News, Connections and Photos from the life of the faith community at CAPC Oakland
Is God at work in the world? Or is God indifferent….or even impuissant to do anything? What do you think? How have you experienced – or not experienced – that in your own life? Ezra tells the story of the return of the Israelites from exile in far away Babylon to ‘home’ in Jerusalem. They return home not just to a home-land, but to a home-way-of-life. Biblisists compare our day and age to that of the Exile (told in Daniel) and the Return (told in Ezra and Nehemiah) pointing to the fact that often as followers of Jesus we don’t realize we need to return home and don’t even know what “home” is.
This first chapter of Ezra tells of who God intervenes. Notice that God moves the king to return the people. It’s YHWH who also moves the hearts of the leaders of his people (v. 5). Biblically we say that Cyrus the great King, merely accomplished what the High King of Heaven had promised in
Jeremiah 25:11-12 :
11This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. 12Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.”
Isaiah 41:2, 25 ::
“2 Who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service? He delivers up nations to him, and tramples kings under foot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. 25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name. He shall trample on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay.”
Isaiah 45:13 ::
13 I have aroused Cyrus in righteousness, and I will make all his paths straight; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward, says the Lord of hosts.
Jer 29:10-14 ::
10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
The text is short and yet says a lot. It talks of how God moves in and shapes the world. God moves not just the “spiritual” but also the “secular” or “profane” …. did you notice? God moves the heart of the king and the leaders of the people. God brings the people back to their former home, where they were lost in idolatry and extravagance, but doesn’t want to bring them simply back to the trappings of their former slavery and spiritual bondage. This are different and yet the same. Notice how even the details of the Temple vessels, bowls and treasures – used for the sacrifices and services – are included. Yet ironically the text includes two totals of vessels that do not agree? (What does that mean for you…? A mistake? A textual error? A falsity? Something else?)
Questions for Going Deeper
What does it mean for God to bring us home?
Frederick Buechner, write “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That’s in a sense where Ezra is leading the people back to. Yet it’s often the place we most struggle to find, identify and locate in our own lives.
How is God at work in our world? How do you know?