Ezra 1:3
Dualities are everywhere seen. Amongst these are things passive and active; things ruled over and things ruling. The mechanical heavens are active and rule the passive earth. In animated nature rulers and subjects are individualized; most remarkably so in the kingdom of men. Passing into the spiritual world, we still find order and rule; "principalities and powers in the heavenlies" - amongst angels of light, also amongst angels of darkness. But behind all these sovereignties and over them is the glorious sovereignty of God.

I. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS ALL-CONTROLLING.

1. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus."

(1) This he did by means. Josephus says that Cyrus was shown the places in Isaiah where he was mentioned by name and his exploits indicated about a century before he was born (see Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-5). Possibly Daniel, who was in Babylon when Cyrus entered it, and the fame of whose wisdom was far-reaching, may have pointed them out to him.

(2) By his Spirit God made the means he employed effective. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus." "He can turn the hearts of princes as the rivers of the south." Means are ineffectual without his blessing. That blessing should be sought upon all our undertakings.

2. By means of Cyrus God moved the Persian empire.

(1) The royal edict was issued.

(2) It was vocally proclaimed. Hebrews, caused a voice to pass, etc. This form of proclamation is for the multitude. For the multitude God causes his gospel to be preached.

(3) It was also written. This was for the magistrates. Also for reference. The word of the truth of the gospel is also written. This fixes its certainty.

3. The sequel shows how cordial was the response. As the exodus from Egypt was a figure of the emancipation of the believer in Christ from the bondage of sin, so was the return from the captivity of Babylon.

II. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS ALL-PERVADING.

1. He rules the world according to a grand plan.

(1) This fact is seen in the Scriptures of prophecy. Broad outlines of future history of the world drawn (see for example Genesis 9:25-27). Here consider "the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah" (see Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:10).

(2) Further seen in the conversion of prophecy into history. Examples abound. Example before us in the restoration of Judah from the captivity of Babylon. The time was "in the first year of Cyrus." This was B.C. 536. Add to this the seventy years of Jeremiah's prophecy, and we have the year B.C. 606, the very year in which "Nebuchadnezzar carried Jehoiakim and the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon (see 2 Chronicles 36:6, 7).

2. The plan of Providence includes the means to be employed for the accomplishment of his purposes.

(1) Stirs up the spirits of men to study his word (see Daniel 9:2). Stirred up the spirit of Cyrus also. Daniel was stirred up to pray; Cyrus, to act. It is God's order that his people should pray for their blessings (see Ezekiel 36:37). There is often a connection between the prayers of the good and the better actions of the wicked.

1. Learn that there is no such thing as chance.

(1) Afflictions do not spring out of the dust.

(2) See the hand of God in our deliverances.

2. Learn that providences are often retributive.

(1) The seventy years of captivity were in retribution for seventy sabbatic years in which selfishness refused the land her rest, and consequently the poor their privileges (comp. Leviticus 25:1-6, and 2 Chronicles 36:21).

(2) If we open our eyes we may see the operation of retributive providences every day. "Be sure your sin will find you out." - J. A. M.







Let him go up to Jerusalem.
We discover an analogy in these two things as regards —

I. THE SUBJECTS. The Jews were exiles and captives in Babylon. "Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). In his sinful state man is an exile from his true condition and place, and the bondsman of evil powers.

II. THE AGENTS. Cyrus and Jesus Christ. The analogy between them is st least twofold.

1. Both were called of God to this work. Ages before his birth Cyrus was prenominated for this work (Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 14:6). And Jesus Christ is pre-eminently the Servant, the Anointed, the Sent of God (Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18, 19; John 3:16, 17; Galatians 4:4, 5; 1 John 4:9).

2. Both effected this work by battling with and overcoming the oppressors. Cyrus had to conquer the Babylonian Empire before he could release the captive Jews. And our Lord and Saviour, as the Son of Man, encountered sin and mastered it.

III. THE SOURCE. In both cases the blessing flowed from the free and unmerited grace of God. The Jews had no claim upon Him against whom they had so Persistently rebelled. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

IV. THE EXTENT.

1. It is offered to all.

2. It is accepted only by some. Great numbers preferred to remain in Babylon.(1) Many did not feel any deprivation or degradation in their exile and subjection.(2) Many had attachments and interests in Babylon which they could not or would not leave.

V. "GO UP TO BUILD THE HOUSE OF THE LORD WHICH IS IN JERUSALEM." A striking illustration of the grand end of redemption.

(W. Jones.)

Homiletic Review.
I. CYRUS PRESENTED THESE EXILED JEWS WITH THE CHANCE OF A FREE CHOICE. Cyrus did not compel. These Jews might, or they might not, go to Jerusalem. It was for each one of them to choose. So Christ, in His call to the true life and heaven, puts before men the chance of an utterly free choice. "Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life."

II. This choice which Cyrus presented to these exiled Jews was a CHOICE OF EXCLUSIONS. If they chose to go to Palestine they must yield what things would keep them in Babylon. They might carry with them many things (vers. 7-11). But their houses and lands, every detaining thing, must be surrendered. So this choice which Christ presents to men is necessarily a choice of exclusions. Christianity is not narrowness. Read the charter of a Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. But Christ comes to save a man from sin. What Babylonish and preventing sins you cleave to must be yielded.

III. IT WAS A CHOICE TOWARD NOBLENESS which Cyrus gave these exiled Jews. Surely it was better, nobler to go to Jerusalem and rebuild God's temple than to dwell in exiled ease in Babylon.

IV. This choice which Cyrus opened for these exiled Jews was a choice NECESSITATING FAITH. Between Babylon and Palestine stretched vast wide sandy plains. But for the heartening of the Jews choosing the nobler destiny there was the Divine promise. So for the Christian, the man who accepts Christ's call to the nobler life, there are Divine promises,

V. THIS NECESSITY OF CHOICE. For every one of us, in high spiritual way, this choice confronts Babylon or Jerusalem.

(Homiletic Review.)

His God be with him.
Notice —

I. THE DEVOUT WISH EXPRESSED: "His God be with him." It is equivalent to our "goodbye," which is an abbreviation of "God be with you." The wish comprises two things.

1. Personal relation to God: "His God." This expression may be viewed in two aspects.(1) "His God," as opposed to the gods of the heathen.(2) "His God," as engaged to him in covenant relation. Thus our Lord speaks, "My Father, and your Father": "My God, and your God" (John 20:17). Martin Luther said that the sweetness of the gospel consisted chiefly in its pronouns, such as me, thou, thy, etc. "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). "Who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). "Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8).

2. Realisation of the presence of God: "His God be with him." His presence is a guarantee of all the help and blessing which we need. But in uttering this wish in respect to the Jews, Cyrus probably had an eye to two things which the presence of God would secure to them

:

(1)Guidance and guardianship on their long journey.

(2)Success in their great undertaking.

II. THE KIND EXPRESSION OF THIS WISH. The expression of this wish indicates on the part of Cyrus —

1. Reverence towards God. He does not utter these words thoughtlessly, but seriously.

2. Kindness towards the captives. He wished them well, and proved the sincerity of his wishes by practically helping them in their best interests.Conclusion

:

1. Do we sustain this personal relation to God?

2. Do we realise the blessed presence of God?

3. Do we desire that others also may realise His gracious presence?

(William Jones.)

As He is not a God without infinite wisdom, and infinite power, and infinite goodness, and infinite blessedness, etc., so He passes over in this covenant all that which presents Him as the most adorable Being to His creatures. He will be to them as great, as wise, as powerful, as good as He is in Himself; and the assuring us in this covenant to be our God imports also that He will do as much for us, as we would do for ourselves were we furnished with the same goodness, power, and wisdom. In being our God He testifies that it is all one, as if we had the same perfections in our own power to employ for our use; for He being possessed with them, it is as much as if we ourselves were possessed with them for our own advantage, according to the rules of wisdom and the several conditions we pass through for His glory.

(Stephen Charnocke, B. D.)

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