Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13 Return from exile and rebuilding the temple.
Here we are in Ezra, with the people who are about to return from exile in Persia back to Jerusalem. This passage, and the narrative of return isn’t good news for everyone. The people who were left behind in Jerusalem, and the people who had married foreigners end up on the outside. As often seems to be the case, the people with connections and the people with power are the ones who get what they want, and they get to define the reality. That’s a really long story, and it’s an important one.
In the season of Advent, that’s an important message. There’s another message that hides in this text as well. As we so often do, we need to check another passage to get the whole story. Cyrus of Persia figures largely in the Bible, and is named as God’s anointed in Isaiah 45:1. Who could imagine that a Messiah for Israel would be found in Persia? Who would have thought that the king of Persia would be God’s anointed, and God’s tool for liberating the people of God from their captivity in Persia? Who would have thought that the king of another place would send the Israelites home with goods, and gold, and animals, and instructions and directions to rebuild the temple?
How do God’s Messiahs come? Should we be surprised (if we know the stories) that God uses Messiahs from unexpected places to do unexpected things to deliver the people of God?