Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to rebuild for Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with 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 every survivor, at whatever place he may live, the people of that place are to support him with silver and gold, with equipment and cattle, together with a voluntary offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’” Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites rose up, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. And all of those around them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with equipment, cattle, and with valuables, aside from everything that was given as a voluntary offering.
Dear God, when I read this story this morning, I was struck by two things: Cyrus and the donations by the people. I don’t understand Cyrus and his motivations enough—in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read much of Ezra before—so I want to talk about the people rallying together and giving sacrificially.
Having just come off of a great vacation, there is a part of me that longs for the ability to just live a self-absorbed life and put the problems of others and the world behind me. I would love to ignore and not think about the problems overseas or even at our own borders. I’d love to ignore the 15 deaths (23% of the overall deaths since the pandemic began) reported in our county over the last seven weeks. I’d love to not think about the challenges of our hospitals. I’d love to withdraw from it all and just live an insular life. But that would, frankly, be a sin. That would not be loving you with all of my heart, soul, and strength. That would not be loving my neighbor as myself. It would be me loving myself more. I would be loving me more than you. More than my neighbor. It would be completely inwardly focused. Ultimately, it would be very empty and leave me hollow. Yes, it would be a sin.
Father, help me to embrace the challenges you need me to embrace. Help me to reach out and help the people you have called me to help. I am sorry for how much trouble I’ve had coming back from this vacation. Perhaps I let go of too much while I was gone. But I am yours and I want to do your work today.
In Jesus’s name I pray,