Faithlife Sermons

In His Own Time, In His Own Way


The Decline of the Word Awesome

The hit track from the 2014 Lego Movie is the song “Everything is Awesome”
It is a really catchy tune, which many of the parents in the room are now singing in their heads.
But it has unintended consequences:
In a Washington Post article a few years back a columnist wrote:
“What started out as a word to describe the overwhelming feeling of an encounter with the divine, used in place of “terrible” as that word came to mean “bad” rather than “terrifying,” became an all-purpose descriptor of everyday goodness.”
Rather than helping us understand the difference between something truly awe-inspiring and something momentarily pleasurable, or between a true travesty and a social misstep, our tendency toward extremes is blurring these gradations and denying us the chance to feel a wider range of emotions.”
Awesome is a word that was created to describe God. It was intended as a word for worship- to speak of the unimaginable wonder of God.
As we begin to look at the books of Ezra and Nehemiah over the next several weeks, one of the purposes behind these books is to direct our worship to the awesomeness of God.
To ignite or reignite an awe in our hearts for the glory, beauty, and greatness of our God.\
And that is how Ezra starts his account in ezra 1.

History Lesson

Imagine having to leave the place you have always know to be home.
Having to leave your house, your school, your community to go to a place far away from all that you have ever known.
Imagine if that place is destroyed and the prospect of you ever going back just looks really doubtful.
That was the people of Israel 70 years before the where we pick up in Ezra.
The Nation of Israel was a power, prosperous nation under King David.
His son Solomon was the wealthiest man perhaps that ever lived and held tremendous power.
He built the first Temple in Jerusalem, an large and glorious structure where God’s presence was with his people.
But because Solomon was not faithful to the Lord, after his death two of his sons became kings of a divided kingdom.
Thing existed this way for a long time, but the people of God in both kingdoms turned their back on the Lord (Israel, the northern Kingdom, much more that Judah).
Because of their rebellion against God and worship of other gods, the Lord pronounced through the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah that both kingdoms would fall and the people would go into exile in Babylon for 70 years.
By the time we get to Ezra 1:1, the 70 years have passed and an incredible, supernatural, God-ordained event happens (actually a series of events that we don’t have time to examine too thoroughly).
Ezra 1:1–4 ESV
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 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. 3 Whoever 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 rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
Cyrus becomes the king of Persia, invades and overthrows Babylon, and becomes the supremely leader of an expansive empire that includes Jerusalem.
And behind it all is God’s awe-inspiring providence.

Why God’s PROVIDENCE is awe-inspiring.

God’s providence is not just that He knows what will happen in the world, but that actively participating in it.
John Piper says of God’s providence:
He is not a passive participant in a world that exists without his sustaining it. Wherever God is looking, God is acting. If God perceives, he performs. If he inspects, he effects. In other words there is a profound theological reason why “providence” does not merely mean “foreknowledge,” but rather “the active sustenance and governance of the universe.” When God “sees,” he “sees to.” His seeing is always with a view to doing. Where he patrols, he controls.
God’s providence ought to inspire us to worship for 4 reasons:


King Cyrus was a powerful man.
destroyed kingdoms, overthrew kings, was likely one of the most powerful men of his day.
He was powerful and he demanded respect.
The words of Ezra 1:1 are very powerful words as we consider the providence of God.
Proverbs 21:1 ESV
1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
This is a true statement as we can see in verse 1.
The power Cyrus possessed was not something he has gained through military might, the blood of his father, or his own intellect or ability.
It was God’s will and God’s hand that lead to Cyrus becoming the king of Persia
Isaiah 44:28–45:1 ESV
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ ” 1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed:
God’s power is unmatched.
There is no president, no governor, no individual, no group, no rich man or business leader who is not under the mighty, all-powerful hand of God.
There is no virus, no natural disaster, no life circumstance that is outside the reach of the mighty hand of God.
In a world that seems to be out of control, where it seems there are few, if any, leaders we feel good following.
We must all rest in the providential care of our Powerful God.
That is a reason to worship.


Ezra points to the prophetic words of Jeremiah as he speaks of God’s providence in moving the heart of Cyrus.
Jeremiah 25:11–12 ESV
11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
Jeremiah 29:10–11 ESV
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
The prophet Daniel was there in Babylon and in chapter 9, after doing some math, figured out that the 70 years was coming to a close.
But there was not sign of God, no sign the people’s heart was changing, not sign that they were going to go home.
So what does Daniel do?
Daniel 9:3–4 ESV
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,
He prayed, he confessed, he declared the excellencies of God, he worshipped.
And in God’s perfect timing, He raised up Cyrus and gave him victory.
Romans 5:6 ESV
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
God’s impeccable timing is a reason to worship.


God promises the Israelites that He would bring them back to Jerusalem.
As we trace the stories of the OT, it becomes more and more clear just how incredibly faithful God is to His promises.
In Exodus, the people of God are slaves under a tyrannical dictator who refuses to free them.
But God, through His power and providence, moves the callous heart of Pharaoh, protect the people, splits the Red Sea, and leads them into the promised land.
In Joshua God, in the face of giants and insurmountable walls, God brings victory to His people and leads them through.
Now, as the people are in captivity under a powerful nation, stripped of everything, hopeless that things would ever change.
He brings victory to Persia, sacs the Babylonians, and steers the heart of Cyrus to let the people go back to their land.
Cyrus us doing this strictly for political gain. Letting the people worship their god’s promotes loyalty to the king and might win some favor from the god’s of all his people.
It is likely Daniel and the many others in Babylon didn’t see how that 70 year promise would ever come, but God promises are certain.


Chapter 2 is a list recounting the blessings of God’s faithfulness to preserve His people who were previously faithless.
He doesn’t just give them a chance to go back to Jerusalem, He moves King Cyrus to fund the rebuilding of the temple from the plunder of Babylon.
Ezra 1:7–8 ESV
7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.
There have been moments in me where I think “God, how are we ever going to get through this mess? How are we going to pay the bills? How are we going to be the church? How are we going to educate our kids? What is life going to be like?
And in the face of all those questions, all those concerns, all those anxious thought, is the promise of God
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Somehow, someway He will do what He will do.
In His own time, and In His own way.
And that is a reason to worship.
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