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The Rumblings of Renewal

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
October 26, 2023 12:00 am

The Rumblings of Renewal

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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October 26, 2023 12:00 am

https://wfth.me/45N8MGu  After seventy years of captivity, God is about to restore His own people to their homeland by turning the heart of a Pagan King. In this message Stephen reminds us that if God has princes and kingdoms in His hand, He surely has us in His hands as well.

 

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Cyrus thought the God of Israel was limited to the land of Israel. But he didn't know that God wasn't bound by geography. And this, by the way, happens to be the theology of religious unbelievers. This isn't new.

It's going on today. Oh God, yeah, he's alive. He lives over in that church over there. And once a week, people go and keep him company. He lives inside of a prayer book. He hangs around religious people. He has no rights over every closet and crevice of my life. He has no rights over my business.

That's Monday through Saturday. He belongs in Jerusalem. Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey.

Stephen is the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary and the founder and president of Wisdom International. Today we begin a series through the book of Ezra. After 70 years of captivity, God was about to restore Israel to their homeland. But the process didn't really begin with God's people. It began with God turning the heart of a pagan king and causing him to realize that God rules the entire earth.

It's a lesson that's still relevant for our culture. God still has the rulers of this world in his hands. As I prepared and have been thinking about our study in the book of Ezra and restart our study through the Old Testament, it occurred to me that we're really beginning a study of men and women whose records have all but been forgotten.

These are heroes whose stories are tucked away in archives and have been gathering dust for years. And in the contemporary church today, we hardly go to the Old Testament unless we want a quick psalm or proverb for the day, forgetting that Paul wrote to Timothy and said of the Old Testament, Timothy, all scripture is profitable and is capable of equipping you for every good work. Imagine, he said that the Old Testament was capable of equipping the New Testament believer for every good work. In spite of that, the average Christian can spend his life or her life in church and hear the record of Noah and recount David's grand slam against Goliath a thousand times over and never hear the name Ezra, or much less the name Zerubbabel.

Two B's. Now Noah and David deserve careful attention. That isn't my point, but my belief is that some of God's richest and deepest truths have been communicated through the lives of forgotten heroes. So I'm really excited to sort of blow the dust off the Old Testament and begin this study as we complete our study of the Old Testament historical books and rediscover the Hall of Fame achievements of men like Ezra and Zerubbabel and Nehemiah. Now this morning as we begin the process of hearing with spiritual ears the rumblings of a nation's renewal, I want us to begin in a different book. Several years ago we finished our study in Kings and Chronicles and that set the stage for this captivity that with Ezra is about to end. So take your Bibles and turn to 2 Kings chapter 25 and let's reread the tragic events of Jerusalem's destruction there and what would set the stage for not only captivity but ultimately renewal. 2 Kings chapter 25.

I want to read a lengthy paragraph. You might want to just close your eyes and listen and I want you to sort of re-enter this scene and feel the horror of these moments as the nation is ultimately brought to an end. Now it came about in the ninth year of his reign on the tenth day of the tenth month that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came. He and all his army against Jerusalem camped against it and built a siege wall around it. In other words, they're going to starve out the city. So the city was under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then the city was broken into and all the men of war fled by night by way of the gate between the two walls beside the king's garden that the Chaldeans were all around the city and they went by the way of Araba. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him to the king of Babylon at Riblah and he passed sentence on him and they slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon. Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and he burned the house of the Lord, the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great house he burned with fire. So all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Then the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the multitude, Nebuchadnezzar on the captain of the guard carried away into exile, but the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vine dressers and plowmen. Verse eighteen, then the captain of the guard took Sariah, the chief priest, and Zephaniah, the second priest with the three officers of the temple.

And from the city he took one official who was overseer of the men of war and five of the king's advisors who were found in the city and the scribe of the captain of the army who mustered the people of the land and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city. And Nebuchadnezzar on the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Ribla. Then the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Ribla in the land of Hamath. So Judah was led away into exile from its land. You read these words and you can almost feel the despair. You can almost see the horror and tragedy of captivity.

Why had it come? It had come on the heels of years of warning by the God of Israel to the people of Israel who had disobeyed him and rebelled against him, even though God had sent them the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah to warn them that this judgment would come. They still, as it were with one voice, shouted the prophets down. In fact, they called Jeremiah insane. Now they were captives. Their beloved nation is scattered. Their capital city is in ruins and the temple is destroyed. And that begins seventy years of captivity that God predicted would come through the prophet Jeremiah.

You might skip down in your notes if you're following. And let me give you the first principle for every culture and every generation that we learned just from the reading of this. And it is this principle. Whenever you disobey God, you have begun playing a game. You will never win. You play the game of sexual relations outside of marriage or before marriage and you are going to lose. You play the game of pornography on the Internet or through different avenues of media and you have entered a game in which you are going to lose. You play the corporate game of ladder climbing and you abandon your family on the way.

You are playing a game in which you will lose. The people of Israel thought they could ignore Jeremiah and Isaiah. Who are they? What would they know about our lives? We will live the way we wish to live. And then the horror of this judgment came and they will realize through tears of despair and enslavement in their captivity that they need revival and renewal and restoration. Now, between this passage that you have open on your lap and the Book of Ezra is 70 years for those in Babylon who were keeping their calendars, they should be aware that something is about to happen. The rumblings of renewal are about to take place and the first sound of rumbling was the wheels of chariots from this new kingdom, this Medo-Persian kingdom as they rumbled up to the capital city of Babylon under the leadership of a general who would later be named Darius.

That's a noble name like Pharaoh who would be named Darius by King Cyrus, the ruler of the Medo-Persian Empire. Well, Babylon scoffed. Who are the Persians that they would come and besiege our city? They can't destroy us.

They can't starve us out. Why, we have the mighty Euphrates River flowing through our city. And so the proud king of Babylon, instead of fearing, he ordered a feast fed to them by their Jewish captives. And during this feast, they drank their wine from sacred Jewish vessels until suddenly a hand appeared and began writing on the wall. A strange message, a message they could not understand, but you can imagine their horror and the quiet that descended upon that banquet room.

They didn't know what it was, so they called for their wise man, Daniel. He came in and before this proud king of Babylon named Belshazzar, he said, The message is this. You have been weighed and found wanting, and your kingdom will be delivered over to the kingdom of the Persians. And Babylon that night fell.

In fact, during that feast, the Persians finished their strategy of diverting the water of the Euphrates River, and that army marched underneath the city gates on an empty riverbed. God's word was coming true, and the Babylonians were now captured by the Persians. Now, as for the Jewish slaves, they knew their need for renewal was discovered in this captivity, sort of like the prodigal son knew that while he was in the pig pen, he came to his senses and he knew that he must go back to the father's house. But just understanding your need for renewal is not enough.

There has to be something else. And so let me give you the second introductory comment. The essence of renewal is worship. The essence of renewal is worship.

Renewal and its need is discovered while in captivity. But the essence of renewal is worship. Now, with that in mind, let's go to the book of Ezra.

Keep turning right. And if you get to Psalms, you've gone too far. And I want you to look at the heart of Cyrus's declaration in Chapter one, verse three.

We'll look at the rest of it later. But notice God's primary intention here. Whoever there is among you, Cyrus is speaking to the Jewish people now of some two million. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him. Let him go to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel.

Ladies and gentlemen, after 70 years of chastening, God now is moving to restore and renew his people. Did you notice that his first objective here is not to restore their economy? That will come later. He did not move to restore their political establishment.

That would come later. And we would do well as an American church to realize as we for some reason continue to pour time and energy and money and effort in hopes of somehow cleaning up our political establishment. Men and women, the restoration of a political system is not the cause of revival.

It is the result of revival. It is when God's people are captivated by the King of Heaven that we impact the kings of Earth. When God wanted the Israelites to turn back to himself, he did not reform their housing or their transportation. He didn't make Persians love righteousness. He didn't move Cyrus to post the Ten Commandments and command that all the Persians follow them.

No, we expect the Persians to act like the Persians act. But God moved his people, and he refocused their energy and their attention so that they would rebuild his house and return to worship the only true and living God. C. S. Lewis wrote that Christians have largely ceased to think of the next world and as a result have become ineffective in this world. If you lose sight of the fact that kingdoms come and go, nations come and go, including our beloved nation independently of the kingdom plan of God, that God is not somehow handicapped by our legislation, you are driven back to that point in Ezra Chapter one and verse one. Let's read that verse. It's a stunning verse. Now in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all of his kingdom and also put it in writing. Did you catch whose idea this proclamation was? Cyrus's?

Not on your life. God's. The word translated, in fact, you could circle it in your text stirred up is an interesting view of God's sovereignty. The word stirred up is the Hebrew word that means to arouse, to incite, to excite into action, even used to open one's eyes. The word is used in Deuteronomy 32 11 for an eagle stirring up its nest.

It's used in Psalm 108 verse two for a musician awakening his harp, strumming on the harp, tuning it up, preparing it for music. So God here is about to restore his own people. He promised he'd do it after 70 years of captivity, and now he is sovereignly behind the scenes, unknown even to Cyrus, warming up Cyrus's heart, tuning it up to play divine music of sovereign decree.

Cyrus thought it was his music. We know it was God's verse two. Thus says Cyrus, King of Persia, the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has appointed me to build them a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him. Let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel. He is the God who is in Jerusalem and every survivor at whatever place he may live. Let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a free will offering for the house of God, which is in Jerusalem. Now some would say and argue that Cyrus became a believer. Look at the language, the Lord, the God of heaven, in verse two. The God of Israel, verse three. Somehow he came to place his faith, as it were, in Israel's God.

I don't believe so. In fact, there is an inscription that is helped, uncovered by the spade of the archaeologist that fills in some gaps of this man's thinking, an inscription that Cyrus had written to the defeated Babylonians. Cyrus wanted the Babylonians to believe that their chief god, Marduk, was instrumental in choosing Cyrus to overthrow the Babylonians.

So he attempted to affect their feelings by virtue of their religion, and he was successful. The inscription says this, Marduk scanned all the countries, searching for a righteous ruler. Then he pronounced the name of Cyrus. Marduk, the great Lord, a protector of his people, beheld with pleasure Cyrus' good deeds, and therefore ordered him to march against his city, Babylon. All the inhabitants of Babylon, as well as of the entire country, bowed to Cyrus and kissed his feet, and with shining faces they worshipped his very name. I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, king of Babylon, king of the four rims of the earth.

A very humble fellow at that. This was his inscription to them. Cyrus was a polytheist. He believed in the existence of many gods, and he comes to believe in the existence of Israel's God. And he simply adds him to his pantheon. In fact, there's another inscription in which he writes these revealing words, may all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask a long life for me. Now, that puts in perspective what he's doing with Israel.

He's allowing them to return, to rebuild their temple, to resettle their God in hopes that he will live a long life. He is anything but a believer. He is a pagan Persian. He is a polytheist.

But I want to draw a point of application out of here before we go any further. It's possible here, Cyrus proves it, to say all the right things about God and still not know God personally. It's possible to believe that God is alive and not know him. It's possible to use religious terminology without ever experiencing redemption. And I say this not only happened to Cyrus here in Persia, but it's happening in our land in the lives of millions of Americans who are self-deceived, Americans who know the religious terminology, Americans who will carry their Bible and walk into a church auditorium somewhere today, people who sound religious but who have never bent their heart and knee before the Lord of heaven and said, in effect, I believe you alone are the God of all that there is.

And I, a sinner, place my faith in you alone. Be done with all the good works that Cyrus boasted of and many people boast of today. Now, you'll find hidden in this inscription something that Cyrus said about God that wasn't right. Let's look again at verse three, the last part. He is the God who is where? In Jerusalem. Cyrus thought the God of Israel was limited to the land of Israel. He will find out differently, but he didn't know that God wasn't bound by geography. And this, by the way, happens to be the theology of religious unbelievers. This isn't new.

It's going on today. Oh, God, yeah, he's alive. He lives over in that church over there. And once a week, people go and keep him company. He lives inside of a prayer book.

He hangs around religious people. He has no right Monday through Saturday. He doesn't overrule my life. He has no rights over every closet and crevice of my life. He has no rights over my business.

It's Monday through Saturday. He belongs in Jerusalem. If you truly know this one and only true God, my friends, you know that he is God. He was above and overall creation, and he has the right to every corner and every crevice and every closet of your life. If you truly know him, then you know he is truly Lord. By the way, just how was Cyrus introduced to this God of Israel in such a way that he would have this kind of terminology which he knew not of?

What happened? How would he know? How would he hear so that he would at least say, Oh, here's another God that I didn't know existed, but he's alive and I'll add him to the list.

How would he know that? Well, Josephus, the Jewish historian, informs us that Cyrus was actually shown a prophecy by a Jewish prophet that was predicted 150 years before the birth of Cyrus. Now follow this. Somebody showed him the prophecy of Isaiah, and in that prophecy, Cyrus was named, and the prophecy preceded Cyrus's birth by 150 years. Let me show you that prophecy. Take your Bibles and turn to Isaiah 44. Isaiah 44. Look at verse 28.

It is I who says of who? Cyrus. About now you can imagine Cyrus's attention is fully directed to the prophecy. It is I, God says, of Cyrus. He is my shepherd, and he will perform all my desire, and he declares of Jerusalem, She will be built and of the temple.

Your foundation will be laid. Thus says the Lord. The Cyrus has 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.

I will go before you and make the rough places smooth. I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars, and I will give you the treasure of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places in order that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. For the sake of Jacob, my servant and Israel, my chosen one, I have also called you by your name.

I have given you a title of honor, though you have not known me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. Besides me, there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known me, that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one beside me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. Josephus wrote that when Cyrus saw this amazing prediction written some 150 years before his own birth, he was seized quote with an earnest desire and ambition to fulfill what was written.

I'll bet. The prophecy here in Isaiah leads me to a second significant principle for any culture and every generation, and it is this God's faithfulness to his word doesn't depend on us understanding it. Imagine prophesying a liberator named Cyrus will come. Isaiah didn't know Cyrus. He was moved by the Spirit to write a name he knew nothing of. A king named Cyrus is going to do something significant.

Who is Cyrus? He will be born in 150 years. Imagine God saying something to his people that will not make sense or come together until over 100 years have passed. You say, Well, you know, the Israelite should have been patient. He should have trusted God's faithfulness to his word. God said it. They believe that that should settle it.

You know the old chorus. Well, okay, I agree, but let's apply that to ourselves. Would you give God 150 years to clear something up for your family? We will hardly give him one year to make sense.

We have a hard time giving him one week. He must make sense of things in my life now. How wonderful that a sovereign God is not handicapped by our impatience and our lack of understanding of his faithful word. His word will come to pass.

One final principle. The supremacy of God prevails over the power of mankind. You can't help but discover in Ezra Chapter one that the one who is in total control here is not Cyrus. It's God, the one in control.

The director of this drama is God. Just who was it that showed Cyrus the prophecy of Isaiah? Who showed him the writing of Scripture? The Bible doesn't say, but I believe, like many students of God's redemptive history, that it could be only one man, a man named Daniel, the one man who had access to the king, the one man who had knowledge of Scripture, evidently his own personal copy of Isaiah, only one man who would soon be made prime minister of this new kingdom under Cyrus. Only one man with the courage, as he had done in the past, to tell the king of his kingdom that there is a king over him. There is a ruler more sovereign than he. That was Daniel.

Think of it. Daniel was in effect waiting for Cyrus to show up. Probably didn't need any introduction. Hello, I know your name, Cyrus.

You do? Oh, I've been reading about you for many years now. We've been expecting you. Let me show you something.

Nations have changed their borders. Kings have changed their names, but God is still in total control. Now, there are several characters that are conspiring, as it were, by their surrender to this divine director.

I've skipped that part in your notes, but we can go back. You have a number of characters that will be revealed in these three final books of biblical history. You have the hidden influence of Daniel. You can read and Daniel, by the way, this overthrow of Babylon by the Medo Persians and that feast that I talked about. You have the timely influence of Esther, who was the grandmother of the king, who allowed Nehemiah to go back.

And we'll discover that together in detail. You have this unheralded role of Zerubbabel with two B's. You have the faithful ministry of Ezra. You have the unbending courage of Nehemiah. Ladies and gentlemen, what I want to do is we begin is set the record straight. God is in complete control, as it's been said before. History is his story played out on the stage of human affairs.

It's his story. All we could do is bend our knee to him and say, Lord, where you go, we wish to go. And we want to be involved in this great redemptive plan as your people. That's our heart's desire. God is uniquely and completely sovereign over the world.

There's nothing that happens that's outside of his control. This was lesson one in a series through the book of Ezra. Stephen Davey is calling this lesson the rumblings of renewal. I hope you'll be with us for the entire series. But if you ever have to miss a lesson, please remember that you can go back and listen online at wisdomonline.org. I hope you'll be with us next time for more wisdom for the heart. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-26 00:49:33 / 2023-10-26 00:59:41 / 10

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