When the Exile started it was a shock to Israel as they were God forsaken and made to be like the nations. Israel had always wanted to be like the nations but in Exile God fundamentally changed the people of Israel. We have stories like how Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the idol of gold preferring a fiery furnace and how Daniel would only worship God resulting in the lion’s den story. From the time of Moses and the Golden Calf, Israel had worshiped idols but once in Exile, Israel turns its back on idols and never again will Israel worship idols. The discipline of Exile from God’s hands cures them of both wanting to be like the nations and of idol-worship.
In Daniel 9, Daniel has been in Exile for seventy years and is approaching 90 years of age. The prophet Jeremiah had said that the Exile would last 70 years, and this is what prompts Daniel to pray. His prayer is basically one of confession and repentance which ends with a request for God to restore the people to the land.
God’s answer to his prayer is recorded in Ezra 1. God stirs up the heart of a pagan Iranian king of Persia named Cyrus. He puts it into the thinking of Cyrus to issue a decree releasing the Jewish people from exile, allowing them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God. The book of Proverbs says that a king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, and he directs it as he pleases.
Other Persian kings will also be used by God such as Xerxes to save the Jewish people in the time of Esther. His son Artaxerxes will issue a decrees for Ezra to return to the promised land to teach Israel God’s law and later a decree for the rebuilding of the wall in Nehemiah’s time.
God works in providence. Two quotes concerning providence:
If all things work for good, hence learn that there is a providence. Things do not work of themselves, but God sets them working for good. God is the great Disposer of all events and issues, He sets everything working. “His kingdom ruleth over all” Psalm 103:19. It is meant of His providential kingdom. Things in the world are not governed by second causes, by the counsels of men, by the stars and planets, but by divine providence. Providence is the queen and governess of the world. There are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, God’s determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events. (Thomas Watson)
The greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. It is the great support and solace of the saints in all the distresses that befall them here, that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures and their pernicious designs to blessed and happy issues. (John Flavel)