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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:
“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 1:1-4 ESV
For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV
When World War I broke out, Germany invaded the little country of Belgium. The Belgians fought back, but they didn’t stand a chance against the German army. A million and a half Belgian people became refugees and fled their country. Some of them went to France, and some to the Netherlands, and some went to Great Britain. The Belgians worked for the war effort in Great Britain, especially in ammunition factories. When the war was over and British servicemen started coming home, the British wanted the Belgians to return to their own country. They gave them one-way tickets to return, and the refugees went back to a country that had been destroyed by a terrible war, needing to start life again and to rebuild their country.
When the time of exile had come to an end for God’s people, the Lord stirred the heart of Cyrus, the ruler of the Persian empire. Cyrus sent out a proclamation that said the exiles could return to their own country and rebuild their temple. He also said that people who were their friends and neighbors, and people of Judah who decided not to go home, should help them by giving them gold and silver to build the temple, and also animals and money and whatever else they could give the travelers for their journey. God was keeping the promise he had made years before through the prophet Jeremiah, that someday the exile would end and his people would come home again. He was bringing his people home so they would know that he cared for his people, and so that they would trust him and pray to him.
God kept his promises to his people long ago, and the greatest promise of all was to send the Savior into the world. When the exiles returned home, they could once again hope and wait for the Messiah that God promised to send. They waited for many years, but when the right time came God kept that promise too, and sent Jesus, his Son. Jesus came to die on the cross for the sins of all the people in the world, and all people who believe in Jesus have their sins forgiven and become God’s people. We know that the Lord cares for us very much, and we can trust him and pray to him every day. He hears our prayers and helps us and blesses us for Jesus’ sake.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for keeping all your promises to us, and for Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.