A Stirred Heart
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Many times in Scripture, we read of God stirring a person’s heart and even of Him hardening a person’s heart (think Pharoah). It’s such a picture of the ultimate power of Almighty God.
In the first chapter of Ezra, we are introduced to King Cyrus of Persia. From all that’s written in this chapter, we see a king who is carrying out God’s plan but doesn’t claim to be “one of God’s people.”
In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing ... “The LORD, the God of heaven ... has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you!” (Ezra 1:1-3 NLT)
In verse 5, the Scripture says:
“God stirred the hearts of the priests and the Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the LORD.”
There’s an awful lot about this time in history that’s noteworthy: King Cyrus carries out God’s bidding, reconstruction of the Temple of the LORD begins, and prophecy is fulfilled regarding the Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem from their Babylonian captivity. However, this whole picture of God stirring the hearts of King Cyrus, the priests, and the Levites has captivated my thinking.
In fact, I am pretty sure I’ve wanted God to stir many a heart (mine included). I’ve personally wanted to see changes for Christ made in a person’s heart so badly that I had a hard time understanding why my prayers for Him to move a heart didn’t happen. Surely, God wanted them to get in a right relationship with Him! And then I learned from many experiences that God allows people to have free will.
Father God created us to love Him but doesn’t make us love Him. He could have. But He didn’t. In King Cyrus’s case, God stirred his heart to carry out God’s will. He stirred the priests and leaders’ hearts to carry out His will. It’s not said that Cyrus or the priests and leaders became people who were men after God’s own heart (like King David), but the Temple got built, God’s people returned to Jerusalem, and Jeremiah’s prophecy from God became fact. God’s will was done. His perfect will.
At times, I’ve gotten so hung up on the thought that God doesn’t overstep our “free will” boundary that I forget that He certainly will if He decides to. What I believe I’m seeing is that when He does, it’s for purposes outside of my realm of understanding—His purposes. And I believe I’m seeing that those times He exerts His power to stir a heart, it’s not to love Him, it’s to carry out His will. It’s still a bit of a mystery, but we’re not told that we’ll understand everything about God.
Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’S thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? (Romans 11:33-34)
Prayer: Oh Lord, we praise You, our great and mighty Father! Lord Jesus, You stand at the door of our souls and knock, promising that if anyone hears Your voice and opens the door, You will come in to him. You stir the hearts of men and carry out Your perfect will. How great is Your power and Your love for us. Please help us surrender all that we are to have Your Spirit guide us through our days. Amen.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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