In the lectionary, the book of Bible readings assigned to each day, the first lesson is taken either from the Old or New Testaments. Today we start reading from the Book of Ezra which reports the restoration of the Jewish people from their exile in Babylon to the Promised Land. This was possible because the Babylonians (from present day Iraq) who had conquered Israel were, in turn, conquered by the Persians (from present day Iran). Cyrus, the king of the Persians, reversed the Babylonian policy of taking conquered people into exile. The LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom: the LORD, the God of heaven, has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem. On one hand for Cyrus this was simply political policy working itself out. But Ezra recognized the providence of God in the political decision. A vivid reminder that our religious values must influence our political decisions.