Life is a series of opportunities offered and choices faced. We are ever faced with decisions in every area of life, not the least of which is the spiritual. The Jews faced a choice in regard to an opportunity long ago, and the events of that incident are instructive for us now.
I. The Opportunity They were Offered.
A. The decree of Cyrus - gave them the privilege of returning to their homeland in Palestine.
B. The backing of Cyrus.
1. This gave them assurance of safety.
2. This gave them a clear objective (rebuild the temple).
3. This gave them back the captive temple vessels. (1:7-11)
4. It also gave them other wealth to meet needs. (1:6)
5. Gave them the necessary means of transportation.
6. He even went so far as to force other people to help them. (1:4)
C. The guarantee of success.
1. It didnít mean that every single detail was perfectly worked out.
2. But it did mean that Cyrus had undertaken this as a personal project and thus had provided them with guaranteed success.
D. The challenging opportunity.
1. An opportunity for a captive people who were deeply tied to their home- land to return to that homeland
2. With the aid of a captor.
II. The Reaction to the Opportunity.
A. The people rose up to return - chapter 2 records this.
1. It is obvious that only some of the exiles chose to return.
2. Note the number recorded in 2:64 and the word "some" in 2:70.
3. Those who determined to return were hardly more than a small remnant.
B. Many people chose to remain in Babylon.
1. We do not know exactly how many remained, but the number was significant
2. According to the book of Esther, there was enough Jews still there to destroy 75,000 of their enemies in only two days of fighting.
3. The fact that so many remained behind is truly strange in the light of the opportunity which faced them.
C. The reasons why they chose to remain:
1. Some were comfortable there.
2. Some of them were too deeply involved with the life of Babylon to effectively break away.
3. Some were afraid it would cost them too much to leave.
4. Some were simply afraid of failure.
5. Some failed to recognize the enormity of the opportunity (history making events seldom look that way when the initial decisions are being made).
III. The Implications of this Account.
A. The elements of human nature involved:
1. We can draw the reasons why some refused to return from a knowledge of human nature.
2. Men missed then for the same reasons they miss now.
B. Opportunities are still missed:
1. Because we are too comfortable where we are to warrant taking the chances on missing and losing.
2. Because we are too much taken with the world.
3. Because the price looks as if it might be too high.
4. Because we are desperately afraid of failure.
5. Because we fail to realize the opportunity before us.
C. The application:
1. We have been and will continue to be constantly faced with spiritual opportunities.
2. If we fail to take advantage of them it will be for the same reasons the Jews failed.
3. We have no excuses for not reaching our community and the world for Christ.
4. We must seize every opportunity and make the best of it.
5. Paul challenged us to redeem the time because the days are evil. Ep. 5:16
Let us squarely face the reasons why we hesitate and resolve to move beyond them. When God presents us with opportunities, let us not fail. Letís be ready to move forward for His glory and His honor.
Do you hesitate at the opportunities that God places before you? Opportunities for service, for witness, or for growth? Once again the Apostle Paul said, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:14) Are we pressing on? Why not?