Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sometimes you know exactly where you're going - and sometimes, well.... Now, I don’t even like to shop, but set me in the middle of a shopping mall and I instinctively know which way to turn in order to arrive at the correct store. It’s actually quite fascinating. When my husband gets bored, he blindfolds me and spins me in circles and sets me free to find my way out of the mall – no, not really. But it sounds like a great new reality show, doesn’t it? On the other hand, navigating road signs, atlases and even MapQuest has been a learned skill for me. When Roy and I ventured in 1984 from Anderson, IN to the honeymooner’s dream-spot of Cincinnati, OH, I routed us into the heart of a downtown ghetto – iron-barred windows, guys with chains hanging from their belt loops. We were supposed to be finding a suburban hotel – oops! Well, we serve a God Who doesn’t need road signs or MapQuest to direct His people. In fact, He doesn’t even have to use His people to carry out His plan. He sometimes uses people whose hearts are far from Him to accomplish His purpose.

Ezra 5:17 – [Governor Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius saying,] “Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.”
Ezra 6:1-2 – “King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it…”
  • By God’s design, King Cyrus wrote his original decree all those years ago rather than simply speaking it. At God’s prompting, Darius’ heart was moved to order the search. And talk about your proverbial needle in a haystack! Within the entire Persian Empire – one scroll with Cyrus’ decree on it was found.

Ezra 6:3-5 – “Memorandum: In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be ninety feet high and ninety feet wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.”

  • Look back at Tattenai’s (governor of Trans-Euphrates) letter to King Darius in Ezra 5:8-16. Tattenai had no way of knowing IF King Cyrus had even made a decree eighteen years ago, let alone the exact words recorded on the scroll. But look at the words of Tattenai’s letter – his own words and the words he told King Darius the Jews had said when questioned. Compared to the words of Cyrus’ scroll, they’re almost identical. Two exceptions: 1) Cyrus says the royal treasury gets to fund the construction, and 2) Cyrus gives the dimensions for the Temple. In this way, God uses the past to affirm, finance and direct the Jews’ future.

Ezra 6:6-10 – [King Darius instructed…] “Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God: The expenses of these men are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed--young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem--must be given them daily without fail, so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons. Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be made a pile of rubble. May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem. I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence” (emphasis added).

  • Isn’t it amazing how God can even direct the favor of some very hard hearts toward His people? Obviously, if King Darius can randomly decree men to be impaled, he’s not a warm fuzzy kind of guy! Yet he looked with favor upon the Jews – perhaps out of fear – because he was especially interested in their prayers for himself and his sons (maybe he’d heard of the plague of the firstborn when God delivered Israel out of Egypt). And notice the way God ingeniously placed the people of the Land in constant daily contact with the Jews. Wouldn’t this also give them daily testimony of the Great God of Heaven?

Lord, Your ways are unfathomable. Your plan is so far beyond my reasoning and ability to comprehend. Remind me that when I receive favor in the eyes of those around me – especially when I’ve done nothing to deserve it – it’s simply Your grace with skin on. Thank You, Lord, for those little reminders that You’re very near.

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