Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon in 538 BC and offered Israel its freedom, "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. Whoever is among you of all his people... let him go" (Ezra 1:2-3). The order was firm, Cyrus would free the people and aid the rebuilding of their home and their temple. The acceptance was optional, "whoever among you." Jerusalem was a 700-mile journey, and the comforts of Babylon would not accompany them. Israel had grown accustomed to captivity, and only 42,360 accepted the offer (Ezra 1:64), a fraction of the Jewish population. Josephus, the Jewish-Roman historian of the first century, said it simply, "Many remained in Babylon, not wishing to leave their possessions behind them." The proverbial monkey whose hand is caught in the jar because he refuses to let go of the banana.
We become accustomed to the ways of this world; so much so, that many prefer the chains of sin to the freedom offered in Christ. "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1), but there is comfort in captivity.
My God, You left the pleasure of heaven itself, You emptied Yourself, You became like me to save me. Thank You for letting go for my sake. Why in the world do I hang on to this world so tightly? I must let go for my sake, as well.
Keep changing my heart, oh God, to delight in You, to love Your ways. Help me hate sin and seek Your goodness and righteousness. May Your Word fill my heart, transform my mind, change my life, and set me free.