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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Comparison of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus the Great

        God used two pagan kings in the Older Testament to accomplish something with His people -- Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus the Great. Both were conquering kings. One brought bondage, the other blessing. So, when you make a choice for a leader be sure that your choice is one who will bring blessing not destruction.

Nebuchadnezzar -- Daniel 3

God used the pride, arrogance and evil in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart to destroy Jerusalem and bring God’s people into captivity and Divine judgment. God’s people were unfaithful to God and turned from Him and His ways. God does not delight in judgment; He delights in blessing His faithful people but He cannot let evil go unchecked or it will destroy everything.

There is a noticeable difference between Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar. At the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the kings of Judah “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” God said that He would take the Israelites out of His land if they defiled the land as the nations before them did.  God keeps His Word. In His judgment, God will use Nebuchadnezzar to put His people in bondage. God had been long-suffering with His people until He saw that it was not going to change unless He did something drastic to get the attention of His people to bring them back to Him.

God, who is sovereign and knows the hearts and minds of all, will use pagans to accomplish His will regarding His people either for judgment or for restoration, redemption, and rebuilding. In the case of these two kings, God used Nebuchadnezzar to send His judgment and bondage to His people because of their sin and disobedience to Him. Out of the 20 kings of Judah since Solomon, only 8 of them were godly and gave spiritual leadership to God’s people. In 2 Kings, the bible says of the evil kings who ruled over His people that they “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” The result was God’s Divine judgment. Unfortunately, the people of God would suffer the consequences of these evil kings. They will be in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. But God also said through the prophet Jeremiah that at His appointed time, God would restore His people back to His Land.

God chose the Israelites to be a “light” to the world. Instead of being God’s light, they had fallen into the darkness of unfaithfulness and sin against God. God must bring them back to Him and His Light and Truth so they will fulfill their calling.

God is all-knowing and controls everything including the powers of darkness. God knew the hearts of both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. He also knew who was guiding them! He knew Nebuchadnezzar was cruel enough to carry out His judgment. God does not delight in judgment but sometimes it is the only method that will bring His people back to Him. He will go to any extent to restore them back to Him and His love, grace, and truth. Often, we see God’s judgment as a negative thing, but God in His love for humanity does it to bring us back to Him and His Truth so we can be blessed once again and fulfill our God-given destiny. If leaving us to our own devices and the consequences thereof will bring us back to God, that is good.

God is love and truth, so He abhors evil and lies – even evil in the hearts of His people. Why? Because He knows that there is nothing good in evil and He wants the best for us. There is only one way to receive His best. It is through Him and His ways – the Truth. You cannot get sugar out of vinegar! You cannot get good out of evil and lies. God is a God of Truth and He blesses those who walk in truth.

Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride and cruelty. He was so proud that he made an image of himself in gold and demanded that people worship it. People who are full of pride and cruel want people to bow down (submit) to them and be loyal to them. If a person will not submit and be loyal, they will punish them in some cruel way. This is what Nebuchadnezzar did. When the Jewish servants in the palace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image of himself, Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fiery furnace! This is the way of evil leaders. Nebuchadnezzar was full of evil and pride and demanding loyalty and subservience.  But God, saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Only the ties that bound these faithful followers of God were burnt so they were set free. These ties were made with the garments of these three faithful servants of God. The message in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is that God will burn the sins of our fleshly garment out of those who love and follow Him so we can walk in the freedom of a Godly life instituted by God and not be thrown into the fiery furnace set aside for the devil and his followers.

 Jews were in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. They suffered greatly until God’s anointed one, Cyrus the Great, conquered the Babylonian Empire.  

Cyrus the Great

After years of suffering, captivity and judgment, God “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus” to set His people free who wanted to return to Him, and His land of promise. Ezra will build the temple with the faithful remnant whom Ezra brought back to the Word of God – Truth – and God’s ways. If God’s temple is not built upon His Word, it will not stand.

Why did God use Cyrus, a Gentile conquering king of Persia? God knew his heart. The prophet Isaiah prophesied 200 years before that He would “anoint Cyrus and take him by the right hand…” Isaiah 45:1 The right hand is the place of strength, power and might. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Lord! God’s anointing on Cyrus would:

to subdue nations before him and loose the loins of kings. Cyrus acknowledged that it was the true God who gave him all of the kingdoms.

·         subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; (break their strength)

·         open doors before him so that gates will not be shut;  (open doors not bondage)

·         I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; (prepare the way)

·         I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. (break the power of evil)

·         I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places (He will give the devil’s possessions to His people and even more)

·         so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name (God wants Cyrus to know Him. These things will show Cyrus that God is the True God of Israel who calls Cyrus by name and chose him even though a gentile to set His people free from bondage)

·         For the sake of Jacob My servant and Israel My chosen one, I have called you by your name (not just for Cyrus to know God but so God’s people would know that God was doing this and return to Him)

·         I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me. (God put Cyrus in his position even though Cyrus did not yet know the Lord) But God knew him! God knew that Cyrus would do what God wanted him to do--set his people free from bondage and return them to God and His ways.

God would use Cyrus to be the savior of His people who would set those who were willing free from bondage, restore them to God and His Land and provide the materials needed to rebuild God’s temple and Holy City. Because our all-knowing God knew Cyrus’ heart, He knew that Cyrus would do His bidding. It could be that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were in the Babylonian palace at the time of Nebuchadnezzar and now with Cyrus told Cyrus about Israel’s God and His Word and Cyrus listened. Daniel was still serving in the palace during the first year of Cyrus’ rule. Josephus wrote that Cyrus was shown the prophecies written about him. It was probably Daniel who did this.

Further evidence that Cyrus came to know God is he acknowledged that it was God who gave him all the kingdoms (see Ezra 1:2) and “charged him to build Him a house in Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 36:23

            Not only did Cyrus set God’s people free to return to God’s Land and build the temple, Cyrus returned “the articles of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods.” Ezra 1:7 In other words, king Cyrus restored what the enemy had stolen from God’s people. The holy vessels of God’s temple were restored. Cyrus went one step further. He decreed that the Israelites be given generous gifts from the treasury of the king. “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.” Ezra 3:7 In other words, they were given more than they could have hoped for or asked as Jesus gives us more than we could ever hope for or ask when we love and obey Him!

            Our all-knowing God is not fooled! People are! God does not bless sin and prideful leaders or the country they are leading. All one has to do is study the various evil leaders and kings in the Bible, and compare them to the blessings of God in those who truly loved and obeyed God and His Word. Israel had many leaders over the centuries. When they were evil, Israel was not blessed. When they were led by God and walked in His truth and the fruit of His Spirit, that country was blessed. Jesus will also restore all that the enemy steals from us when we return to God and His ways.

  I will close in saying, I pray that you will be careful in your choice of a leader to lead this country. I pray that God will bless America once again and return us to the way of blessing and peace – the ways of Jesus – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things as these there is no law.” Galatians 5:2

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