Today, let’s take a buzz through Ezra. Why?
Don’t think we’re going to be rebuilding the Holy City after the dominance of the Persian Empire?
You’re probably right.
Are there some principles here? I think there are a few and they bear on both spiritual and political issues of our day.
First, spiritually: do we take advantage of the freedom to worship that exists in our world right now? The Persians permitted a limited freedom of public worship, just as we Americans have at this point. Are we using it or avoiding it?
Second, politically: Persia had a policy of returning conquered people to their homelands. Why? Because it wasn’t worth the hassle to meddle in their lives by yanking folks all over the map. Guess what, governing folks? The more you meddle, the more difficult it is to govern. Take a page from Cyrus and let it go. As long as people pay their taxes, why stress about the minutiae of their lives? Let the people live.
Third, spiritually: adversity will come against your public expression of worship. When that occurs, appeal to the authorities who are responsible for safeguarding that freedom and retain your willingness to worship privately. Our inability to worship publicly should not hamper our private worship.
Fourth, politically: Cyrus acknowledges that he is king thanks to the “God of heaven.” Now, he may not have truly been a believer—and he may have praised the gods of many other nations—but the key idea is this: politically, do you understand that you are not the top of the universe? There is more to life than you, be it Deity or vox populii, and you would do well to remember that.
Fifth, spiritually: Ezra has a long streak on purity among the people, and one that is oft-misunderstood. Ezra seeks a worshiping people that are unified. In that day, religious purity and ethnic identity ran on the same tracks. On this side of the Cross (and even on that side, if you look back at the Law and inclusion rules) the only ethnicity that matters for unity is the Blood of Christ.
That’s what this all comes back to: are we looking to see the Kingdom of God? There are opportunities to be outposts of that Kingdom—take them and use them!