Loud weeping. Louder laughter!

In the second and third chapters of Ezra, 42,360 husbands? with their households and animals answered the call to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. Under the instruction of King Cyrus, and the prophetic word of God, Israel was being established again.

This mass migration back to the homeland is a miraculous act of patriotism and worship. (Patriotism is corollary to worship in this sense, as Israel was God’s chosen nation.) Forty-two thousand households uprooted themselves toward a land almost all of them had never been to, in order to fulfill the promise of God. Hard work, danger and failure were perils that would surely await them. But they went forward with a worshipful faith in the promise and purpose of God.

 Fearful. Once arrived, the danger of reclaiming the kingdom ground became clear. “What if the new neighbours aren’t friendly?” Their response was inspiring; build an altar! Trembling with nervousness about their new neighbourhood, the Israelites found someone bigger and bolder to stand in awe of. YHWH, who had brought them out of they kingdom of captivity into the kingdom of freedom and purpose. They made sacrifices to him with confidence in his power and promise.

Overwhelmed. Once the work had begun another inspiring phenomenon occurred; weeping for what was, and laughing for what is to come! The old men had witnessed the house in good order. To them, the new beginning was a reminder of the failures and dishonour that brought shame to their honourable call in an age passed. Everyone else laughed and sang. God is doing a new work. Restoration is established by the Lord!

And the sound of praise rises above the weeping.

The church learns from Israel’s restorative experience under the prophetic word of God. While there is much to be grieved about when reviewing the state of the church, her purpose remains in the truth of God’s word. “I will build my church,” he says. “Just as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you… And I am with you, even to the end of the age!”

At this point of my life in ministry, church leadership is hard and church-planting sometimes appears to promise nothing but failure. There may be grief over the loss of what was (or what was supposed to be). But grief will not drown out joy! Because God’s promise has been made. And even his own Spirit is laying the foundation through those whom he indwells. The church.

? Taken from Ezra 2:44. I’m not entirely sure whether this number householding men (father, mother, children and servants) or individuals within each household that are of bonafide Jewish decent. No margin notes were taken for this passage.

No Human Heart Can Escape Him

“…the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia…” Ezra 1:1

I don’t know why I do it. But sometimes I bring myself to think that God’s purpose is captive to the willingness of humanity to carry it out. I find the task of reporting the good news of Jesus Christ to be an honour and a privilege. But sometimes I make more of that honour than is right. I convince myself that God has made me (and every other disciple) the gate-keeper of the gospel, so that if we neglect it — it fails to persist. But here I am reminded that God needed nothing more than the word of his mouth to bring the myriad of miracles that formed every intricacy of the universe. He is by all means capable of fulfilling his purposes for it by the same means. Yet he brings us in! 

In Isaiah 44:28 God speaks to the pagan king Cyrus before he was born, saying that God has chosen him to be a shepherd. One who would foster God’s Kingdom come among the Israelites who were living in exile under his rule. It is audacious for a king to say to another king, “you will be my shepherd” and “you will build my house.” It is boggling that such an instruction can come into history from outside the realms of time and space. It is divine that the spirit of King Cyrus would be stirred by God to do precisely what God intended! This is the power of God’s will. So when we pray “Your will be done, your kingdom come” we are not asking God to let it be. It will be. Rather we are praising him for making us aware of his purposes, and for the place he’s given us in its unfolding.

God’s word does not merely reflect truth; it creates truth. When Jesus says to his disciples “go and make disciples” or “I am sending you” he is not merely pleading with the redeemed to join his cause. Rather he is authoring the stories of those whom he calls to follow him.

  • Does that change the way we think of obedience?
    • Is obedience a desperate struggle to bring God pleasure?
    • Is obedience a faithful pursuit of a what God has already secured?
      • Is it possible that obedience is both/and rather than either/or?

“And all who were about them aided them with
… silver … gold … goods … beasts … costly wares … gifts.”

Ezra 1

See my margin notes for this chapter.

What’s exciting for me is that God not only stirs people to fulfill his purposes; he also lines the path with every necessity for a faithful answer to the call. Speaking of the audacity of God; it is one thing for exiles to be sent to establish a kingdom in their homeland. It’s another thing for their oppressors to send them off with an inheritance of the kingdom they are leaving. God’s purpose is good. His Kingdom is coming! His will is being done. And he brings us into it. 

It is an honour and a privilege to be crafted by the Word of God.