June 12 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“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.’” ~Ezra 1:2

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the return of the worshipping community to Jerusalem and of their efforts to re-establish themselves in the land. The work begins in earnest under Cyrus the Great, king and emperor of Persia. Persia (roughly modern-day Iran) was among the greatest empires of the ancient world, but it was one of many overlords that Israel chafed under.[1]

After seventy years of exile, the worshipping community returns to Jerusalem to rebuild the place of worship and the city they love. God has disciplined them, but He has not forsaken them. As Ezra recounts the story, he emphasizes that the work of restoration is the work of God. Notice that “the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia “to make a declaration to restore the temple” (Ezra 1:1)! Truly, God can direct hearts, even those of pagan kings, to accomplish His work (see Proverbs 21:1). God also tugs at the hearts of His people, prompting them to leave their homes in Persia to begin anew in a city many of them had only heard about from parents and prophets.

Wherever there is renewal or restoration, God is clearly at work. And He is often at work in all kinds of unusual ways—inducing a pagan to help His people, for example, or inflaming those people with a desire to roll up their sleeves and get busy. God hears the prayers and pleas of the worshipping community, and He acts on the hearts of the powerful, the priest, and the peasant to do His work. Perhaps someone you know is in need of transformation. God can change hearts; in fact, He is the only one who can. Perhaps you are in need of transformation. Pray then for yourself that God will be at work to remake and restore you. As Augustine prayed, “Lord, command what you will and give what you command.” May God work in our hearts, and the hearts of others, to bring renewal where it is needed.

[1] The Assyrian kingdom to the north initially conquered northern Israel but was itself overthrown and replaced by the Babylonian empire around 605 BC. God allowed the Babylonians to conquer southern Israel, also known as Judah, and to destroy both the ancient city of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 586 BC (2 Chron. 36:19). As this was a volatile political period, the Babylonian empire was crushed within a few decades and annexed by the great Persian Empire.

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.