The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
When it comes to miracles, perhaps our field of vision is a bit too narrow.
We think of Israel crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. We remember the times when at a touch of the hand, the blind received sight, and at a spoken word, the dead came to life.
The people who saw that happen witnessed laws of nature being set aside.
Yet, sometimes the miracle was unseen, as when water turned to wine, and none of the wedding guests knew it.
In fact, it appears that one of the greatest miracles of all is not detected by human eyes—even though it continues to be repeated in our lifetimes.
This miracle occurs in human hearts.
We look in at an amazing event in the history of the nation of Israel. The invasion by Babylon left Israel stripped of its leading citizens and much of its wealth. Especially grievous was the theft of the precious riches in the temple dedicated by Solomon.
“Lost forever!” it would seem. Why would a powerful heathen ruler ever be willing to give that back?
The answer is: The Lord God would bring about a change of heart within him!
In the words of Samuel Morse, when the first long-distance telegraph message went through from Baltimore to Washington D.C., “What hath God wrought!”
The world was stunned in 1844 to learn that a message could be sent through a wire. Samuel Morse correctly pointed to the hand of God that enabled such a breakthrough.
In today’s wording, he was saying, “Look at what God has done!”
He was right. Human ingenuity is a wonderful thing. But it is nothing unless God enables it to succeed. It is always God who must first be credited for anything good that is accomplished. Humans are the instruments through which he works.
This is illustrated clearly in the return of the treasures from Babylon to Israel.
Imagine, if we can, the circumstances. Not only have seventy years passed since the heathen army ransacked the temple, but a new foreign power ruled Babylon. Persia now claimed possession of the riches of its former enemy. This included the Israelite captives who lived there and anything else that was valuable.
Who would have expected the Persian powers to give up such treasures freely?
Those who remembered the promise the Lord God had made to his people!
In prophecy, the Lord had set the time limit of the captivity and named the Persian king (Cyrus), who would issue the decree releasing the captives and sending them home with their treasures.
But the transition did not go smoothly. The foreigners who had moved into Israel had no use for the Lord God and resented the returning Jews. They complained to the king of Persia that the returning exiles were illegally rebuilding the temple and restoring the “dangerous” city of Jerusalem.
By now, a new Persian king was in place. He knew nothing about the order to restore Jerusalem and the temple. The accusers were his kind of people. The Jews were not. Why should he even take the time and trouble to check if the exiles’ claims were valid?
Scripture answers. “The hand of the LORD his God was on him.”
Here are the words of King Artaxerxes to the Jewish leaders, “Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 7:15).
Furthermore, we learn, “In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold, and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:11).
A miracle? Of course! It was a miracle worked in a heathen heart. Truly amazing!
But then, was the miracle he worked in our hearts any less impressive?
We, too, were born with a heathen heart. We, too, would have been content to continue living our lives looking out only for ourselves and not caring about what was right or what the Lord God had said.
But then, the miracle occurred. Our inner heart was remade. The Lord God took first place in our lives. His Word gave us directions. His Son released us from captivity to sin and death and handed to us the timeless treasures of peace and glory.
What else can we say?
What else than, “What hath God wrought!”
Prayer: All glory, laud, and honor to you, Redeemer King! Amen. (Christian Worship 412:1)
Points to ponder:
- Why do we easily overlook the astounding miracle that we have a heart with saving faith?
- When the Bible says of the Persian king “the Lord his God,” does it show he was a believer?
- What causes us to often overlook the timeless treasures the Lord has given us?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.