Summary: Do we have to be obedient to God for His will to be accomplished? Far from it. God doesn’t depend on us for anything. Even though we can never expedite or stifle God’s plans, our level of obedience will determine our reward.
1. God uses kings to keep His Word (1-4)
2. God uses His people to keep His Word (5)
3. God uses other people to keep His Word (6)
There are so many questions in life, aren’t there? For at least 3000 years, philosophers have worked on trying to answer only two questions—what is real and how do I know. As Bible-believing Christians, those questions might seem strange. But we have questions too, don’t we? How does God work in the world? How do I fit in to His plans? What if I am disobedient—will that hamper God’s plans? Can I stop God’s will from being accomplished? Those are hard questions. And to answer hard questions, you have to start with what you know. The question has never been whether God would keep His promise. God is always faithful. Years before—even before the exile, God spoke these words to His prophet Jeremiah recorded in Jeremiah 29:10-14: “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” God is personal and He is faithful. He loves His people. He speaks His Word to them. He makes them promises. And He keeps His promises. This Bible consistently attests to that. The fact that God has given us His Word in the first place speaks of His personality. His faithfulness and love are evident on every page. When the Bible is taken at face value, there is absolutely no questioning the faithfulness of God. Just like we just read in Ezra 1:1—“that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled.” So, the question isn’t whether or not God’s Word will be fulfilled. The question is how. Once again, the pages of Scripture consistently reveal how God chooses to fulfill His Word. With people. If you ever look at any of the writings from other world religions, one thing stands out. Many of those writings focus on mystical things—things that don’t involve people at all. God doesn’t work that way. He chooses to work His will through people. Every page of Scripture concerns His relationship with people. Once again, there is no questioning the fact that God chooses to use people to accomplish His will. He is faithful to fulfill His promises and He is going to use people to do it. That’s the what and the how. That leaves us with one more very important question—who? Who is it that God uses to accomplish His Will? As we already read, Ezra opens with the plain declaration that God speaks His Word and what He speaks will be accomplished. All too many times, we think we have to be obedient to God for His will to be accomplished. Tonight’s passage shows us that is far from the truth. God doesn’t depend on us for anything. Make no mistake about it, God’s sovereign will is going to be accomplished whether we’re obedient or not. So where do we fit in? Even though we can never expedite or stifle God’s plans, our level of obedience will determine our reward. Tonight, I want each of us to be the kind of people who receive the reward that God desires us to receive. In order to do that, we’re going to look at three kinds of people God uses to keep His Word. First, God uses kings to keep His Word. Look at verses 1-4
God uses kings to keep His Word. It’s political season again, isn’t it? As a matter of fact, it seems like it’s always political season these days. As soon as one election is over, they start campaigning for the next one. Something very interesting happened in 1976 that would change the face of American politics. Jimmy Carter was elected president. Was that a watershed election because he was a Democrat? No. Was it because he was the governor of a smaller southern state? No. Was it because he was a peanut farmer with a big smile? No. So why would that election change the face of American politics to this day? Because Jimmy Carter was a Southern Baptist and professed to be a born-again believer. Prior to the election, he was a political nobody. People were amazed that he got the Democratic nomination. They were even more amazed that he won the election. It turns out the reason he won the election was because of the votes of evangelical Christians. As soon as the politicians figured that out, they began to pander to us for our votes. They pander to us for our votes and forget about us when they get in office. And it gets worse and worse every election. As soon as the Democrats figured out that President Bush would not have been elected if it were not for the votes of evangelical Christians, their candidates began to speak Christian language. Every time you turn around, one of the candidates is speaking in a church somewhere. Did you know that God is never surprised at the outcome of an election? Whether it was Carter or Reagan or Bush or Clinton or Bush—God was not surprised. And God isn’t going to be glued to the TV exactly one year from today. He’s not going to be wringing His hands hoping the right person gets in office. Romans 13:1 tells us “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” God places whom He will in positions of power. No government has ever existed whose leader was not sovereignly appointed by God. Yes, that includes Bush and Carter and Reagan and Clinton and whoever the next one is. It also includes Pol Pot and Stalin and Mussolini and Hitler. It also includes Pharaoh, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius, and Artaxerxes, and Herod, and Caesar, and Nero. And yes, it even includes Cyrus. Cyrus the Great was a Persian who overthrew the Babylonian empire a little over 500 years before Jesus was born. The Medo-Persian Empire that he reigned over was the greatest world empire to date. For all intents and purposes, Cyrus was king of the world. He was very politically correct. He believed that everybody’s religions were basically the same. They just had different names for their gods. So he wanted everybody to worship their gods like they were supposed to. He wanted to treat everybody’s gods nice so the people would support him. He could have been running for office in 2008, couldn’t he? But don’t get the idea that Cyrus was a nice guy. He was ruthless to his enemies. But God placed him in that position. How do we know that? Over a century and a half before Cyrus was even born, God gave this prophesy to Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 44:28: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Even though Cyrus was a pagan king of a pagan empire, God used him. He used him just like He uses every other national leader. He uses them for the express purpose of working His will in the world. Even though Cyrus didn’t truly acknowledge or submit to God’s authority, God used him. God used him to fulfill His Word. But because Cyrus didn’t submit to God, God didn’t reward him. God only rewards obedience. God used Cyrus to work His will for Israel. But because of his disobedience, Cyrus missed the blessing. He missed the reward. Instead, he got what was prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25:12-14: “And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands.” God uses kings to keep His Word. If those nations are obedient to Him, they receive His blessing and reward. If they are disobedient to Him, they receive His punishment. But either way, God’s will, will be done. God uses kings to keep His Word and He uses His people to keep His Word. Look at verse 5: