Who is in charge here? Who is in charge of the world? Ezra 1 answers these questions simply and repeatedly: God is in charge. Ezra 1:1-11 illustrates God’s sovereignty over His people-indeed, over all peoples, and over all of human history. It provokes us to reflect on the scope, security, and scandal of God’s sovereignty. God is described as having the power to move a king who himself claimed to be “king of the world, great king,…king of the four rims (of the earth).” God also moved in the spirits of the Jews who decided to return to Jerusalem. Finally, Ezra and Nehemiah implied that the Lord brought the people up from Babylon to Judah, just like He brought the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.
Just as God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to act on behalf of His people, so also can He act in the hearts of those in authority over us to act for our benefit. He is sovereign, and He acts in response to prayer. God not only moves the spirits of unbelievers such as Cyrus to act in certain ways, but He also moves the spirits of His people to particular actions. To walk in the Spirit is to obey the initial promptings of the Spirit.
God holds sway over all of human history. Human hearts and political processes also stand under the sovereign rule of God. God’s reign is not limited to His own people-He can raise up even a foreign king to fulfill His prophecies. God’s sovereignty does not obliterate human freedom and responsibility. Human beings can and do act contrary to God’s will and will be held accountable for their wrong choices. As we take the fullness of God’s sovereignty seriously, our ways of thinking and acting will change. We will begin to see our secular jobs and spiritual turf as places where God’s standards still apply. We will also think differently about national affairs, such as prayer in schools, poverty, racism, health care, and education. God’s rule extends to every aspect of life, so we can feel secure.