“How could the book of Ezra possibly be relevant to my life?” I’m sure that is how many people approach this section of Scripture. The book of Ezra is obscure, tucked away in the stuck-together pages of your Old Testament, and seldom read — and that is where many people would prefer to leave it. But remember the purpose of the story of God’s people in the Old Testament (as far as we are concerned): “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). So the examples and the warnings in the book of Ezra deserve our attention.
Ezra is a story of God’s people coming home. Because of persistent rebellion against God, He allowed His people to be defeated by the Babylonians and taken captive to Babylon, a place of idolatry and godlessness. They were led away captive and lived in exile there for 70 years. God’s people were separated from Jerusalem, the city of God, and that physical reality was a picture of a spiritual reality: separation from God. And their geographical location in Babylon was as picture of where their hearts had been for a long time. They needed a homecoming — spiritually and physically.
During their captivity, the Persians defeated the Babylonians, and the Persian King Cyrus started sending the Jews home. It is unlikely that Cyrus was a true believer, but the Lord used him to set in motion the slow exodus. It happened when the Lord “stirred his spirit” (v.1), rousing within him a desire to bless the Jews. Along with his permission and his protection, the king sent them away with the resources they would need to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. He even returned the priceless solid-gold articles that had been stolen from the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, remember that God’s plan is not limited to your resources. Even now He may be stirring up someone’s heart — maybe someone you don’t even know — and giving them a desire to help you. The Lord may be about to restore some things that have been stolen from you, like a relationship, a dream, or peace of mind.
Are you ready for that? Is your heart open and responsive to the Lord? When the Lord started stirring the spirits of the leaders of Judah (v.5), they were ready and responsive. For many of them who had been small children when they were taken captive, the journey back to Jerusalem meant leaving behind all they had ever known. They would have to leave friends, jobs, homes, and everything familiar to take a very risky and expensive journey into the unknown. But decisions like that become easy when you know that God is stirring your spirit to make a move. Once God has given you a word, a promise, or a vision, and you choose to step out on faith — the rest is just details (and He is a God who is very good with the details; see v.9-11).
Whatever God may be stirring your spirit to do, trust His leadership and go for it!