“Now 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” (Ezra 1:1 NKJV)

King Cyrus of Persia enabled the Jews who had been captured by the Babylonian king to return to Jerusalem for the rebuilding of their temple. Persia (modern day Iran) overthrew Babylon (modern day Iraq) and showed favor to the Jews by not only allowing their return, but also giving back whatever temple implements that had been stolen and offering aid in its rebuilding. This Jewish return from exile was prophesied by Jeremiah.
I was recently reminded of this history by an Iranian named Reza that I met at a London coffee shop. When he suggested that I visit his country, I told him that I didn’t want to end up in an Iranian jail. “No!” he insisted. “We love Americans. It’s the politics, the mullahs that stir up trouble between us. Remember, we were Persians before we became Muslims. We were the ones who helped the Jews return to Jerusalem. Ninety-nine percent of Iranians love Americans!” I was surprised by his distinction of identity based on being Persian more than Muslim, and by his declaration that Iranians love Americans. I suppose the Jews were surprised by Cyrus’s favor too. It reminds me that things are not always as they seem and that God is still at work in this world and that one Day all prophecies will be fulfilled in Christ.