I Darius make a decree; let it be done with all diligence. Ezra 6:12b (ESV)
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1, 2 (ESV)
The Jewish exiles who returned from Babylon to rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem had many difficulties. One of the biggest hurdles they had to face was the opposition to their work (Ezra 4-5). There were people in the region around Jerusalem that attempted in various ways to thwart their work including the governor of the province Beyond the River (the Euphrates River).
When the rebuilding of the temple stopped, the Lord sent prophets to encourage the leaders and the people to begin again (Ezra 4:24-5:2). As they worked again, new opposition and roadblocks appeared. The people of the region around Jerusalem wanted to know who gave them this authority to rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:3). The Jews told the governor of the region that they had been commissioned by Cyrus the king of Persia to rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:11-16). The governor sent a request to King Darius to confirm whether this was true (Ezra 5:6).
King Darius and his court searched for the record of Cyrus' decree (Ezra 6:1-2). The ancient Persians kept clay cylinders with the decrees of their kings etched on them. They had them safely stored for quick reference. (The record of Cyrus' decree still exists today in its original form – the cylinder of Cyrus – preserved in the British Museum in London, England. Click here to see)
Cyrus' decree came to light when King Darius's servants found the scroll. King Darius had it read. It confirmed the words of the Jews that Cyrus had commissioned them to rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem (Ezra 6:2-5). Darius then had a letter written to the governor of the region Beyond the River to not stop the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem but to help the exiles complete the task (Ezra 6:6-12).
This is an amazing story of God's divine plan being fulfilled by the rulers of the Persian empire. This ought to be a great comfort and encouragement to us who are believers. Nothing can stop God's plan of redemption for his people. If he decrees judgment for a nation to humble it, it will come about, as we read in the case of the Jews who were taken into exile by the Babylonians (2 Chronicles 36). When God decrees forgiveness and restoration for his people, nothing can hinder that work (Ezra 1).
As we are reminded in Proverbs, the heart of the king is like a stream of water in the hand of the Lord. The Lord turns the heart of the king in whatever direction that the Lord wills.
As God's children, his church, we are called to pray for our rulers, governors, and civic leaders that our rulers will govern in such a way that we might be able to live peacefully honoring the Lord our God with our worship and in our daily living. We need prayer today for people in high positions in all areas of our society that they might be led by God's wisdom and mercy and not by evil influences.
Let us trust in the Lord and in his Word knowing that his purposes will be accomplished.
Father in heaven, you are Lord of heaven and earth. We are humbled and encouraged knowing that your Word will accomplish that which you purpose (Isaiah 55:11). Lord, we ask that you would give to our leaders wisdom and grace to aid your church in its mission of proclaiming your good news of salvation. We pray for your Gospel to go out to all the nations in preparation for your Son's glorious return (Matthew 24:14). Make us ready and willing to give testimony of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). To you be all the glory and power. Amen.
Listen to the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" (Performed by Fernando Ortega) Click here.