The first chapter of the book of Ezra was in today’s reading from the One Year. It begins with an edict from Cyrus, the king of Persia; he gives God the credit for his earthly reign, and says that God himself commanded him to build a temple for Him in Jerusalem — and that any Jew in his entire kingdom is to be encouraged to go and to this. He even insists that the former exiles are to be loaded up with as much gold and silver as is needed for building this temple.
What I thought was the most significant part of this passage is this statement: “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia”. Like an outside force starting a bunch of gears and cogs into motion, God causes Cyrus to make this decision to fulfill His own promise.
It isn’t because God values Cyrus’ human agenda, but because it is His time to bring His people back home. God had pulled the minds and actions of kings before Cyrus, and He would do it again.
No matter what, God has ultimate authority over human governance. If there is pride and arrogance and evil, He has no issue sending a king into temporary madness into the wild until he submitted to and admitted to the supremacy of God. He also had caused kings to show mercy to fallen and humiliated kings of Israel.
In this moment, God stirs the inner person of Cyrus to do this — it’s His idea, not due to the wisdom or greatness or piety Cyrus possesses (he’s still the king of a pagan nation, after all).
I wouldn’t say that God is using some manipulative mind control on Cyrus, but He invented the ideas of mercy and kindness and generosity that Cyrus commanded be shown to the people of God.
I would say that God is in charge; no matter what any leader of any nation or political platform says or does, even if it is a good and godly decision, it is never up to them or solely their idea. God can and does stir the hearts of leaders to do good for His people and good for their nation.
I am praying that we see leaders stirred to change and do right, whether or not they fully understand what is happening in their spirit.
God did it for a king of a mighty, globe-spanning empire; He can do it for the admittedly less-impressive rulers of our modern world.
Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May 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 God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:2–4)