REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on October 6, 2015. He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“God and Non-Christian Leaders”
Ezra 1:1-4 (NLT)
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 and to send it throughout his kingdom: 2 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 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! 4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
Can God use unbelievers? Apparently so because God’s promise to return His people from exile was fulfilled through a non-Jewish, pagan king – Cyrus of Persia – who conquered Babylon in 539 BC. While Cyrus sounds like a believer in Ezra 1, we know from the historical record (particularly from a document known as the ‘Cyrus Cylinder’) that he primarily worshiped Marduk; in addition, he was a respecter of regional gods (as Cyrus would have seen them).
In the Cyrus Cylinder, Cyrus describes some of his works in the following manner: I returned to (these) sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations (Pritchard, Ancient Near East, 1:208). Amazingly, the prophet Isaiah names Cyrus as one “anointed” by God — a “messiah” who has been raised up by God to do His bidding (Isaiah 45:1).
I confess that I am not heavily involved in praying for national politics (here or abroad). I do not convene with other pastors to intentionally pray for local political leaders. But this passage encourages me to pray much more for them. Why? Because the story of Cyrus tells us that God can and does use leaders (even non-Christian leaders) to bring about God’s will. God is sovereign over all the nations. He doesn’t need national leaders to believe in Him to be their ultimate ruler!
Prayer: Dear Lord of lords, I am reminded by Your word to pray for all leaders—even those who don’t acknowledge You or seem to have a wrong understanding of You. I pray for the leaders of countries where Christians are officially persecuted. I pray especially for Syria. I ask that you guide leaders there as you once guided Cyrus, and that they might be used as instruments of Your will. May Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 19
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-4: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Questions to Consider
- Who does Paul instruct us to pray for? How might this change our prayers?
- Why does Paul ask us to pray for national leaders?
- In respect to your answer to question 2, why is this pleasing to God?
- Paul instructs us to pray for everyone in general; and in particular, kings and those in high positions. Our prayers ought to be global and broad in scope—particularly for leaders who have been given great influence. It is instructive to note that in Paul’s time, no national leaders were believers in Christ.
- We are to pray for leaders so that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” The basic benefit of good government is peace –from war and civil strife–so that free worship of God can be given and people can live “dignified” or holy lives.
- God is pleased with this kind of peace as it is His desire that “all people” will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We are to pray for leaders to effect an environment where the gospel can be advanced freely.
I encourage you to journal some ways that you can be praying for national leaders, international leaders and local leaders (including, perhaps, your boss). How is God encouraging you to pray more globally and broadly?