Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Reading 1 - Ezr 1:1
"In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm..." (Ezr 1:1) -- a proclamation having to do with the rebuilding of God's Temple in Jerusalem (cp 2Ch 36:22).
There are a number of occasions when the LORD stirred up individuals -- sometimes for good, and sometimes for ill: 1Sa 26:19; 1Ki 11:14; 2Ch 21:16; Hag 1:14. Especially does this seem to be true of rulers: "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases" (Pro 21:1).
Rather than wondering or speculating as to how He does this, we should appreciate that, in the case of faithful men who listen to His word, He is willing to work to encourage those who first respond to him. "Come near to God and he will come near to you" (Jam 4:8).
In this case of Cyrus, specifically, comparison with the book of Daniel suggests that it was the work of certain angels to move the heart of Cyrus in the desired direction (Dan 10:12,13).
Reading 2 - Hos 5:15
"Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me" (Hos 5:15).
"Losses and adversities are frequently the means which the great Shepherd uses to fetch home His wandering sheep; like fierce dogs they worry the wanderers back to the fold. There is no making lions tame if they are too well fed; they must be brought down from their great strength, and their stomachs must be lowered, and then they will submit to the tamer's hand; and often have we seen the believer rendered obedient to the Lord's will by scarcity of bread and hard labour. When rich and increased in goods many believers carry their heads much too loftily, and speak exceeding boastfully. Like David, they flatter themselves, 'My mountain standeth fast; I shall never be moved.' When the believer groweth wealthy, is in good repute, hath good health, and a happy family, he too often admits Mr. Fleshly Security to feast at his table, and then if he be a true child of God there is a rod preparing for him. Wait awhile, and it may be you will see his substance melt away as a dream. There goes a portion of his estate -- how soon the acres change hands. That debt, that dishonoured bill -- how fast his losses roll in, where will they end? It is a blessed sign of divine life if when these embarrassments occur one after another he begins to be distressed about his backslidings, and betakes himself to his God. Blessed are the waves that wash the mariner upon the rock of salvation! Losses in business are often sanctified to our soul's enriching. If the chosen soul will not come to the Lord full-handed, it shall come empty. If God, in His grace, findeth no other means of making us honour Him among men, He will cast us into the deep; if we fail to honour Him on the pinnacle of riches, He will bring us into the valley of poverty. Yet faint not, heir of sorrow, when thou art thus rebuked, rather recognize the loving hand which chastens, and say, 'I will arise, and go unto my Father' [Luke 15:18]" (CH Spurgeon).
Reading 3 - Acts 22:16
"And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16).
"Stephen, just before his execution, had a clear vision of his Advocate at the right hand of God, and was both comforted and strengthened in his faith thereby. 'And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit' (Act 7:54-60). The believers suffering persecution at the hands of Saul of Tarsus are described as 'all that call upon thy name' and 'them which call upon this name' (Act 9:14,21). Paul's own conversion caused a deep pricking in his heart, and so he eagerly responded to Ananias' exhortation here. How closely this follows Peter's advice to the assembled multitude at Pentecost! In 1Co 1:2 we see once more what we could almost describe as a 'fellowship of calling and being called,' when Paul addresses the brethren as 'sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, both theirs and ours.' With such a calling who could turn away from the exhortation to 'flee youthful lusts... with them that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart' (2Ti 2:22)?" (Alfred Nicholls, "The Spirit of God" 136).