Text: Ezra 1:1-3; 8:22 | Listen to Message
Someone Is Shaping History
Let’s imagine you’re a genuine truth seeker and you’re trying to discern whether or not the Bible is trustworthy. Is it really the Word of God – as it claims – or is it merely the product of man?
Let’s imagine, too, that you’ve stumbled across these little Old Testament books called Ezra and Nehemiah, and you really want to understand what they mean. Right at the outset of your study, you have questions like:
Who is this Cyrus, king of Persia? And why has he issued a decree allowing the Jews to return from exile to rebuild their temple and capital city? What are the Jews doing in captivity in the first place? And what happened to the house of their God that it needs to be rebuilt?
You notice a little clue in Ezra 1:1, where it says “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” And you wonder to yourself what that’s about. Who is Jeremiah? What did he say? And when did he say it?
A serious inquiry into the facts leads you to some interesting discoveries.
In Jeremiah 25:8-14, you see that while the Jews were still living in Judah, Jeremiah prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He says the Jews will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years, after which time other nations and kings will defeat the Babylonians (Chaldeans). You’re intrigued because Jeremiah said these things in 605 B.C., at least 18 years before Jerusalem actually fell to Nebuchadnezzar.
You flip ahead a few pages and read in Jeremiah 29:10-14 another prophecy related to this. After those seventy years of captivity in Babylon, God will somehow bring the Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem, where he’ll give them a future and a hope.
You notice a footnote in the Bible that tells you to rewind another 100 years and look at Isaiah 44 and 45. There you read a prophecy that agrees with Jeremiah 29 that the city of Jerusalem is going to be re-inhabited and the temple is going to be re-built. But there’s a new and shocking detail that jumps out at you: Isaiah actually names God’s agent in this restoration, and it’s Cyrus! In fact, God calls Cyrus “my shepherd” and “my anointed.”
A quick search of secular history shows you that Cyrus was the Persian king who defeated Babylon and subsequently decreed in 538 B.C. that the Jews could return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple and city. But wait. How could Isaiah possibly have known that more than 150 years earlier, unless . . .
What if God actually spoke to guys like Isaiah and Jeremiah, and told them what was going to happen before it happened? What if God then spoke to pagan kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, and had them fulfill His word – whether in judgment or in restoration? And then what if God then told people like Ezra to write this stuff down in a book, so that all people everywhere could know the truth?
What if the hand of the LORD is actually all over these stories we read in the Bible? What if He really is shaping history to show us something – or Someone?