The Beginning of a Great Religious Movement
Ezra 1:1-11
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled…

Israel had experienced long bondage in a foreign land under a heathen king; this would have a beneficial influence.

1. It would tend to cultivate within them a right view of the sorrow consequent upon sin. Their captivity was a punishment for idolatry. Sin sends men into slavery.

2. It would tend to cultivate within them a right view of the external in religion. Solomon's temple was the pride of Israel. They prided themselves in the magnificent masonry, in the richly-coloured garments, in the lofty altar; but now all is in ruins, and they in bondage, will they not learn to worship God in simplicity, in spirit and in truth? The sensuous m religion leads to slavery. It is well sometimes that our temple should be destroyed; God lays the outward in ruins that we may see the inward. The Church has often to go into captivity to learn the meaning of the spiritual.

3. It would tend to cultivate within them a right view of the Divine in worship. Israel thought that the temple was the one place of worship; but in captivity the scattered people learn that God will hear their cry from heathen cities and in desert places.

4. It would cultivate within them a right view of the sympathetic feeling which should prevail in their midst. Israel had been sore rent by faction; in captivity they are one. The Church is united by its sorrows. We observe respecting great religious movements -

I. THAT THEY OFTEN TAKE THEIR RISE IN THE STIRRINGS OF AN INDIVIDUAL SOUL. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia."

1. A Divine commencement. Here we see the beginning of the great movement of Israel's restoration to fatherland. History is unveiled and God is seen. The voice of God is heard in the proclamation of Cyrus. The human historian can only write the proclamation of the king; the inspired historian makes known the secret working of God. We know nothing of the Divine heart-stirrings which precede the great movements of our age. God is behind the king and we see him not. The political serves the spiritual. Let us rightly interpret our heart-stirrings; God is in them, they have great meanings. They are more than the beatings of a pulse, they are the beginnings of spiritual liberty. Heaven has various ways of stirring our souls.

2. A secret commencement. The restoration of Israel began in the secret stirrings of one heart. It did not begin with the crowd, but with the individual. And so great religious movements generally commence in the secret awakening of the one man. See the power of a God-moved heart. The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Restorations are in the heart before they are in the world.

3. An unlikely commencement. The Jews were looking for a rod out of the stem of Jesse to restore them; God sent an ahem deliverer. A man of war becomes a man of peace; a man of conquest becomes an emancipator of the people. God employs unexpected agencies. Great religious movements often have unlikely beginnings.

4. An effectual commencement. The stirring of the heart of Cyrus had great possibilities in it - it expanded into a temple of worship; its pulsations are felt in our own age.

II. THAT THEY ARE TIMED BY THE FAITHFUL PROVIDENCE OF GOD. "That the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled." Thus the captivity of Israel terminated in the set time of God.

1. The mercy of God. In the proclamation of Cyrus to the wretched slaves see the Divine mercy to those most undeserving of it; the word of God is a merciful message to man, it is a word of liberty, that the ruined temple of life may be rebuilt.

2. The fidelity of God. Israel had the promise of liberty fulfilled; so all the promises of God respecting the future glory of the Church will be accomplished.

3. The purpose of God. The captives were not to go out of bondage merely for their own freedom and enjoyment; but to build the temple of the Lord. Men are freed from the tyranny of sin that they may establish the kingdom of heaven; they must be liberated before they can build. This is the Divine purpose in the salvation of men, that they may engage in promoting spiritual good.


1. The hidden excellences of men. The Jews probably did not expect much aid from Cyrus; but he had excellences of knowledge, of grace, they little suspected. God saw this and used him. Men are often better than we know, and are more prepared to aid the work of God than we suppose.

2. The revealed excellences of men. Cyrus incidentally shows by his proclamation the good that is in him. Times of religious revival reveal unexpected abilities in men; then the dull man becomes brilliant; the man of little opportunity becomes rich in knowledge; the cold man becomes generous in gift.

3. The utilised excellences of men. All that is good in men God uses for the welfare of his Church.

IV. THAT THEY ARE OFTEN FURNISHED WITH NEEDFUL MATERIAL AID IN THE MOST UNEXPECTED MANNER (ver. 6). The departure of such a people would require great preparation, and would necessitate great expense. How are the captives to meet it? The proclamation of Cyrus provides for it. A wondrous providence often causes the world in unexpected ways to minister to the temporal needs of the Church; men of the world often help to erect a temple in which they are little interested, and into which they will never enter.

V. THAT AT SUCH TIDIES SPIRITUAL THINGS ARE RESTORED TO THEIR RIGHTFUL SERVICE (ver. 7). The vessels of God were brought from the heathen temple and given to the returning Jews. In times of religious revival money, talents, children, all are brought from the possession of sin and placed in the service of God. Heaven now proclaims liberty to the captive! - E.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,

WEB: Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and [put it] also in writing, saying,

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