Scripture: 2Chronicles 36:15-21; Isaiah 45:1-4
Now that we are in the season of Advent, we are doing a sermon series called, The Kingdom. Each week, we will begin by talking about different aspects of history that formed the Jewish understanding of God’s kingdom, and then explore how this history is foundational to our spiritual journey.
Last week, we began by talking about how the idea of God’s kingdom did not start with Jesus. It was part of the Jewish religion long before Jesus was born. In fact, the whole idea of God’s kingdom began with the Kingdom of Israel. This week we are moving into second Kingdom in Judaism that influenced Jesus’ perspective in the New Testament.
This second kingdom starts when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, destroys Jerusalem and enslaves the Jewish people. Nebuchadnezzar was a cruel man and his rule represents what is known among the Jewish people as the first exile—the first time that the Jewish people were scattered away from their homeland. The Jews will remain in exile for 47 years, but their fortunes will change dramatically when Cyrus the Great, the king of the Persian Empire, overtakes and defeats the Babylonians in 539 B.C.
Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, King Cyrus has a different philosophy of rule. Rather than force everyone to bend to his ways and worship his gods, Cyrus says that everyone can worship their own gods, and if they were enslaved by Babylon and taken from their homeland, they were free to return. Needless to say, the Jewish people (and many others) were very grateful to King Cyrus.
Cyrus’ rule was the first real sense of relief felt by the Jewish people in more than 200 years. Indeed, in a very real sense, the Jewish people saw Cyrus as their savior. As we will discuss this Sunday, Cyrus is the first real savior for the Jewish people. His influence on the Jewish faith and how he influenced Jesus’ understanding of God’s kingdom is immense. Have a wonderful weekend! I look forward to seeing you on Sunday and telling you this amazing story!