple of God. He kindled in their hearts the fires of patriotism and of piety. He lifted them up above unworthy and unmanly fears. He made them brave and strong.
2. On those outside the Church. He girded Cyrus though that king knew Him not (Isaiah 65:5). It was by His all-wise direction that Greece prepared her thought and her language, and Rome her highways for the gospel in "the fulness of time." Therefore —
(1) Let us ask of God that He will inspire us in our time of need. We may have before us some difficult task at school, some trying ordeal to pass through, some new sphere to enter upon, and we may shrink from going forward, but if we ask of God He will "raise our spirit" and make us equal to the effort.
(2) Let us intercede with God for others; they may appear to be quite outside all holy influences, but they are not without the reach of that mighty Hand that can enlighten the darkest mind and soften the hardest heart and renew the most obdurate and stubborn will.
III. THAT AT THE CALL OF GOD WE SHOULD BE READY TO UNDERTAKE ARDUOUS OR DANGEROUS WORK. It was a long journey and a perilous one to Jerusalem.
1. It was uncertain what they would find when they reached the city of their fathers; no such tidings came to them as now come daily to our countrymen in England who are emigrating to America; they went forth not knowing what would await them. Moreover, they left behind them some home, kindred, occupation, property. Where God clearly calls us we need not be daunted by danger or by difficulty. He who summons us will clear the way, and will sustain us under every trial.
IV. THAT THOSE WHO CANNOT RENDER THE GREATER ARE WELCOME TO OFFER THE SMALLER SERVICE. Of those who declined to return there would be some who might have gone but would not, either because they were too timid or because they had attachments which they were unwilling to break away from. Others there were that would have gone but could not, either because they were too aged or infirm, or because they had ties which they felt it would be wrong to sunder. Of the latter there were many who, as they could not do the best possible, did the best practical thing. They could not swell the number of the returning, but they could strengthen the hand of those who went (ver. 6). We may be unable to serve Christ by missionary or ministerial or evangelistic labours, but we can strengthen the hands and cheer the hearts of those who can. We can give them gold or silver or pence. We can speak the inspiring word. We can pray for them and let them know that we are praying. We can write to those who are absent or send them that which others have written.
V. THAT WHEN WE OBEY THE VOICE OF OUR MASTER WE DO MORE THAN WE KNOW. The Jews who returned from Babylon no doubt believed that they were acting as patriots and were serving their country; but they could have had no conception of all that would grow out of their courageous conduct. We never know what will be the long and large result of a true and brave course. Carey did not foresee the fruits of his self-denying seal, nor Wesley of his "more abundant labours," nor Livingstone of his travels and his lonely death. It is a cheering and inspiring thought that our present faithfulness may be a living seed from which a large harvest of blessing may spring.
VI. THAT THERE IS A BETTER RESTORATION than that of precious vessels to the house of God. It was a kindly act of Cyrus (see vers. 7-11), and the Jews rejoiced greatly when they saw those ancient and hallowed vessels beneath the roof of the new temple which they built. But there is a deeper joy in heaven, and there well may be on earth, when a human heart that has been taken away from the service of Christ is brought back again and is included among the spiritual treasures of the kingdom of God.
(W. Clarkson, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
WEB: Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and [put it] also in writing, saying,