July 4, 2021
Life After Exile | Ezra 1
On July 4, 2021, Pastor Eric spoke on Life After Exile. The book of Ezra in the Bible can serve as a guide to help us navigate the post-pandemic season in which we find ourselves today, as we grieve the loss of our normal life. The Covid-19 pandemic was somewhat similar to what the Israelites lived through while they were in exile. The people of Israel had their freedom forcefully taken away from them. We lost our freedom as well and like the Israelites, we found ourselves forced out of our comfort zones. We were forbidden to visit with family and friends, who did not live in our own households; most stores and restaurants were closed; and air travel grinded to a halt. We were told to leave home only for essential reasons. In short, we were asked to do the impossible. The pandemic affected most people in one way or another: some people caught the virus; others lost family members or friends; some lost their jobs; and some marriages ended in divorce. Everything has changed, including ourselves. Some of us are different than we were 15 months ago.
Read Ezra 1:1-4
This is a time in history when God’s people were taken out of exile and into the Promise Land. God had warned them repeatedly to walk in obedience to Him, but they refused. They turned to all kinds of idols. The Israelites received many warnings and they did not heed to those warning; therefore, God punished the people of Israel for their disobedience and they were taken captive in a foreign land, under Babylonian rule, for 70 years.
There are three lessons to be learned from the people of Israel when they were in exile from Egypt to the Promise Land.
Three things we can learn as we leave Exile:
God has a plan.
We read in Ezra 1:1, “…the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia…” and put a thought in his mind. King Cyrus decided to send an announcement to his entire nation that led to the fulfillment of the prophecy that was told to Jeremiah. Cyrus then put in writing a proclamation, which permitted God’s people to return to their homeland in Judah and allowed them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Some translations say, “…the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia…” In other words, the Lord is responsible for Cyrus’ decision to carry out His plans and purposes for Israel.
The Lord had a plan in place to allow His people to return to their homeland and for the rebuilding of the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. He also stirred up the heart of king Cyrus, a non-believer to advance His own purposes.
Remember that whatever we are going through, God has a plan for our lives. If we seek Him, He will reveal it to us. From the very beginning when He created the world, He had a plan. When Adam and Eve sinned, God already had a plan of redemption through Jesus Christ: a plan of salvation for those who would believe in Him. The Lord has a plan for each one of us as well. We are to pray to God for His will to be done; we are to obey Him and we are to follow His plan for our lives.
Psalm 20:7 says,
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
We are to promote hope.
The world needs hope today. Our hope is not in our future: our hope is in a person – the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord knew the Israelites would be exiled and He made sure Jeremiah’s prophecies regarding their rescue from captivity would come to pass.
Believers who are experiencing hardship today can take comfort in Jeremiah 29:10-11, which states “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. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We know that this is not a promise that God will deliver us from all our troubles. We know He has a plan for our lives and regardless of our present situation, He can work through it to prosper us and give us a hope and a future. We can have hope in the Lord, because He has a plan for our lives, not for calamity, but to give us hope.
God’s plans are fulfilled by people.
The Lord is in control. He works through people to accomplish His will. The Lord uses people like you and I to fulfill His mission. Because we have recently come out of exile, God is looking for people to share their hope and to accomplish the work He requires us to do. The Covid-19 pandemic has left a path of destruction in its wake. It took away our freedom and turned our lives upside down. Our happiness has turned to sadness and despair. We are therefore to resow and rebuild hope. Ezra 1:5 says, “Then the leaders of the family groups of Judah and Benjamin and the religious leaders and Levites stood up, everyone in whose spirit the Lord had worked to go up and build the Lord’s house in Jerusalem again.”
Let us allow God to move our hearts today. If we were not involved in the church in the days prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, let’s turn over a new leaf and serve one another through the church. As they say, ministry is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, so let’s get to work and point people to Jesus. Let’s have faith in God and obey Him as we are called to do.
The Lord brought His people out of exile. He can also deliver us from our own post-pandemic exile. When the Lord moves us and calls us, He will provide. Do we trust Him enough to do that which He is stirring us to do?