The God who Controls History
The God who Controls History
“The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus King of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom.”
Nothing seems so arbitrary as the political winds sweeping back and forth across the political landscape. In every election, it appears that the winds change as the fickle whims of the voters dictate them. One moment a politician is touted as the next great leader, the next, he is cast off by the voters as a has-been, only to be discussed by the pundits who speculate why his popularity suddenly vanished. In a world where events seem to move so quickly and erratically, how do we gain a sense of security and stability?
The first verse of Ezra seems to be another testimony of the impulsive whims of world leaders. In a sudden turn of political winds, Cyrus changed the national policy of his predecessors, who deported people from their homelands. Instead, Cyrus desired to gain the loyalty of his new subjects. To do so, he allowed those the Assyrians had deported to return to their homeland.
However, behind the verse, there are two important statements. First, we find in the prophecies of Jeremiah that after 70 years of captivity, because of God’s judgment, the nation of Israel would be allowed to return to the land. Jeremiah, who prophesied in the years 627 B.C. to 582 B.C., not only proclaimed the fall of Jerusalem but also that the people would be allowed to return to the land. Second, the prophet Isaiah, writing 200 years earlier, not only prophesied the return of Israel but even provided the name of the foreign king who would decree it: Cyrus! In Isaiah 44:28-45:1 he prophecies that Cyrus would establish a decree for the Temple to be rebuilt. We can only Image the shock and excitement the people heard that a King of the Medo-Persian empire had conquered the Assyrians.
For Ezra, this sudden change of fortune was not just the arbitrary movements of a political leader seeking to gain popularity; it resulted from the sovereign God controlling the political winds to achieve his divine purpose. The word “stirred up” is used several times to describe God’s involvement in history. It was God who “stirred up” Tilgalth-pilneser to attach the tribes in the Transjordan region (1 Chron. 5:26). He also aroused the Babylonians to attack Jerusalem in the first place (1 Chron. 5:26). God was the unseen hand who moved the Medes to invade Babylon (Isa. 13:17; Jer. 50:9-11).
God is active in history. The events that happen in the world, the changes of the political winds, are not arbitrary events but the sovereign working of God. They are not the product of chance but of his design. He is not merely a spectator observing world events; he is the one who is in control and manipulating all things according to his plan. This is true not only on a national level but also on an individual level. In Ezra 1:5, we also read that God stirred the people's hearts. Some he prompted to return to the land. Others he moved in them to donate financially to the cause.
When we look at the events of the world and the events of our own life, we have the assurance that God is the divine orchestrator who moves all events and circumstances according to his purpose. Life is not the product of blind chance and luck. It is the product of an infinitely wise and sovereign God who is engaged in world events and the events in our own life. As a result, we do not need to fear events outside our control. Instead, we can simply rest in the hands of a sovereign God.