First Christian Church
October 31, 2021 1st Service
- Bible Trivia
- Make Me A Blessing
- Crown Him With Many Crowns
- Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord (#64)
- Without Him
- INTRODUCTIONWhen you look back on your life, have you ever thought about all the people who have helped you to get where you are in both your life and your walk with Jesus today?We do not get where we are alone; our life is not lived in a vacuum.I would imagine we can all think about those Christians who helped lead us to Jesus or those Christians who had a significant impact on our faith journey.However, when you start to dig down deep into your life, you may begin to realize that folks who are not followers of Jesus have also had an impact on your faith journey.We can get caught in the trap of thinking that God only uses those who are His to help us and bless us along the way.In the history of the Jewish people from the book of Ezra, as they are nearing the end of their captivity in Babylon, we see that God used some unlikely people to bless the nation and help them as they were ending their time of captivity.Over an 80 plus year period, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the most powerful men in the world in the era of the exiles' homecoming, were instrumental in returning from captivity.The Persian Empire stretched from Africa and southern Europe to China.It was the center of economic, military, and cultural power.Thousands of tribes, nations and people groups were conquered citizens of the Persians.Amazingly, all three of these kings helped a small tribe of exiles from a small geographical area in the empire.God used all to bless the Jews, making decrees for their freedom and provision for the Jewish return home.All were pagans and had no lineage to Abraham.God could have released and blessed the people without using these three leaders, yet He used them.Sometimes as I look at it, I wonder why He did not do some miracle or raise an army to let the nation fight its way out of Babylon.When I look back on my life, I sometimes wonder why God used some of the people He used to help me grow in my faith and bless me.Big Idea of the Message: God uses unlikely people to accomplish his purposes and bless the community of faith.Today we will look at how God used these three unlikely sources of help to be a blessing to the nation leaving captivity!Let's begin by looking at a passage we studied last week, Ezra 1:1-4Ezra 1:1–4 (CSB)1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing:2 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah.3 Any of his people among you, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.4 Let every survivor, wherever he resides, be assisted by the men of that region with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, along with a freewill offering for the house of God in Jerusalem.”SERMONI. Unlikely help from Cyrus.Seventy years of captivity is about to end.Of all the ways God could have ended it, He chose to use the Persian defeat of the Babylonians, and their leader, to get the ball rolling!As we learned last week, Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539 BC, and within a year of that event, Cyrus issued his decree to allow those who were called to do so to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the city.Outside of issuing the decree to allow this fantastic event to happen, Cyrus also bankrolled the project.We also know that Cyrus was doing this because of his own interests, not so much because he wanted the Jews to be able to go home and worship.We also see from this that even if one does not have the same intentions of God, God will still use them for His purpose.When it was time for the captivity to begin, God used this pagan leader to get the ball rolling.This was not some quick decision, both Jeremiah and about 130 years before this time, the Prophet Isaiah wrote about this event, even to the point that Isaiah revealed the leader's namer who would start the process of ending the captivity!You never know how God will use the people and the events around you to make things happen.For example, it is so easy at any given time to look at the political climate around you and think that God is out of the loop.Even when it all looks like it will fall apart, God has a purpose and a plan behind whoever is in leadership, no matter how they got there.Imagine being a Jew in Nazi Germany around the time of WW2!Then imagine being sent to a German machine factory to work!Sometimes God will use people in our lives to change our course.Some of those people won't be part of our community of faith.Some of those people might seem like the last people in the world that God would use.In the film based on a true story, Schindler's List, German businessman Oskar Schindler decided to use Jews in his machine factory during World War II (Schindler's List, directed by Steven Spielberg [Universal City, CA: Universal, 1993], DVD).Jews were cheap labor for Schindler and would gain him a better profit.However, since these Jews were used for labor, they would not be sent to the concentration camps to die.Schindler develops a relationship with these Jews throughout the film and uses his wealth and influence to save their lives.A shrewd, wealthy, and powerful German businessman, who was also a member of the Nazi party, saved the lives of hundreds of Jews.The least likely person was used to change the course of history.The pagan King is called God's anointed in Isaiah 45:1Isaiah 45:1 (CSB)1 The Lord says this to Cyrus, his anointed, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and disarm kings, to open doors before him, and even city gates will not be shut:Under the decree from Cyrus, some Jews returned to Jerusalem in 537, and the rebuilding of the Temple began in 538.However, from 536-530, the was much opposition from the nations surrounding Jerusalem.Cyrus died in 530 BC, just eight years after his decree was issued.Now what?From 530 to 520, the rebuilding of the Temple ceases!During this time, one of the sons of Cyrus, Cambyses II, is in power until he dies, probably by suicide in 522.Now what?II. Unlikely help from Darius.Chapter 4 of Ezra. Which was not written chronologically, but rather a thematic account, tells us in verse 24.Ezra 4:24Ezra 4:24 (CSB)Now the construction of God’s house in Jerusalem had stopped and remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.From 530 to 520, the rebuilding of the Temple stopped because of the opposition that was faced by those in Jerusalem.In a practice that never happens anymore, people were bribing the public officials from the time of Cyrus to the time of Darius to frustrate the efforts of the Jews to rebuild the city and Temple.When new leadership comes to power, there is no promise that the old rules and decrees will still apply in many countries.In the United States, when a President leaves office, all of that President's Executive orders can be reversed.Something interesting about the Persian Empire is that was not the case; decrees stood forever. Even centuries after Kings died.Daniel 6:8 is an exampleDaniel 6:8 (CSB)Therefore, Your Majesty, establish the edict and sign the document so that, as a law of the Medes and Persians, it is irrevocable and cannot be changed.”Of all of the nations, God could have used to keep His promise, the one He used just happened to not allow for decrees to be revered!At the end of chapter 5, some of those surrounding Jerusalem wrote a letter to the new King Darius, basically tattling on the Jews for trying to rebuild the city.In their letter to the King, they wrote that they talked with the city leaders of Jerusalem about their issues building the Temple.The Jewish leaders explained that their authority to do the work came from a decree from King Cyrus.The people trying to keep the Temple from being rebuilt asked King. Darius to look into this supposed decree.In chapter 6, Darius issues an order for that research to begin.After the research was completed, here is the response from King Darius to those from the region seeking to stop construction.Ezra 6:6–12 (CSB)6 Therefore, you must stay away from that place, Tattenai (TAT IN EYE) governor of the region west of the Euphrates River, 0Shethar-bozenai (SHEATH R BOZ IN EYE), and your colleagues, the officials in the region.7 Leave the construction of the house of God alone. Let the governor and elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its original site.8 I hereby issue a decree concerning what you are to do, so that the elders of the Jews can rebuild the house of God: The cost is to be paid in full to these men out of the royal revenues from the taxes of the region west of the Euphrates River, so that the work will not stop.9 Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, and lambs for burnt offerings to the God of the heavens, or wheat, salt, wine, and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—let it be given to them every day without fail,10 so that they can offer sacrifices of pleasing aroma to the God of the heavens and pray for the life of the king and his sons.11 I also issue a decree concerning any man who interferes with this directive: Let a beam be torn from his house and raised up; he will be impaled on it, and his house will be made into a garbage dump because of this offense.12 May the God who caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who dares to harm or interfere with this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued the decree. Let it be carried out diligently.So, 17 years after the decree from Cyrus, construction restarted.Without Cyrus, it would not have been stated. Without Darius, it would have ended.Darius provided the protection and more resources to rebuild the Temple. He made it clear that this work was not to be interfered with!In 516, the Temple was rebuilt, 22 years after Cyrus authorized it!Darius, another unlikely helper in God's plan!This takes us to our last unlikely source of help!III. Unlikely help from Artaxerxes.Darius died in 486, and between Darius and Artaxerxes, there was one King, Xerxes I, also known from the book of Ester as Ahasuerus )A HAS YOU AIR US.Artaxerxes took power in 465.In 658, Ezra, who had great favor with the King, asked if all Jews could return to their home.Artaxerxes granted all the desires of Ezra!Ezra 7:13 (CSB)I issue a decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who want to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.The rest of the decrees tells everyone to give Ezra WHATEVER he needed to make, getting the sacrifices and worship going in Jerusalem.About 70 years after the decree from Cyrus, all the Jews were going home!What Cyrus started, Darius moved forward, Artaxerxes finished!CONCLUSIONIt's sometimes the least likely people that surprise us and do amazing things. But, in God's sovereignty, he uses anyone and everyone to fulfill his will and purpose.No matter what is happening around us in our lives or within our nation, we must always realize that even with it looks like God has no plan, He does have a plan.As a nation, we need to see that even if it looks like all is falling apart around us, God has a plan, and He will use people, saved or not saved, and situations, both good and bad, for His glory!Who would you identify as a Cyrus, Darius, or Artaxerxes in your life?A boss, a manager, coach, or politician who may not be a believer and yet who God has used for good in the lives of God's people.What unbelievers with influence in our lives can you pray for?Who are the influential people we can pray for?We must not overlook people around us, particularly those who are not saved, thinking that God would not use them in our life in some way.Our Application Point to ponder is The people in our lives—whether believers or not—are a part of a larger story God is writing.With this in mind, we always need to be conscious of the people around us, and we need to pray for them and know that God knows them.
- Sweet Sweet Spirit
- If My People Will Pray (#803)
- How Majestic Is Your Name (#121)
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