Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:3-4
70 Years Earlier
Israel was taken into captivity by the Babylonians and after 70 years, King Cyrus comes on the scene and is moved to release the two million or so Jews. Interestingly, it was Daniel (who we recall was also in Babylon), who brings Cyrus to the Bible and points out in Isaiah how 170 earlier the Lord through His prophet spoke of Cyrus releasing the Jews from captivity! Cyrus, apparently floored by seeing his name prophetically mentioned in the Bible, was moved to be obedient to the prophesy. I guess so.
“Who Wants to Go Home…”
Cyrus asks. Incredibly, at least to me, only about 49,000 or so desired to make the 900 mile trek back to Jerusalem. The truth is that during the 70 year exile in Babylon, most of these Jews had settled in and were now comfortable with their circumstances. Cyrus recognized the situation, which is why he proclaimed, “And if you don’t want to go back, then help out financially those who do.” (paraphrase mine)
At this point we might think that those who chose to stay behind and support those who were going might somehow be lessed-blessed then those who went. I suppose this is how some might feel about those who today support missionaries in the field, but are either unable or unwilling to go themselves. This is simply not the case. We have as one example an admonition from King David found in 1 Samuel 30:24b
But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.
In this situation, some of the king’s men were to weary to continue in battle, so they were directed to stay behind and guard the camp and it’s supplies. After the battle was won, there were those who felt the spoils of the victory should be denied those who did not physically participate in the battle. King David set them straight—everyone gets an equal share; those who fought and those who support!
An Important Attribute
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Whatever we give, our Father wants us to give it willingly and cheerfully. Why? Because everything belongs to God, that’s why. Is it not a silly notion to begrudgingly give away that which does not belong to you to begin with? If you loaned me your car and then told me to give it to someone else, it would be absurd for me to object or bemoan the request—wouldn’t it? The fact of the matter is that when we give willingly and cheerfully, God lovingly appreciates that we recognize this spiritual principle—He loves that we understand that we’re giving away His stuff and not ours. That’s what Jesus was looking for as He sat opposite the treasury in the account from Mark’s Gospel. He wasn’t looking to see what was given, but how they gave it—the quality and quantity were irrelevant.
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:41-44