So far we have been traveling along a timeline from the garden of Eden to the Assyrian captivity of Israel and the Babylonian captivity of Judah. The books have been in consecutive order. We are continuing on that line of history with Ezra – after a gap.
After seventy years, Cyrus the king of Persia has his heart stirred by the Lord to send people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of the Lord. Ezra starts after this decree.
I think that it is important here to interject some nuggets of truth which we will get to later, but apply here. As we have been reading the historical accounts, some of the history has not yet been approached, and that is the history of the prophets. The Bible is laid out in such a way that the historical accounts are first and then the prophets.
During those years of up-and-down kings, God was sending prophets to try to straighten the people out. The prophets were hearing messages from God and taking them to the people.
Isaiah lived in Judah through the reigns of several kings, one being Hezekiah. During that reign, Isaiah heard the Word of the Lord saying,
“Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him, and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut….For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by name; I have given you a title of honor, though you have not known Me.” (Isaiah 45:1, 4)
Now here’s the thing: This was written at least 150 years before Cyrus comes on the scene. He was not even born. God was revealing to Isaiah that this man named Cyrus would eventually be given the mission to help the Jews return to rebuild.
Then we have Jeremiah telling us the time frame. He tells the people that they will go into captivity, and then he says,
“The it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation” (25:12)
“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.”(29:10)
So God’s hand is not leaving His people during this time. They have violated their covenant with Him, but He hasn’t. God removes His protection from them for a season, but He tells them when they will come back and who He will raise up to send them back. He tells them all of this decades before this plan comes into fruition.
Our God is such a faithful God. He tells them what will happen, when it will happen, and the name of the person He will raise up to fulfill His plan.
Now as we proceed with the revelations from God’s Word, we will come across prophecies concerning the “end times.” We don’t know how long that time frame is, because He doesn’t tell us that, but He gives us signs to look for.
God’s Word is true. What He says has happened, has happened. What He says will happen, will happen.
There will be those who think that they are too smart for God, but they are mistaken. God’s Word will come to pass whether they believe it or not. After all, he is God!
John brings out some new details in his account of the crucifixion.
The priests don’t want the inscription “The King of the Jews” on the cross of Jesus. They want it to say, “He said I am the King of the Jews.” But Pilate gets it right, telling them, “What I have written, I have written.” (V. 22) I think that Pilate secretly believed Jesus.
There are others who secretly believe. We see Joseph of Arimathea, “being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews.”(V. 38) And Nicodemus coming by night also. Joseph takes away the body and Nicodemus provides the burial perfumes. These are two of many “secret disciples.” The Jewish leaders are horrendous in their control of their people.
Today there are many who are afraid to show their faith. In some foreign countries, lives might be a stake. However, in our country, lives are not at stake, but reputations may be.
In some circles it’s not hip to be a christian, and there may be intimidation from the arrogant people around. That’s when we have to choose.
Do we bear the reproach and courageously tell others our beliefs or do we keep our beliefs hidden?
Fear of man will get us into trouble every time. We will offend some with our faith – that’s just a fact of life. Those who are not listening to His voice, but the voice of a stranger, will not like to hear you talk of Jesus.
There are many, however, who just don’t know Him. It’s a privilege to be able to share His love with someone who doesn’t know Him personally. We would do well to be on the lookout for opportunities to share.
As Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16).