The book of Ezra starts with the mention of a prophesy:
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing……………
This prophesy of Jeremiah can be found in Jeremiah 25:8-11
8 Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
This prophesy, which was about 200 years old, was being fulfilled.
Well, if that doesn’t make you go ‘wow’, let me share another reference:
Deuteronomy 30: 1-4
1When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.
This was a promise given to Israelites way back in time: during the time of Moses.
He is a promise keeping God. He is a God of restoration.
AN OPEN INVITATION
This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of His people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. 4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.”
The declaration of King Cyrus was an open invitation. There wasn’t any mention of priests or prophets, but the invitation was open to “any of His people”.
The interesting catch in this comes when we reach Ezra chapter 2. After a long list of all the people who left back to Israel, the count comes to a mere 50,000. Among the millions of Israelites who were taken into, a mere 50,000 of them chose to return to freedom, promise and their own temple.
The rest of them chose captivity and comfort over freedom and promise.
No, it was not because they didn’t know what freedom meant. These people have been to the foreign land only for 70 years, which would mean that many among them has experienced freedom and protection; they have worshiped God in the temple that Solomon had built.
Here is where we have that facepalm expression and murmur “stupid people”.
Really? Can we think again? Do we consider ourselves better than them? Do we think we aren’t rebellious or complaining like the Israelites?
Just look back and see how many opportunities the good Lord has sent our way and we decided against it.
From salvation to call for ministry, everything God has provided is an open invitation.
When we pray for courage, He gives us opportunities to be courageous. When we pray for patience, He gives us opportunities to be patient.
When we pray “Lord, Let your kingdom come” and “Use me, Lord”, He keeps throwing opportunities at us. If we keep saying NO to each of them and repeat the same prayer again, it doesn’t make much sense.
Take up the open invitations.
Say YES when He sends an opportunity your way.
There will be challenges for sure. Without challenges, no good work can be done in this world.
If He is the one extending the invitation, He is surely faithful to bring you out victorious.