The Restoration to Zion under Cyrus
In 538 BC, Cyrus king of Persia, after conquering Babylon, issued a decree for the Jewish people to return to Zion and build the House of God. It was all of the Lord, of course; He providentially prepared the whole sequence of events which led to this decree.
Two hundred years before the issuance of the decree, Isaiah already prophesied of Cyrus. God chose Cyrus to sponsor the restoration of Judah; He called him by name two hundred years before he was born!
Seventy years before the issuance of the decree, in 605 BC, a young man, Daniel by name was exiled along with many of the elite of Jerusalem, to Babylon. The Lord providentially placed him in the very heart of Babylon that He might use him in due time, to pray for that restoration and to reveal to Cyrus his God determined destiny. Daniel 1:1
A half-hearted response?
And yet, in 538 BC, only about 42,000 people went back to Zion with Zerubbabel. The rest of the people stayed in Babylon. The scriptures are silent as to the reason, but we can surmise that many did not feel it would be a good move for their family, or perhaps they had a good job, or their life circumstances were comfortable. Some perhaps did not cherish the effort it would require to move back to a place that needed rebuilding.
The unforeseen danger
But this choice proved dangerous; for approximately 60 years later, a great enemy arose in the capital of Persia, and the Jews there faced a great peril. Haman the Agagaite plotted to annihilate the Jews. Not only would this have been a great tragedy for thousands upon thousands of Jewish families, but it would have set back the plan of God. Were Haman successful, there would be no Ezra and no Nehemiah. Even a cursory reading of those books in the bible will give you an idea of the magnitude of the disaster that would have been.
Both men were greatly needed in Judah. One to bring the people back to the Word of God, the other to lead them to rebuild the city and the walls. Remember, all of this was part of setting the stage for the Messiah to come, for the work of salvation.
God’s providential intervention
But God providentially placed a godly man, Mordechai, and his adopted niece Esther, in strategic positions to affect a rescue and deliverance from this evil. The plan and purposes of God were thus protected and safely carried out as He determined.
Another “Haman” rose in Europe….
Some years before the Holocaust, several men, Zionist prophets if you will, called on the Jewish people to come back to the Land. They called, they warned, they thundered even, but with little success. One of them was Zeev Jabotinsky.
The following quotations are from an article found on The Tower Magazine’s website. (1)
“The catastrophe that arrived in 1939 had been visible on the horizon for years. In February 1937 the New York Times reported on the wave of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe: “Anti-Semitism, raised by Adolf Hitler in Germany to the status of a political religion, is rapidly spreading throughout Eastern Europe and thereby turning the recurrent Jewish tragedy in that biggest Jewish center in the world into a first rate disaster of truly historic magnitude.”
“The Times reported that five million Eastern European Jews faced “the prospect of either repeating the Exodus on a bigger scale than that chronicled in the Bible … or spending the rest of their lives in an atmosphere of creeping hostility and dying a slow death from economic strangulation.”(1)
Our people had their prophets
“For years, Jabotinsky had been calling for a Jewish exodus from Eastern Europe, and the formation of a Jewish majority in Palestine as the basis of a Jewish state. He was savaged by other Jewish leaders for what they called his “evacuationism.”
“In his testimony before the Commission, Jabotinsky said: I am very much afraid that what I am going to say will not be popular with many among my co-religionists, and I regret that, but the truth is the truth. We are facing an elemental calamity … We have got to save millions, many millions. I do not know whether it is a question of re-housing one-third of the Jewish race, half of the Jewish race, or a quarter of the Jewish race; I do not know; but it is a question of millions …
“In August 1938, Jabotinsky was in Warsaw, delivering an address on Tisha b’Av, the day set aside to remember the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. To the Jews of Poland, he set forth both a warning and a vision:
“It is for three years that I have been calling on you, Jews of Poland, the glory of world Jewry, with an appeal. I have been ceaselessly warning you that the catastrophe is coming closer. My hair has turned white and I have aged in these years, because my heart is bleeding, for you, dear brothers and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spurt out the fire of destruction. I see a terrifying sight. The time is short in which one can still be saved. I know: you do not see, because you are bothered and rushing about with everyday worries … Listen to my remarks at the twelfth hour. For God’s sake: may each one save his life while there is still time. And time is short.”(1)
How tragic it is, that for most part, the Jews of Europe did not heed the warnings. I am grateful that my grandmother did heed and did act.
My Grandmother listened
My grandmother, who was a dentist in Poland at the time, heard and heeded the warnings. A strong-willed and determined woman, she single-handedly pushed her family, whoever would listen, out of Poland and into Palestine, as it was then called. Thank God!
More Hamans have arisen, again
Anti-Semitism is rising at an alarming rate, in many countries, some as far away as Australia where a Jewish gym owner was threatened with death recently (2). In Canada, a leader of a student body at McGill University calls on other students to punch a Zionist in the face (3). In Holland, Turkish demonstrators against the government, in an entirely unrelated matter, begin to chant ‘cancer Jews’(4). In France, two Jewish men were viciously attacked by Muslims, who beat them and sawed the finger of one of them off. (5)
In the USA things are no better: “Since January, 161 bomb threats have targeted Jewish institutions across the country, including Jewish Community Centers, schools, synagogues and ADL offices in New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Boston. In the USA Jewish graves are desecrated, Jewish community centers are threatened with bombings.” (6)
We must pay heed, and we must act
I am not predicting another Holocaust, yet I am greatly alarmed by the renewed and fierce demonic hatred that has arisen against the Jewish people. I believe the church must pray for and encourage and help the Jewish people to return to Israel.
The nation of Israel is the miraculous provision of God for His people
Israel’s birth and existence are wonderfully miraculous in many ways. Israel is a provision of God for His people. It is a fulfillment of the promises of God, and it will culminate in the revelation of the Lord to His people as the prophets have said.
The Jewish people should come home now
Rather than just fight antisemitism in the nations, Jews should come home, this is the express will of God, articulated in the prophets. See for example Ezekiel 36:24, Ezekiel 37:12, Amos 9:15, Jeremiah 23:8 (see the context that shows these verses belongs to our days).
Israel has been a nation for 69 years now. Antisemitism is rising again at an alarming rate. But the Jewish people are reluctant to come back, yet they have a glorious future in the Land.
“I want to say one more thing to you on this day of the Ninth of Av: Those who will succeed to escape from the catastrophe will merit a moment of great Jewish joy — the rebirth and rise of a Jewish State. I do not know if I will earn that. My son, yes! I believe in this just as I am sure that tomorrow morning the sun will shine once again. I believe in this with total faith.”(1)
We need more Mordechais
In all biblical stories of redemption and of the providences of God, we find godly men and women who lived a godly and holy life, and who interceded. Such were Mordechai, Daniel, Anna and Simeon, Zechariah the father of John, or many others who walked with God and could be used by God for His purposes. It is God’s providence to raise such people.
This is what we need today, godly intercessors; not only those with vision and availability but also with a life to back it up. A life that is pleasing to the Lord.
In Babylon, God needed servants who would not only know His plan, but live a life that could withstand the pressure of corruption, and the resistance and attacks of His enemies against His plan and people. He had those men in Daniel and his three friends.
In Persia, God needed to have some who would be godly, faithful and fearless. He had it in Mordechai and Esther.
For such God is looking, such servants, He must have, indeed He will have.
Let us say Hineni, Here am I Lord.
This article originally appeared on Israel Prayer Center, March 19, 2017, and reposted with permission.