Today’s Reading: Ezra 1-2
Today’s Reflection: Ezra 1:2
Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
It is curious to see a ruler who did not worship God recognize His authority. Though King Cyrus of the Persian Empire commissioned Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, he doesn’t send his own men to help with the work and despite his proclamations of God’s status over all heaven and earth he never actually worships God himself. Yet his proclamations were true, and his actions served the purposes of God and God’s chosen people: Israel. God, the source of truth, can use anyone to serve as His voice.
Film actor, writer, director and producer Mel Gibson, once a blockbuster superstar, fell out of favour with Hollywood and audiences when his racist tirades and abusive behaviour towards his ex-girlfriend and mother of his infant daughter were publicly exposed. But not that long ago Gibson wrote and directed the film The Passion of the Christ, chronicling the last hours in the life of Jesus before his crucifixion. Thousands of people, believers and non-believers alike, were touched by this powerful and faithfully accurate portrait of Christ’s sacrifice for mankind, which went on to be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time.
I believe that just as God had stirred up Cyrus to bring a word in season to God’s people centuries ago, God stirred up Mel Gibson to make The Passion to bring a word to God’s people today. But why? Why would God use such potentially polarizing figures to act as His voice? And how can we recognize when He is doing so?
1) Test every spirit. The Word tells us to test every spirit to see if it is from God (1 John 4:1), but the truth is we don’t. We pre-judge most spirits. If they come from our religious tradition we judge them as worth listening to, and if they don’t come from our religious tradition we judge them as worth ignoring. But if we test the spirits in our own churches we may be shocked to see how much is promoted there that may not be Biblical. Likewise, if we take the time to test other spirits from outside our church (or even outside any church), we may find more truth there than we would have thought. We must be discerning to be able separate truth from error, but we should pay heed to truth no matter what the source.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 – 20) Do not despise prophecies, 21) but test everything; hold fast what is good.
2) Understand the outcast. Both Cyrus and Mel Gibson appear to be the exact opposite of who God would use to speak, but if we examine the Bible God has a tradition of using unconventional spokespeople. It was an Egyptian king who chastened Abraham when he lied about Sarah being his wife. It was a pagan prostitute that God used to protect the Hebrew spies as they gathered information for the destruction of Jericho. None of these voices seemed to be of God, until their words were tested and found true.
What’s also interesting is these outcasts often sacrifice to follow God. Rahab had to turn traitor against her people but it didn’t stop her. Gibson’s troubles really started while he was making The Passion, with Jewish power players in Hollywood pressuring him about his depiction of Israelites and their role in Jesus Christ’s death. Often God calls outsiders to speak his message because they are able to say and do things His alleged ‘true followers’ will not.
3) Follow the Source, not the Voice. Cyrus also gave proclamations to other peoples allowing them to return to their homelands. This may or may not have been of God. Mel Gibson’s projects both before and after The Passion weren’t exactly Bible study guides. Just because a voice speaks on God’s behalf at one point doesn’t necessarily mean you can trust that voice at all times (which is why we have to constantly test the spirits and hold to the true things). But remember: the point of God using someone as His voice is to point people back to Him, the source, in the first place.