Posts Tagged 'Cyrus'

7 Side Benefits of Grace, Part 3

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Most of us are familiar with this definition of “grace”: God’s unmerited favor. That’s a good, solid, simple definition, and again most of us relate grace to God’s treatment of us in salvation. God saved us – He forgave us – when we didn’t deserve it and He continues to treat us better than we deserve. True enough. But most of us don’t think about grace much in our day-to-day lives. I call these “side benefits” of grace, but they really aren’t “side benefits” at all. Each of the seven is a big deal to the beneficiaries of them. Each of the seven helps us to live a fearless, courageous Christian life.

So far, we’ve looked at four of the seven:

  • God names each of us by a name of His choosing. He knows us that well;
  • God is so aware of us and He is so close to us He actually has the number of hairs on our head numbered;
  • He watches us so closely He has our very steps counted;
  • He pays such strict attention to how we talk about Him, He not only records our words but He has written our names down in His big black book in Heaven.

Those are all marvelous side benefits of God’s grace.

Let’s continue with the final three side benefits of God’s amazing grace.

God bottles our tears, Psalm 56:8 KJV

Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? (Psalm 56:8 KJV)

Psalm 56 has been called “the cheerful courage of a fugitive” by Old Testament scholars. David was a fugitive for part of his life; he didn’t always live the easy life on the throne in Jerusalem! While he was a fugitive, he had it bad –

Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. (Psalm 55:5, 6 KJV)

That’s the cry of a man on the run; pursued by a relentless enemy bent on his destruction. David, the mighty warrior-king-poet, was for part of His life, a scared man hiding out in caves, behind trees, and in ditches. And he had good reason for be fearful. King Saul wanted him dead, the enemies of Israel wanted him dead, or alive so they could torture him and make sport of him. In Psalm 55, he’s a man with his back against the wall, but in Psalm 56, he’s writing with some conviction. What he wanted in Psalm 55, he received in Psalm 56. He’s still surrounded by the enemy. He’s still in mortal danger. But through all that, David realized that God was still by his side. In fact, God was more than just with him – God had been delivering Him every step of the way.

The historical background of this psalm has to be noted. David had been captured by the Philistines in Gath. He was in the worst possible place a man of God could find himself in: more or less helpless, surrounded by the enemy, with no way out in sight.

Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. (Psalm 56:1, 2 KJV)

What David wrote here, while poetic-sounding, was really happening to him. He was surrounded – literally covered up – by the enemy. What can a believer do when the forces of Satan are arrayed around him? David tells us –

I will trust in thee. (Psalm 56:3b KJV)

David was afraid. Fear is a very real thing that every believer has to deal with from time to time in life. Anybody who says they are never, ever afraid lies about other things, too. Fear is real. But, at the same time, no believer ever has to fear. When those real feelings of fear come on you, you don’t have to entertain them. When the fear hits, do what David did: trust in God. Each of us must learn to do this because fear and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time.

Love contains no fear—indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. This means that the man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected. (1 John 4:18 JBP)

Love casts out fear. But it’s not just any kind of love. It’s not the love between husband and wife or parent and child, it’s God’s love for you. Yet, it’s more than that. It’s you taking your eyes off yourself and the thing that you fear, and appropriating God’s perfect love.

Verse 8 tells us that God knows “your wanderings.” Yes, He knows where you’re going and where you’ve come from. God never stops keeping track of your comings and goings. Sometimes your wanderings get into trouble – you get into deep water. When that happens, then this happens:

put thou my tears into thy bottle…

Regarding this verse, John Bunyan notes:

God preserves our tears in a bottle, so that He can wipe them away.

We cry for all kinds of reasons. We get angry, and we cry. We get sad, and we cry. We get scared, and we cry. Those are the tears God wants to wipe away, bottle up, and get rid of. A side benefit of God’s grace is that God cares when we hurt. This really is a phenomenal statement of God’s unending compassion. No believer needs to carry any burden. Let that burden go – in the form of tears, if you like – and let God bottle them up and take them away.

God takes our hands, Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 TNIV)

That’s a verse of tremendous comfort to Christians, and it is an incredible side benefit of God’s grace. No non-Christian can enjoy this close relationship with God. Only you can, if you have made Christ Lord of your life. But when you understand this verse’s historical context, it becomes even more incredible.

In Isaiah 41, the prophet shouts out a challenge to all the idolatrous nations surrounding Israel.

Be silent before me, you islands! Let the nations renew their strength! Let them come forward and speak; let us meet together at the place of judgment.” (Isaiah 41:1 TNIV)

So, God has a word or two for those heathen nations. But God calling out these nations occurs within the context of His deliverance of Israel from Babylon. The instrument of His deliverance is revealed in verse 2 –

Who has stirred up one from the east, calling him in righteousness to his service ? He hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him. He turns them to dust with his sword, to windblown chaff with his bow. (Isaiah 41:2 TNIV)

God is talking about a man all these heathen nations would be aware of: Cyrus, King of Persia. He’s the one with Babylon in view and he’s going to be the deliverer of God’s people. What we’re talking about here is God’s sovereignty; His overruling purpose. That is, from time to time, God will use the people and systems of this world to accomplish His purpose for His people. Cyrus, as far as he was concerned, was wanting to extend the borders of his kingdom and that would entail conquering Babylon. But God had a greater purpose: He would use Cyrus and his ambitions to deliver his people from their captivity.

With verse 8, God turns and talks to His people –

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” (Isaiah 41:8, 9 TNIV)

In spite of their present circumstances and dismal future prospects, God had in no way forgotten His people. He chose them. He had called them from all over, bringing them together as a nation, and they were chosen and assembled to serve Him. He never gave up on them. In fact, God thought so much of His people, that He steps in and overrules in human history just to help them out. He still does that today.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19 TNIV)

The omnipotence and sovereignty of God. Knowing the future is God’s prerogative, not yours. You don’t what the future holds. You may think you’ve got a lock on your job and your retirement, but all it takes in one downturn in the economy to wipe out all your plans. What will you do then? This incredible side benefit of God’s grace is almost too good to be true. God will step in, move the world to help you. And His promise is that He will hold your hand. He will see you through. He won’t let go.

God supplies our needs, Philippians 4:19

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 TNIV)

This must surely be one of the greatest verses in the New Testament. Anybody who’s ever come up short by the third week of the month always remembers, however vaguely, that Paul wrote it to the Philippians. Sadly, most Christians get Philippians 4:19 completely wrong. And so they’re always disappointed when they not only come up short, but remain short until the next paycheck. So let’s look at what Paul was really saying here.

There is a real danger that Christians living for Christ and content in their own circumstances – even if those circumstances are difficult – might become careless about the needs of others. And that’s the context of verse 19.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12, 13 TNIV)

So Paul was content with his lot, but he was no stoic. He wasn’t into deprivation. For Paul, going without wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Suffering for the sake of suffering was not necessary, and Christians who are indifferent to the real needs of others, thinking that their bad circumstances are God’s way of punishing them, are totally wacked out in their thinking. That’s why Paul wrote this –

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. (Philippians 4:14 TNIV)

Sure, Paul would have been content to be stuck without two pennies to rub together, but he was grateful for the thoughtfulness of the Philippians who helped him out. And the Philippians, not a wealthy church by a long shot – hadn’t only helped him out, but they had generously helped out other churches and other believers in dire need.

I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18 TNIV)

These poor folks in Philippi, who had so little, gave so much to others in need. So much so, now they were in need. And it was to those generous, impoverished believers, that God gave this side benefit of grace.

You see, God puts a high premium on loving, thoughtful gifts given to those other believers in need, especially to those who are serving and ministering for Him in less than desirable circumstances. The fact is, our stewardship in temporal things is very often a barometer of our spiritual condition, and thoughtfulness in sharing with others and in relieving their need is all part of fulfilling God’s will for others and for ourselves. God doesn’t always use a Cyrus. Sometimes He uses you.

The side benefits of His grace aren’t meant to stop just with the one who has received them. If you’ve been blessed by God, turn around and bless another.

EZRA/NEHEMIAH, Part 2

THE KEY OF SUCCESS

(IN THE LORD’S WORK)

Ezra 6:14

So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.

This verse may be taken to be the key to success, insofar as the remnant was concerned. Servants and maids, masters and mistresses, priests and laymen, in all close to 50,000 exiles eventually accepted the offer of Cyrus to leave their captivity and journey from Babylon to Jerusalem.

It was a long and perilous trek through sometimes hostile, always unfriendly terrain, yet this remnant considered themselves blessed to be able to return home and engage in the work of rebuilding. Really, these people were involved in the greatest work of all: the work of the Lord.

God’s work takes many forms; sometimes it may be in the form of preaching a sermon or teaching a Bible class. Other times the work of Lord may look a lot like physical labor, like laying brick upon brick . The Lord’s work is doing whatever He tells you to do in order to fulfill His will and purpose(s) for your life. For this remnant, God’s will was for them to rebuild the City of David. This they did with great joy.

1. The work, 1:3

Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.

The primary task of the remnant was not to rebuild their homes, although in time they would. The house they were commissioned to build was for the honor of Yahweh; it was to be a testimony to His Holy Name. This was to be God’s House, it was His will, and yet it was Cyrus’ command. Sometimes God’s work may not look like God’s work to you; it may come from unexpected sources or be prompted by unlikely circumstances.

But if you are a believer, it is your solemn duty to do the work God has commissioned you to do, in whatever form it may take. God’s work for you may take a surprising form, but if it is to His glory, do it. God’s work for you may be not be what you expect, but it it is His will, then pour your heart and soul into it. God’s work for you may be the very last thing you think you are capable of doing, but if it honors the Lord, then put your hand to that plow and don’t look back. Every believer should be engaged in building a house of testimony for God.

2. The beginning, 3:3

And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.

Notice the very first thing they they worked on: the altar. This work began in “the seventh month” (3:1), one of the most sacred months of the Jewish year. The first day of this month, Tishri, is Rosh Hashanah, the “new year.” Ten days after that is the Day of Atonement, then the Feast of Tabernacles. So you can see, Tishri was an important month; the perfect month to start a great work for God!

During their 70 year sojourn in Babylon, the Jews had no way to worship as they should; there was no temple, no altar. Instead, they were surrounded by dozens of Babylonian temples to a variety of deities. No wonder the people, as soon as they were set free, went straight for the altar to repair it.

The altar is the only acceptable place for God’s work to begin, whatever it may be. The altar must be given its true place in the house of God’s Church if it is to be built up and established. What is the altar of God’s Church? It’s not the doctrines of man. It’s not a church constitution or a book of denominational polity. The altar of the Church is the altar of Cross, and the Cross must be the basis of any work we do for God. All our work must be built upon the Cross, not upon our wisdom or talents or ideas and goals. Any attempted work for God is in vain and will come to nothing if it is not built on the Cross of Christ.

Notice what the people did once the they repaired the altar. They did not hold a “grand opening” or congratulate each other for a job well done. They immediately held a great worship service. This worship service was not some carefully crafted and orchestrated liturgical event, it was a spontaneous outburst of praise to God because the people were filled with joy and thanksgiving. The Church can take a lesson from this faithful remnant, because this is the kind of worship that results from when God’s people work His will.

3. The enemies, 4:1, 2

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

You can be sure that what happened to the remnant when they began to rebuild the House of God and when they offered God shouts of praise and worship will happen to any believer who decides to live a life wholly dedicated to God.

Never forget Peter’s warning:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

It’s not a question of “if you attract the enemy” it’s “when will he notice you!” The Devil always sets his sights on Christians who are on fire and sold out to Jesus Christ. He has absolutely no interest in “the 75% majority” of Christians who are lazy and lukewarm; he has them right where he wants them and they pose no threat to him or his plans because they never attempt to do anything for God. But if you are a worker; if you are producer for the Kingdom of Heaven, you can be sure that it is just a matter of time before the enemy comes prowling around you.

The remnant stirred up the enemies all around them they worked for God and they came, professing to be their friends and people who loved God as they they did. God’s enemies are nothing if not slick and deceptive. And if you are not alert and if you don’t exercise some God-given discernment, you will be taken in and you will be devoured and spit back out, useless for God.

These enemies of the Jews offered to help them, but of course, their intent was really to destroy them. The child of God will always be destroyed when get in bed with the Devil. You cannot do the work of God with the Devil’s tools. Their work of restoration was a great success and they attracted their enemies. Thank God there were some men of God who had discernment and could see through they schemes of the enemy.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14—15)

When it comes to living and working for the Lord, there can be no compromise! And how the Devil hates believers who know how to stand up to him and stand their ground for Christ. The Devil never lets up his attacks, by the way.

Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. (verses 4, 5)

But the one thing the enemies got wrong was this: they set out to frustrate “their plans.” Rebuilding and restoring the Temple and Jerusalem was never “their plans,” they were God’s plans, and the Devil can never frustrate the plans of God. He will always prevail.

4. Temporary interruption, 4:24

Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Sometimes, the enemy may win the battle, but he will never win the war! Just as in Ezra’s day, any apparent victory Satan may win is short lived. However, a careful reading of the text tells us just how and why the Lord’s work stopped: it was stopped by a lie. The enemies of the Jews lied about them, lied about their motives, and the king who was allowing the Jews to do their work was duped by all the lies.

Now, put yourself in the place of that faithful remnant. For two generations they had lived in exile. Finally, by the grace and providence of God, they were allowed to return home and rebuild His house, His city, and their lives. For a time, they had success, and they praised God, gave Him the glory and the credit, and all of a sudden, they had to stop the work all because of a lie. How do you suppose these people felt? Had they misinterpreted God’s will? Was God’s Word now untrustworthy? Did His providence mean nothing at all? Was it all a bad joke?

These are questions every single believer asks himself when he hits the proverbial brick wall and can’t seem to go around it or over it. It’s the old story of the human condition: life is never easy. Indeed, a true believer can be living according to the Word of God, doing just as he should be doing to fulfill God’s will for him and still experience seeming defeat at the hands of Satan. When that happens, you probably feel like Job. You definitely feel like the faithful remnant.

But winning a battle is not the same thing as winning the war.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

5. A renewed effort, 5:1, 2

Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

In the face of certain defeat, what did the remnant do? They preached they Word of God and got right back to work. Another revival broke out. When God’s people listen to His Word and trust His Word, they will always move ahead. The trouble with so many so-called Christians today is that they would rather trust what they see and hear, instead of trusting in the Lord. But notice, in this bad and confusing time, the prophets—the preachers—stood up and boldly started proclaiming God’s Word. They didn’t let circumstances stop them. There is a great need today for preachers to stand up and preach the Word of God, not their own ideas. When God’s work comes to an apparent standstill, it’s the Word of God, proclaimed loudly and clearly, that gets the discouraged workers going again. Cheer leading, and other worldly methods of encouragement won’t do it. The only thing that get a discouraged child of God up and working again is a big dose the Word.

This faithful remnant needed to be reminded of that which they knew: Yahweh had saved them out of Babylon so they could serve Him in Jerusalem. It’s hard to remember things like that when circumstances are against you. God bless the prophets and preachers who don’t berate and beat up their flock when the flock strays a bit!

Haggai and Zechariah preached the Word, and it was not preached in vain. Darius, the king who had been duped, saw the light and “providentially” found the decree made by Cyrus that set the Jews free. He immediately set things right by sending a letter to those liars who were trying to stifle the people of God:

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. (6:7)

Thanks to the faithful prophets, we read this:

So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. (6:14)

Even though we are “more than conquerors,” we are still subject to the foibles of all people. We get frustrated in our work for God. We get discouraged. We get “weary in our well-doing.” The cure for our weakness is a clearer understanding of God’s will and God’s Word. It’s a greater appreciation for God’s grace and His purposes in our lives, both as individuals and as the Body of Christ. It’s a whole-hearted devotion and commitment to those purposes no matter what.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

EZRA/NEHEMIAH, Part 1

 

The Cyrus Cylinder

WHAT STIRS YOU UP?

Ezra 1:1—11

Ezra is the author of the book that bears his name. He was a priest and descendant of Hilkiah, the high priest who found a copy of the Law during the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicle 34:14).

Ezra had a big problem. As a priest, he was unable to perform the duties of his office during the Babylonian Captivity. Where would he perform them? There was no temple where he and his exile friends were forced to live. The temple back in Jerusalem was destroyed, although they probably weren’t aware of that yet. But even though he couldn’t do his job, he was not idle during his exile. He spent time studying the Word of God.

[Ezra] was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. (Ezra 7:6)

When we get to the end of 2 Chronicles, we see the Southern Kingdom, Judah, carted off by Nebuchadnezzar into an exile that would last 70 years. We hear nothing from all those Jews in captivity until Ezra put quill to parchment to resume the history of God’s people.

A helpful way to look at the historical books of the Old Testament is like this:

  • The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles record the history of Israel (Northern and Southern Kingdoms) before the Babylonian Captivity.
  • The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther record life after the Babylonian Captivity.

Ezra and Nehemiah are two books but they really belong together, just as the the men who wrote them belong together. Ezra was the priest, Nehemiah was the layman, yet both men were used by God to accomplish His will for Jerusalem. They worked tirelessly together to rebuild the city, its buildings, its walls, and especially the Temple.

God’s timetable is sometimes difficult to understand sometimes. Sometimes it seems to take Him forever to “get off the dime” and answer a prayer or do something we have asked of Him. Other times, God seems to move a the speed of light. But God’s time is always perfect, down to the second. During the 70 years of Jewish Captivity, Babylon was racing toward its own judgment, just as the Captivity was God’s judgment upon Judah. It’s not coincidental that Babylon’s downfall coincided exactly with the deliverance of the Jews.

In the first year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar carried away many Jews into captivity. He reigned a total of 45 years. He was succeeded by his son, aptly named Evil-Merodach, who reigned 23 years. He was followed by Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar, who ruled for all of three years. Add that up, and we have the 70 years under which the Jews were held in exile, not allowed to return to Jerusalem. Near the end of Belshazzar’s brief reign, Darius, the Mede, captured the capital city, Babylon, and Cyrus, king of Persia, became its ruler (see Daniel 5).

Why is all this dry historical stuff important? It’s important because all of it fulfills Bible prophecy:

…who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’ (Isaiah 44:28)

What is exciting is that the prophet Isaiah wrote that prophecy and named the Jew’s deliverer 150 years before it happened! That dry historical stuff proves the supernatural nature of the Bible! It proves the inspiration of Scripture.

Not only was that prophecy fulfilled in God’s perfect time, these were also fulfilled:

But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever.” (Jeremiah 25:12)

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” (Jeremiah 29:10)

…in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. (Daniel 9:2)

All of those prophecies were written long, long before they were fulfilled. The Word of God is nothing if not amazing!

1. The need of being stirred up, 1:1 (KJV)

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia…

The will of God will never get done by human beings until our spirits are “stirred up” to do it. Doing God’s will is contrary to the human nature; we want to do what we want to do; we want to do what we think is best for us. Most Christians struggle just as Paul did:

I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:18, 19)

How do we get the victory over the selfish desire to live only for ourselves? We need our spirits stirred up by God. God does not want a bunch of robots doing His bidding, so He never forces us. God wants us, as His created, free, moral agents, to come to the right conclusion on our own: to live for Him and do His will. But we need His help to get to that place.  We need to be stirred up!

This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me. (Psalm 119:50)

It is entirely possible to have a form of godliness while our spirits are sleeping the sleep of death. We all need to be stirred up, just as Cyrus was stirred up.

2. God stirs up the spirit, 1:1 (KJV)

The source of all spiritual life and power is God. It is God alone who is able to stir the human spirit. We can do our best to manipulate, to bribe, to shame a fellow believers into living right and into doing God’s will, but that’s not the right way; God must stir the spirit. We can’t do that. We can point a believer in the right way, but it’s ultimately up to God to stir their spirit into obedience.

Not only is a stirred up spirit an obedient spirit, it is a living spirit; it is a spirit that has been raised from the death. Did you know that the unsaved are already dead? They may be up and walking around, but they are dead. It isn’t until their spirits have been stirred that they come alive. And a stirred up spirit is a spirit with a purpose:

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

3. How God stirs the spirit

There are two ways God stirs the human spirit:

(1) The Word of God. We know from reading the book of Daniel, that the prophet poured over the Scriptures, trying to understand them; trying to make sense of the prophecies. Daniel came to the conclusion that in all, God’s people would be exiled for 70 years. Daniel served in the king’s court in Babylon, so it is entirely possible that he showed Cyrus the prophecies in Scripture about himself (see Isaiah 44:28; 45:1—13).

This is the primary way God communicates to His people today. Christians want lightening strikes and cosmic billboards pointing the way, but the fact is, the Bible is the complete revelation of God’s mind to His people. Want to know want God’s will is? Find it in the Bible! Want to know what God thinks about an issue? It’s in the Bible. Nobody needs a special, supernatural revelation “from on high” to know the will of God! All you need is the Word of God, properly understood and applied.

(2) The providence of God. The fact that Cyrus was now governor of Babylon was an act of divine providence; it was God, quietly and stealthily working behind the scenes of human history to get His chosen man in the right position, at the right time, to carry out His prefect will for His people.

God always works that way in the affairs of human beings. Christians work so hard, sometimes, to ensure that such-and-such thing will happen, we expend so much time and energy carefully arranging all the dominoes of our lives, when all we really need to do is simply trust God! And when things don’t go as we planned, we get all bent out of shape and sometimes we feel like doing what Job’s wife told him to do:  “Curse God and die!”  We ought to have this kind of attitude:

If so, nothing can happen in the great Circuit of his Works, either without his Knowledge or Appointment. And if nothing happens without his Knowledge, he knows that I am here, and am in this dreadful Condition; and if nothing happens without his Appointment, he has appointed all this to befal me. (Robinson Crusoe)

It’s amazing that so many so-called Christians are blind to the providence of God. Cyrus was no believer, yet he recognized that the purposes of God had been entrusted to him. It’s an awful thing to know the will of God and to ignore it. Just ask Ananias and Sapphira!

God stirs up the spirit of a person, somehow making them know and feel their place in His great plan. Nobody can be obedient to God or work to accomplish His will unless they have been, like Cyrus, stirred up.

Watch out for circumstances that might seem odd. Keep watch on the people that come in and go out of your life. Pay attention to your surroundings. It may well be that God is providentially stirring up you this very day!

4. Evidence of a stirred up spirit

From what we know about Cyrus, there were three evidences that Cyrus had been “stirred up.”

(1) Manifested faith in the Word of God.

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (verse 2, KJV)

Somehow, Cyrus knew what God wanted him to do. He simply knew what God’s Word was concerning him and he simply believed it. Keep in mind, Cyrus was no Jew or believer in Yahweh, yet he was keen enough to feel his spirit being stirred by the Word of God such that accepted it and believed it. What does that say about the so-called Christian who knows the Word, is exposed to it every Sunday, yet continually questions it and does his level best to avoid it?

You can tell a believer whose spirit has been stirred up because he has an unshakable faith in the Word of God. Is that your view of the Bible? If not, maybe you need to be stirred up.

(2) A confession of God’s purpose.

…the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom… (verse 1b, KJV)

When we discover what the will of God is concerning us, we should never be ashamed to make it known to the world. Remember these sobering words of Jesus:

If any of you are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)

(3) A bighearted disposition.

The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (verse 3, KJV)

Cyrus knew what he had to do, he knew what God’s will was concerning himself and the Jews, and he stepped out in faith, made a proclamation, and made an offer the Jews could not refuse! When God stirs a spirit, he stirs it completely. God never does anything in a half-hearted manner, and neither will we when we commit to do His will. God is generous, and so should we be. God always goes “over the top” and so should we.

And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. (verse 4, KJV)

Talk about being sold-out to God! Cyrus was completely committed to God’s program and he wanted everybody to be as sold-out as he was. When you are stirred up, you want everybody around you stirred up as much as you are.

Do you know what doing the will of God is? It’s noble:

But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand. (Isaiah 32:8)

Conclusion

The spirit that has been stirred up by God will want to do God-like things; big things for God. The story of Cyrus makes us think of what the great missionary William Carey famously said:

Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.

The stirred up spirit is always on the look out for opportunities to do great things for God. Such people are the ones who “seek first the kingdom of God” and His righteousness.

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

(c) 2011 WitzEnd

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