God's Action on the Minds of His People
Ezra 1:5, 6
Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites…

When Cyrus, moved of God, proclaimed liberty to the captives in Persia and invited the children of Israel to return to their own land, there was a very large proportion that preferred to stay, some from excusable and others from insufficient motives, but a large company of the people of God made an immediate and honourable response. These, to the number of 42,000 persons, forthwith made ready to leave their adopted country and to go up to Jerusalem, to build again the house of the Lord, rebuilding, at the same time, the shattered fortunes of the land of their fathers. The response to the king's overture illustrates God's action on the minds of his own people. We have -

I. HIS TWO METHODS OF APPROACH. "Then rose up," etc. (ver. 5).

1. Instrumental. God worked on the minds of the chiefs of the people by means of the proclamations and edicts of Cyrus, and on the minds of the generality of ripe people by means of their leaders. Then - when the king's offer was circulated - "rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin," etc. And when Sheshbazzar (Zerubbabel) and the other natural leaders came forward, then the multitude volunteered: there is human agency here.

2. Direct. God's spirit acted directly and immediately on their minds. They were men "whose spirit God had raised;" they were like the "band of men whose hearts God had touched" (1 Samuel 10:26). God "laid his hand upon them," and lifted them up, spiritually, and they became strong and brave, ready to do a good work for him and for the world.

II. ITS SPIRITUAL RESULT. Elevation of soul. Their spirit was raised - as ours will be whenever God works within us as he did in them -

(a) above its common level of thought and feeling. They saw, as otherwise they would not have seen, the excellency of the service of God and of their native land; they felt, as they did not usually feel, how glorious a thing it was to lay everything on the altar of God and strike a brave and faithful blow for their country's freedom and independence. Their views were cleared, their ambition heightened, their mind enlarged, their soul exalted. God "raised their spirit," and they were lifted up

(b) above the inducements of a comfortable present; so that the pleasant homes and prosperous employments and agreeable friendships and enjoyable amusements in which they had been spending their days, these they were willing to leave behind them. And they were raised

(c) above the fear of misfortune in the future; so that the difficulties of the journey, the "lion in the way," the arrangements between one another, the desolate ruins of the once-favoured city, the enemies that might dispute their right, all these dangers and difficulties they were prepared to encounter and overcome. Under the touch of the hand of God they became, as we may now become, men whose "heart was enlarged" to dare and do great things, to attempt and accomplish what, in an unenlightened and uninspired state, they would never have dreamed of doing. God was with them, his spirit was in them, and these children of men became the servants and the soldiers of God. Dare to attempt nothing if God's Spirit be not in the soul, inciting and sustaining it. Dare to undertake anything if he opens the eyes of the understanding and if he dwells within the heart.

III. ITS MATERIAL ISSUES (ver. 6). Such was the spirit of these men, that

(a) those of their kindred who did not accompany them and their Persian neighbours "strengthened their hands with vessels of silver and gold, with goods and beasts and precious, things;" and

(b) thus equipped they marched out of their captivity, and went forth free men to espouse the cause of Jehovah and to make their mark on their age and, indeed, upon future ages. Our great wisdom is to know when God comes to us; to listen when he speaks; to respond when he calls. Many Jews in Persia heard but heeded not that voice; they felt the touch of that Divine finger but obeyed it not. They lived on in such comfort and enjoyment as their adopted country yielded; but they entered not the open gate of opportunity; they rendered no great service to their land, their church, their race. Not theirs the victory and the crown; these were for the men who responded when God called, and whose spirits rose to the height of that great occasion. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.

WEB: Then the heads of fathers' [houses] of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, even all whose spirit God had stirred to go up rose up to build the house of Yahweh which is in Jerusalem.

Spontaneous Offering
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