Ever been in a bad situation for more than a short time? How about a series of bad situations, all compounding on one another? Feel like giving up? Feel like there’s no point in hoping any more? The truth is, a lot of folks have been there. It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are. It doesn’t matter how many friends you do or don’t have. It doesn’t matter how famous you are or aren’t. We can all get down. We can all feel like hope is slipping away – or it’s already gone.
I’m sure quite a few of the Israelites in exile felt this way. As Judah they had withstood Assyria but fell to Babylonia. Babylonia had fallen to Persia. What hope was there? Return to Israel? Rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple? Those situations coming to pass probably felt far-fetched, despite the promises in Scripture. However, what God commits to, He delivers.
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:2-4, ESV
Cyrus began his reign as king over the Persian Empire and in the first year of that reign, he decided to honor God and allow any of the Israelites to go back and rebuild the Temple. Ezra tells us in verse 1 that God made this happen to fulfill a promise He made to Jeremiah. It had been so many years in exile. It had been so many years without the Temple. We can’t blame any of the Israelites for losing hope, for feeling like it was never going to happen. We would be hard pressed to feel differently. Yet God brought Cyrus to the scene. Not only did Cyrus permit the Israelites to return, he also ordered that they be assisted in the effort. The promised redemption had begun.
God is this way with all of His children. When He promised redemption, He meant it. There is ultimate redemption, the saving of us from our sins. But there is also day-to-day redemption. God delivers His grace on us so often that we have grown very blind to it. We take things for granted. That’s why when we take a hit, when bad stuff happens, we can get down and we can even feel like there’s no hope. I’m sure Satan does us no favors and probably “heaps on” the hurt to drive us further down, to keep our heads lowered so we don’t raise them up and cast our eyes upon God.
Redemption is coming. Not only the final redemption, but redemption in earthly situations, too. Even in situations of our own causing, there is some sort of redemption. Situations of our own causing, where our sin must be brought to account, there is punishment but there is still redemption. Redemption doesn’t mean we escape earthly punishment. Redemption means that even in those situations God is still working on us. He’s still loving on us. He’s still guiding us and teaching us. He’s still changing us to be His people. Redemption is coming. It came for the Israelites and it will come for us. Let us not cast our eyes down but instead turn them up to our Lord.