Friday, March 15, 2013
Smoke from a thousand fires billowed into the sky as yells of terror echoed down the narrow streets of Jerusalem. The fierce, unstoppable Babylonian army had turned its gold-hungry eyes on the Kingdom of Judah. With sword and shield, they smashed the Israeli armies and poured like a rolling tsunami across the fear-bound city of Jerusalem. Those who were not slain immediately were chained neck and hand and dragged out of the city to be slaves. The old were killed on the spot. The young were cast from the heights of the city wall to meet their doom on the rocks below. “The healthy and the wise,” that’s what the king demanded. They were to be stripped and humiliated. The Jewish king’s defiance had enraged the Babylonian war machine, and these helpless Jews would pay with their dignity.
A decade later, the devastation squad returned to decimate the city. The beautiful temple of Solomon that had stood for nearly 400 years was torn down and the treasures of worship inside of it were ransacked. The people of God were slaves, with no homes, no families, and no temple. Their story had become a story of abandonment. They had been defeated, shamed, and now left with no identity.
A few decades passed and they became accustomed to their new identities as “slaves.” They were a people who had lost their homeland.
And although they may have accepted this identity, they did not enjoy it. They certainly did not desire to remain with it forever.
Eventually, God called a Persian king, Cyrus, to come deliver His people from the oppression and desecration of the Babylonians. After Cyrus defeated the Babylonians, in what can only be called a Providential proclamation, he decreed that all the Jews who desired to return to the kingdom of Judah to rebuild it could go. God had seen the plight of His people and had intervened. Cyrus was not a believer, he was just a little king in the hands of a powerful Sovereign God.
The book of Nehemiah starts 70 years after the decree of Cyrus was issued. In spite of Providential intervention, the city and the temple still aren’t built. God had offered a way of restoration, but the Jews had retreated into unorganized indifference.
Food For Thought: At times, God give us opportunity, and like these blessed Jews we miss it. What would be an opportunity that you have missed recently? What will you do to fix it?