They say God moves in mysterious ways… and sometimes they’re mysterious enough to be almost comical. This was my thought this week as I read the opening to a book of The Bible called Ezra.
Ezra comes in the time when the ancient Jews are in the naughty corner because they’ve ignored God and been taken into captivity in Babylon. Then after this, Cyrus the Persian king conquers Babylon and takes its spoils, which includes the Jews.
Having conquered another nation, you’d expect Cyrus to be pretty pleased with the bunch of Jews his bundled together for himself and to consider them as his slaves. They were slaves in Egypt centuries before, which he’d presumably know… what’s good for the Pharaoh, is good for the Persian King, right?
Wrong. It’s like the guy wasn’t paying attention in the webinar, ‘7 Steps to setting up a tyranny’. He gets ‘Step 1: Conquer the lands’ and ‘Step 2: Gather the plunder’ down pat, but then stumbles on ‘Step 3: Keep the people and make them slaves’. Must’ve turned off his camera, gone to the kitchen and made a coffee at that point. Instead of totalitarianism, he opts for tolerance.
This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you – may his God be with him and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.”
And The Bible adds that all this happens “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia” ie. he does it straight away.
This I find so bizarre to the point that it amuses me.
He’s the last guy that you expect to be helping out the Jews and letting them return home to build a temple. But the writing had been on the wall… or in the mouth of the prophet, Jeremiah, who was around when the Jews were captured by the Babylonians.
Jeremiah said that this would happen in the future (‘cause that’s what prophets do in their day jobs). And so, The Bible states that “The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus… to make a proclamation throughout his realm”.
It appears that having taken over lands, Cyrus then decides to set up a rather diplomatic foreign policy that placates the gods of his subjects, instead of carrying off their temple knick-knacks for his own usage. He actually gives back to the Jews the temple articles that Nebuchadnezzar stole. Perhaps he knew about the writing on the wall and wasn’t about to make that mistake for a second time.
Regardless, the guy’s cultural and religious sensitivity is exemplary. He models pluralistic tolerance in a manner that puts modern society to shame.
Humorous though, because it’s so unexpected. But maybe that’s because we’re just not used to seeing God move in people’s hearts, to do great things. I reckon that’s not God’s fault, but ours. We’ve got to be open to the moving, like Cyrus.
I find that when God moves it’s often unexpected, sometimes humorous, but always good.
Are you open to God moving in your heart today? The outcome might be better than you think.
Yours in expecting the unexpected,