What is from
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”
Cyrus the Great is counted as the patron who delivered Israel from Babylonian captivity. Cyrus was the king of Persia. He was not Jewish. There is some speculation as to his religion, but as with many civil rulers to this day he believed in whatever may have suited him politically at the moment. So here is this politically savvy ruler who captured Persia, founded the Achaemenid Empire and conquered most of Southwest and Central Asia and the Caucasus. His rule stretched from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Indus River in the east. So why, in the first year of his reign, would he make a decree that the Temple should be rebuilt in Jerusalem and that the Jewish people who wished could return to their land for this purpose? He even allowed the treasures of the Temple, captured by Nebuchadnezzar, to be returned.
We can look at this like many look at faith – with incredulity. A savvy and strong political leader being generous – Who can believe that? Why would he empty his treasury and let these people go? There are all kinds of speculation as to why. Maybe it was a political move, gaining allegiance from all of the people Cyrus had conquered. Maybe he had an affinity for their belief system. Maybe… a thousand reasons.
St. Paul tells us: …by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. Paul tells us that God gives us tremendous gifts specifically so that we might have life. Cyrus is held up as an image of God’s generosity. Cyrus owed Israel absolutely nothing and they could do nothing for him. He had power and control and turns to these people and gives them everything.
The lesson is that God’s generosity is inestimable and unexplainable. God is self-sufficient yet desires to love and care for us He emptied His treasury and sent His only Son to die for us so we might enter into His eternal and heavenly city. What is from God is not power or security, or even health as the world understands those things. It is the gift of faith that is far more generous. By the gift of faith that is from God alone we enter into relationship with Him have life for all of eternity.