The books we read as Ezra and Nehemiah were, apparently, originally written as one unified book, a single scroll. They show us the fulfilment of God’s promise of His people returning home after 70 years of exile (Bible Project).
In Ezra 1 we learn that we are in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia which was 538 B.C., and it’s possible that the declaration and proclamation that he is to make was influenced, in part, by his interactions with Daniel (Daniel 10.1). Whether that is true or not, we see that in his very first year as king, Cyrus makes a proclamation to, essentially, send home any Israelites that wish to go, everyone whose spirit God has stirred up (v.5, cf. 2 Chronicles 36.22-23).
Also confirmed by archaeological finds, it seems Cyrus had a habit of paying attention to prophecies about himself and a policy of encouraging the return of exiles to their homelands (Enduring Word).
A major theme of the book is revealed in v.3, that the returning exiles were not only to return to live, but to rebuild the house of the Lord. They would surely need the spirit God had stirred in them, as the journey would be long, difficult, expensive, fraught with danger, and the land to which they were returning was not a bustling metropolis well stocked with amenities and utilities (2 Kings 25.12, Jeremiah 39.10, 40.7, 52.16)
They are, however, packed off with a momentous haul of previously-stolen goods (vv.7-11), and we read of the most valuable in vv.9-10. Cyrus was certainly generous in packing off the exiles back to their homeland, in sending them from Babylonia to Jerusalem in what was a turning point in the history of God’s people.
Is there a point for the twenty-first century reader here then? Is there a preview, foreshadow, or type of Jesus? Could it be the generosity of Cyrus, or the apparent favour he grants his subjects, both of which would deplete his workforce and treasury? Perhaps. Rather though, I would suggest that the main point of Ezra 1 is that we see that the Word of God always comes true, no matter what.
Contrary to what social media posts would have you believe, Jeremiah 25.8-13, 29.10-14 and Isaiah 44.28 are not about you (especially Jeremiah 29.11). They are prophecies about this very return, see first the exile;
“Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.
Then, the prophesy of the return, not a personal promise that you will have an awesome day,
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Then, then the vehicle by which this would all come about,
…who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”
Take heart from this today then ; the Word of God always comes true, no matter what. Read it and see what He has said about you, the plans he has for you, the life He wants you to live, the faith He wants you to have, and the future that lies ahead for you! He said this about His people here in Jeremiah and we see the beginning of the completion in Ezra, so take heart and encouragement from knowing that what He has said about you will come true!